Hours before the elections President Saakashvili has vowed to give more powers to the new parliament and to engage in regular dialogue with the opposition.
In his thirty-minute live televised address to the nation on May 20, President Saakashvili outlined the government and his ruling party’s priorities in what is called “50-month program” and also called for the unity to tackle challenges.
He was speaking from Kutaisi. Saakashvili was standing outside the ruins of the Church of Bagrat III – regarded as the first monarch of the united Georgia in the early eleventh century. In his address Saakashvili reiterated his earlier promise and said he would bequeath to the next president of Georgia united country.
Saakashvili laid out number of new initiatives designed to increase level of his responsibilities towards the parliament, involving his quarterly reports to the legislative body and increase of the parliament role in drafting the state budget.
“I, as the President, will do everything to make the future parliament strong,” Saakashvili said. “For that purpose I offer new form of cooperation. Today, according to the constitution, the Georgian President has to report about the state of affairs in the country to the parliament once in a year [the state of the nation address in the parliament]. I am ready to come into the parliament at least once in three months and to answer all the possible sharp questions of all lawmakers. I will have systematic and frequent meetings with even the smallest factions in the parliament.”
“Today the government considers the draft state budget before it is submitted to the parliament for consideration, but I am ready to involve all the parliamentary factions in the process of developing the draft state budget, before the government starts its consideration.”
“I will work more actively with the parliament to strengthen parliamentary control over the government and in this regard I am ready to – although I am not obliged to do so according to the constitution – re-submit the cabinet for confidence vote in the new parliament.”
He did not specify whether he planned to nominate reshuffled cabinet, or planned to submit for confidence vote the sitting cabinet, chaired by PM Lado Gurgenidze.
Saakashvili also said that he was ready to foster the opposition’s participation in the decision-making process.
“I will do my best to involve the opposition – whoever it is – in the process; to give more levers of control to any political force; to create more transparency in order to overcome polarization and confrontation in the politics and in order to make meetings and negotiations more favorable than confrontation, hunger strike, tents and those unfavorable events that took place last November. I hope other politicians will also join me in this [initiative],” he said.
Saakashvili said that he had tried “to extend hand of cooperation” to the opposition for several times previously, but the offer was rejected.
“We have tried to undertake step which would have helped to reduce polarization in the country,” he said. “I do not think that someone in Georgia is enemy to me or to the political force, which I represent [the ruling National Movement Party]… We have managed to agree on some issues [with the opposition], for example on the reform of Georgian Public Broadcaster, but unfortunately no agreement was possible on many other issues… But I am sure that everything should be done to overcome radicalism to find a common language between Georgia’s patriots on major issues.”
He said that unity was essential in this “very decisive moment for the Georgia’s history.”
“I am sure that our people will make a very precise choice and will chose unity instead of conformation; order, instead of chaos, clashes and disorders; construction, instead of destruction,” Saakashvili said. “A huge evil challenges Georgia. So in this context I want each of you, my compatriots, to understand how important tomorrow’s elections are.”
“Georgia’s ill-wishers are trying to ambush us. It wants tomorrow’s election to grow into confrontation and chaos to then make its century-old dream come true… I want everyone to remember that Georgia is victorious when Georgia is united and when it has support of civilized world. Therefore tomorrow’s election is a test in unity and in support of entire world, which we should gain… So regardless of political opinions we should spare no efforts to conduct elections peacefully and fairly.”
In his address, Saakashvili also outlined pre-election program of the ruling party, known as “50-month program” and said that the government planned to increase minimum monthly pensions up to USD 100 from next year; further expansion of the cheap credit program and turning Georgia into, as he put it, “Dubai and Singapore of this region.”
He said that in recent years it was possible to lay foundation to the strong Georgian state and to eradicated “systemic corruption;” but he also acknowledge that “much more remains to do.” He also acknowledged that 750,000 citizens still lived in poverty and level of unemployment was still high. Saakashvili also pointed out that the Rose Revolution expectations had not been yet delivered to many people.
“You know I am impatient person and I am especially impatient to overcome poverty, hardship and unemployment,” Saakashvili said. “We should get stronger through freedom and democracy… The only thing that will help us to survive is our unity; this is a gallows for our enemy, but this [unity] is something that makes us stronger.”