Friday, January 30, 2009

Opposition agrees on ousting Saakashvili but not much else

Twelve opposition parties called for Pres. Mikheil Saakashvili's resignation, but there appears to be little concerted momentum behind their declaration. reports Davit Gamkrelidze, the leader New Rights (Conservative) Party, said all parties were united behind removing Saakashvili, but their tactics might vary.

As a friend of mine once said: "Even if all Georgia wanted to throw Misha away, how would they agree on a date?"

Nonetheless, the concensus among the opposition is that Saakashvili will be gone by year's end. However, they don't seem to know how it'll happen.

Many believe U.S. Pres. Barack Obama will help by tying aid to democratic reform.

"Maybe it will take a year or two, but I am sure these reforms (media, electoral code, law enforcement agencies, human rights) will lead to the resignation of Saakashvili, because he can't act under free political environment," Kahka Kukava, leader of the Conservative Party, wrote in an e-mail to me recently.

Also, Kukava wrote, as Obama tries to restore America's standing abroad, he will not tolerate allies who might undermine his efforts, such as Saakashvili.

Of course, this assumes that the Obama administration believes Tbilisi (and especially Saakashvili) was responsible for starting the August war.

On the other side, as talks about Nabucco come up again, the U.S. will want stability above all else in Georgia, be it from Saakashvili or someone else. Saakashvili has appointed former-PM Lado Gurgenidze to lobby for Nabucco. Gurgenidze was very successful in attracting foreign investment to Georgia.

Joshua Kucera at reports that Turkey (and Russia, of course) might be a roadblock to U.S. energy policy (including Nabucco) in the Caspian Basin.

On another note:
The recent alliance between the Republican Party and New Rights Party was somewhat surprising. Both certainly want to see Saakashvili go, but the Republicans have focused more on institutional reform while Gamkrelidze has focused more on changing the head of state. Of course, the New Rights Party has a bigger support base.

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