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Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Three Georgian English teachers were passionately talking politics during a coffee break. Saakashvili had to go, they said. And as usual, I asked who should replace him.

"Alasania," one teacher said.

"And what has he proposed?" I asked.

She answered by explaining what was wrong with Saakashvili.

"So if suddenly Saakashvili disappeared, everything would be fine?"

"We'd have elections," she responded.

"And if Alasania wins, two years later everyone will come out on the streets and demand his head because he didn't deliver. Don't you think this pattern should end? Everybody talks about democracy but you Georgians cannot let an elected official finish his term. Your opposition should be working on developing legitimate platforms and then challenging the ruling party at the next elections."

The English teacher responded by telling me that this isn't the United States with a long history of democracy and that Saakashvili hasn't repented for his sins and continues to sin.

I understand her anger but Saakashvili's disappearence and new elections are not going to improve the country until a viable alternative exists. This stuff takes time. Three years ago there was no opposition to speak of. Today there is a hysterical, misguided group of rabble rousers. This is progress.

Across the border in Azerbaijan, there is no opposition. The Azeri government routinely intimidates, jails, and even murders, anyone that opposes it. The president abolished term limits, giving himself a life-long job, which Aliev will inevitably pass on to his son, like is dad did before him. Meanwhile, in Armenia, the electoral process is a total farce (a good story about it here, in IWPR). Neither of these countries would tolerate an hour of the kind of civil disobedience Tbilisi has allowed for 2 months.

I asked the English teacher if she remembered how rosy things were before 2004, when there was virtually no difference between the 3 South Caucasus nations, but the coffee break was over and we had to get back to work.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"Merrily We Roll Along"

"Our “radicalism,” if that is the right word, is intended to end the instability our country faces rather than exacerbate it." Nino Burjanadze, from the National Interest.

It’s been relatively calm in Tbilisi. The first tomatoes of the season have arrived, as have the strawberries and cherries. The opposition released Freedom Square from occupation, but is still holding a portion of Rustaveli Avenue hostage for the sake of democracy.

Timur Taxi can’t take much more of the opposition inflicted detour down Revaz Laghidze str. Ordinarily a silent driver, Timur flipped his wig yesterday, cursing everyone and their mothers, as he tried to maneuver ahead of everybody, who were doing exactly the same thing. It’s a Tex Avery cartoon come to life.

Then again, the entire political scene in Georgia is lifted entirely from Looney Tunes episodes.

(episode Nov.7, 2007)

On May 6, when Utsnobi led a mob to police HQ to ostensibly free some criminals, the Ministry of Interior denied rubber bullets were fired into the crowd, despite the fact that 2 people each had an eye shot out and scores of people at opposition rallies had bullet sized wounds on their heads, including the rabble leaders.

Now, the MoI says they did fire projectiles into the crowd, but if they had admitted it then, the situation may have gotten tenser. Perhaps, but they could have reduced the risk if they had read the instructions of their launchers before handing them out to the cops: “An operator should avoid firing a target into the head.”

The ministry said they missed that part of the instructions and besides, the incident occurred in the dark, when only people’s heads were visible to the riot cops. It wasn't their fault.

Upset with the bad press her and her cronies are getting, Nino Burjanadze hit the inkwell and came up with this lead for her article in the National Interest on June 2: “The hardest thing for opposition groups to do is to criticize their governments while supporting their country.”

Ask Nino Burjanadze one thing she has done for her country besides stand in front of a microphone and say “No dialog! Saakashvili will step down! Blah blah blah.” Ask Burjanadze what she did to support her country when she backed Saakashvili’s decision to send the riot cops to bust up demonstrations in 2007. Ask her own Kutaisi constituents what she has ever done for them and see what they say.

As if things couldn’t get more ridiculous, the president of World Congress of the Peoples of Georgia, Russian businessman, Alexander Ebralidze, announced his intention of being Georgia’s next president, despite the fact he is not a citizen of the country. But that’s a minor detail for a man who also plans to open World Congress of the Peoples of Georgia offices in Georgia and set up a newspaper, radio and TV station.

The banker’s CV includes an eight-year degree at Con College for armed robbery. The year after he graduated with honors on parole, Big Al received another invitation to return for 5 more years to finish a master’s in disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

...and that's not all folks!