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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's Not Who You're For

(Nino Burjanadze, left; Irakli Alasania, 2nd from right. PJR)

“What do you think, Misha will go?” asked David the cabbie.

“No,” I replied.

David is from Kakheti, the birthplace of wine. He makes his living driving his Ford around Tbilisi, sleeping on couches and sometimes in his car. He delivers his earnings to his family in Kakheti every weekend.

“What are they saying in Kakheti about these demonstrations?” I asked.

“Misha’s got to go.”

“And who should replace him?”

David shrugged his shoulders and maneuvered around a pot hole.

“Burjandaze?” I probed.

David, like most people who responded to this question, said he can’t trust Nino Burjanadze because he remembers how steadfastly she defended the government’s brutal repression of demonstrations in November 2007, when she was Speaker of Parliament.

“What about Gachecheladze?”

“He’s an idiot,” David snapped.

“Alasania?” I queried.

“Who is he?”

Indeed. Who is Irakli Alasania? Nobody outside of Tbilisi’s upscale neighborhood of Vake Park knows who he is. The 37 year-old was once part of Misha’s whiz kid team, first as Deputy Secretary of National Security Council in 2004, and later as the President’s Special Representative for Abkhazia and Head of the Abkhazia Autonomous Republic government of in exile. Back then I asked my local sage Anushkarella who the guy was. She assured me he was a “very good boy.”

In 2006, Alasania became Misha’s advisor on Abkhazian conflict issues and special representative on Georgian-Abkhaz peace talks (Irakli’s father was a general of Georgian forces during the conflict and was one of the many Georgians massacred during the fall of Sukhumi). In June 2006, Alasania was appointed Georgia’s ambassador to the UN, a post he resigned from in December 2008, as a response to the government’s military folly in August. Several weeks later he announced his political ambitions.

Political analysts see him as the moderate radical opposition leader, someone who has joined the ranks of the all or nothing political rebels just to be recognized. He is not an orator or charismatic personality, but does have very good manners.

Good manners are not important to guys like David the taxi driver. He drives a taxi in Tbilisi because there are no jobs in Kakheti. Most people that want Misha to go do so because their lives have not improved since 2004, but David’s beef is more personal. Four years ago his cousin was convicted of possessing stolen property.

“He didn’t steal the gold, his friend did. It was just in his house and they gave him six years… He has two more to go. If Saakashvili goes there will be amnesty.”

I didn’t question his logic, nor where he got the information that prisoners would be set free if Saakashvili were overthrown. We ran out of time. I gave him 7 lari for the ride to Misha’s egg.

There on the street next to the president’s back door a dozen tents are pitched. 32 men have been protest camping for a month and it smells like it. I asked some of them which opposition leader they supported. “None,” they replied. “We are here for our country, not a leader.”


Anonymous said...

From Georgia Today (newspaper):

Radicalization of Burjanadze can easily be explained. Even if Saakashvili appoints snap parliamentary elections, the chances of the Burjanadze party winning would be minimal. That is why she is demanding radicalization of processes from partners. Therefore, it would not be surprising if in the nearest future, Alasania left the oppositional unity and started independent activities.

Rumors say that Alasania will leave the union of the New Rights and the Republicans and establish his own political party. Whose orbit will the Republicans and the New Rights take – Burjanadze’s or Alasania’s? It is easier to guess which direction the Republicans will take. As for the New Rights who have not realized their Rose Revolution mistake, yet are not so easily predictable. Possible leave of Alasania from the oppositional lines will probably not have big influence on the rally politics, but will cause certain flow of protest electorate, that Nino Burjanadze is so concerned about. During a month of protest rallies the opposition could not manage to increase protest masses, and it has become obvious that the opposition lacks supporters for a new revolution. That is why Burjanadze is risking it all.

In a recent interview, the former speaker admitted with incredible frankness, that her radicalism was caused by the magnitude of stakes her clan has put on these actions, “Family, money, welfare – I have no right to withdraw now,” Burjanadze told the reporter. In fact, no leader of the opposition unity has put everything at stake, the way that Burjanadze did. What are Kakha Kukava, Zviad Dzidziguri, Koba Davitashvili, or even Levan Gachechiladze losing? Nothing. Their function has always been creating a protest background that they will successfully implement, in times of any ruler, and will receive good rewards for that. However, in Burjanadze’s case there is another reason. Today she represents the group of society that was formed during Shevardnadze’s time, as the Central Committee Chairman, the ‘elite’ that found itself off the game during Saakashvili’s rule. This very elite chose Burjanadze to be its leader and trusted her with its future. Anzori’s daughter (Nino Burjanadze’s father, former party activist) is to win the life-or-death fight to Mikheil Saakashvili, and the system he had established. That is why now or never the social order is and Burjanadze is fulfilling the order.

Despite the order, Burjanadze is quite acceptable in the Kremlin, as far as Saakashvili’s alternative. Burjanadze’s political class, with its links is closely connected to Russia. She was educated in Moscow, and after all is Rogozin’s course-mate.
According to The Kommersant, the Kremlin has finally decided on Burjanadze’s candidacy. No Bidzina Ivanishvili or Vazha Lortkipanidze. This is the Kremlin’s verdict.

One more factor, related to Burjanadze’s radicalism, is personal scores with Saakashvili. Back in 2007, when in November days the Saakashvili government was truly on the verge of resignation, Burjanadze directly demanded from Saakashvili full carte blanch on comprising the United National Movement electoral list. Later Mikheil Machavariani, Vice Speaker of the Parliament, admitted that Burjanadze wanted to fill the electoral list with the friends of her husband and father, which Saakashvili rejected. It seems that Burjanadze’s move to the opposition side is related to this fact and has nothing to do with the governmental crisis or democracy.