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Talks Underway, but Details Unclear
/ 15 Jan.'08 / 19:42
Civil Georgia

Talks are underway between the authorities and the nine-party opposition coalition, but few details have been released.

Nino Burjanadze, the acting president, was the first to break the news of the talks, which was later confirmed by the opposition coalition.

She told journalists on Tuesday morning, January 15, that eight issues were being discussed. She said that the creation of a new board of trustees for the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) was one of them and an agreement had already been reached, allowing the opposition to have a say on the composition of the new board. Burjanadze, however, refused to say what the remaining seven issues were.

Davit Usupashvili, leader of the Republican Party, confirmed later on the same day that talks were on-going. He said he himself was engaged in the negotiations, but declined to name other opposition politicians involved. Like Burjanadze, he was tight-lipped on the remaining issues. He told Civil.Ge, however, that “there is more than eight issues.”

News of the talks, however sketchy, follow earlier denials by politicians from the nine-party coalition. Talks with the authorities, they said at a news conference on January 14, would only happen if the government were prepared to consider a vote recount.

A few hours after Burjanadze broke the silence on the talks, a pre-planned opposition rally outside the GPB took place. Several thousand supporters were told that the government's concession on the GPB  was “the first major success.” Speakers vowed to press for more “concessions” and insisted that a run-off was still on the cards.

Irina Sarishvili, the leader of the small Party of Hope and a presidential contender in the recent election, however, thought differently. She said on January 15 that the GPB concession was “just bait… and unfortunately there are signs that some opposition politicians are hooked.” The government, she said, was trying to deflect attention away from the real issue - a run-off.

Meanwhile, president-elect Mikheil Saakashvili told journalists after meeting with Public Defender Sozar Subari, that "an entire package of issues" was on the negotiating table.

“In the last few days we have been having intensive talks and dialogue with various representatives of the opposition,” he said on January 15. “We want to resolve an entire package of issues and I think that the talks are being held in a constructive manner.”

Saakashvili said that “everybody should have the feeling that the parliamentary elections will be held fairly and transparently and all question marks should be removed.”

“In this regard we are ready to agree on many issues, for example, the depolitization of state agencies; transparency in the management of law enforcement agencies; independence of business, involving [the creation of a mechanism for the adjudication] of tax disputes etc., because this issue worries everyone, including the government and the opposition,” Saakashvili said.

He also reiterated an earlier commitment to offer unspecified government positions “to individual professionals, including those from various opposition parties.”

“I want to stress that we do not mean a coalition government. Georgia will have a presidential government. The presidential election has its winner,” he said. “But this does not mean that we will compose the government on a party basis. We will have an all-inclusive government, we will talk to as many groups of people as possible; we will listen to many experts.”

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