With local elections less than a week away, the confrontation between the opposition and the ruling party has been overshadowed by a spy row with Russia, which has prompted a sudden unity between the authorities and leading opposition politicians.
Democratic Front opposition parliamentary factions, uniting MPs from the Conservative and Republican parties, issued a statement on September 29 calling for a “consolidation” of political forces against the background of deepening tensions between Russia and Georgia.
“This [Russia’s policy] is not directed only against the Georgian leadership. We perceive this as a threat and aggression towards the entire state and the Georgian people. Against this background, we call on everyone for unity in order to avoid giving Russia a reason to speculate about alleged in-fighting in Georgia,” MP Davit Zurabishvili of the Democratic Front faction said at a news conference on September 29.
“As the withdrawal of the Russian bases is underway, the [withdrawal] process should also apply to GRU [Russian military intelligence] agents, who have been operating in Georgia for many years without any problems,” MP Ivliane Khaindrava of the Republican Party said.
“Being in the opposition to the government, does not mean being in opposition to the country,” MP Mamuka Katsitadze of the New Rights said on September 29.
MP Giorgi Tsagareishvili of the opposition Industrialists Party said that his party can only welcome the crackdown on the Russian spy network in Georgia.
Imedi television’s political talk-show Reaction on September 29 hosted debates between Koba Davitashvili, leader of the election coalition of Republican and Conservative parties running in the Tbilisi mayoral race, and Russian parliamentarian from the Liberal Democratic Party Alexey Mitrofanov.
Davitashvili told the Russian MP that he was speaking with him “not as an opposition leader, but as an ordinary citizen of Georgia.”
“No matter who the leader of Georgia is - whether Saakashvili or anyone else – each leader of Georgia will pursue the policy of integrating into Euro-Atlantic structures,” Davitashvili said.
Leader of the Georgia’s Way party and ex-Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili told Imedi television on September 29 that an “uncompromising stance is needed with Russia,” but added that certain restraint is also needed in some cases in order not to extremely infuriate Moscow.
When news broke about the detention of four Russian officers and eleven Georgian citizens suspected in espionage on September 27, some opposition leaders made more cautious statements calling for the authorities to unveil evidence against the suspects. This cautious reaction of the opposition triggered the ruling National Movement party leaders to slam opposition for “inappropriate assessments.”
But later, the opposition’s full support for the authorities’ move was welcomed by ruling party officials.
“It is very pleasant to hear the opposition making healthy assessments,” MP Giga Bokeria said.