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Opposition Adheres to Boycott Despite Lack of Results
/ 28 Apr.'06 / 23:05
Nino Khutsidze, Civil Georgia

One month after announcing a boycott of parliamentary sessions the Georgian opposition lawmakers admit that this form of protest has failed to bring about any tangible results.

Thirty-nine opposition lawmakers launched a boycott on March 31 after the parliamentary majority stripped Valery Gelashvili of the Republican Party of his MP credentials. On April 7, the New Rights, Industrialists and Democratic Front (uniting Republican and Conservative parties) parliamentary factions put forth an ultimatum that the boycott will last until their demands are met by the authorities. The major demands involve the resignation of Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, direct elections of city mayors and regional governors, and the reform of the election system - including the creation of new election administrations and transparent and accurate voter lists. The Industrialist parliamentary faction added the demand to improve the business climate and the tax code.

Authorities made it clear from the very first days of opposition’s boycott that the major demands related with the Interior Minister’s resignation, direct elections of city mayors and the creation of new election administrations, could not be even discussed. However, the authorities signaled that they were willing to discuss problems related with voter lists and the tax code with the opposition.

The Industrialists faction, which has an ambition to be a business lobby group in the Parliament, is the only opposition faction out of the three involved which launched consultations with the authorities, in particular on amendments to the tax code. Lawmakers from the Industrialist party, however, doubt that these consultations will bring about any results.

“We never reject consultations and always support dialogue. However, we doubt that the authorities will meet our requirements [in respect to the tax code],” MP Zurab Tkemaladze, the Chairman of Industrialist faction, told Civil Georgia on April 28.

The Industrialist faction makes no secret of the fact that the major reason behind their decision to joint the boycott was an attempt to show unity among the opposition lawmakers.

“My personal opinion is that boycott is not bringing anything good. I supported it only to defend the opposition’s unity. I personally support working at the parliamentary sessions,” MP Tkemaladze said, but added that the Industrialist faction “will spare no efforts” to avoid any cracks among the opposition parliamentarians regarding the boycott policy.

MP Ivliane Khaindrava of the Republican Party says that the only result of boycott is that a very small part of the parliamentary majority “became awkward” after the opposition’s boycott.

“This boycott, which the opposition was forced to resort, has not yielded any concrete, positive results, unfortunately,” MP Khaindrava told Civil Georgia on April 28.
“But on the other hand, it [the opposition’s] boycott somehow awakened the ‘intellectual part’ of the parliamentary majority, which, obviously feels awkward,” he added. 

Although the New Rights parliamentary faction is pessimistic about the authorities’ readiness to meet the opposition’s demands, MP Pikria Chikhradze of the New Rights party thinks that the boycott has helped the opposition to attract more public and international attention to the problems in the country.

“This boycott has yielded no results, as the authorities show no sign [of compromising]. But the political outcome for the opposition is nonetheless important, as many international organizations and people started assessing the ongoing developments in the country differently - in particular it has become clear that the authorities need the opposition just to create an illusion of democracy in the country,” MP Chikhradze told Civil Georgia on April 28.

Despite the boycott’s failure to force the authorities to compromise, the opposition remains determined to adhere to its policy of boycotting parliamentary sessions.

“I do not rule out that we will continue boycotting until the end of the spring session,” MP Khaindrava said.

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