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Interior Minister: Opposition is Marginalized
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 28 May.'08 / 12:48

Vano Merabishvili. Photo: Kommersant/Dmitry Lebedev

In a rare interview the Georgian Interior Minister, Vano Merabishvili, said opposition was marginalized after suffering crushing defeat in elections. 

Merabishvili said in the interview, published by the Russian daily Kommersant on May 28, that the opposition was not “good at anything” and it had “no rating.”

“What else can they do?” Merabishvili said when asked about the opposition’s planned protest rallies.

“The reforms we have carried out were so painful that people can’t get over it yet. We turned everything upside down as we dealt with corruption… The state budget has increased 14-fold since 2003. That money had been in someone’s pocket. We took [this money] out and put it in the budget. That means many people have lost that money. Of course, they will struggle against the government. That is why society is in a strained situation,” he said.

Merabishvili pointed out there were two reason of the ruling party’s victory in the May 21 parliamentary elections. “We have campaigned well, and people understood that the opposition isn’t good at anything. What did they [the opposition] offer to the people? Nothing,” he said.

“The only party that offered anything at all was our [ruling National Movement] party. In five years, we have raised pensions four or five fold. That’s a real deed. The opposition had no program and suffered such a serious defeat that it has become marginal.”

He said that the opposition thought it could stage a revolution like it happened in 2003. “But they are inadequate. They themselves fail to understand that they have no rating,” Merabishvili said.

He also pointed out that although the opposition leader Levan Gachechiladze received most of the votes in the capital city, Tbilisi, during the January 5 presidential elections (but lost nationwide with big margin), he lost polls in the parliamentary elections this month. Gachechiladze was running as a majoritarian MP candidate in the Tbilisi’s Samgori single-mandate constituency, but lost the race to the ruling party’s MP candidate, Rusudan Kervalishvili, with 34.4% against 53.6%.

When asked if he expected further escalation of tensions as the opposition vowed to keep protesting, the Interior Minister replied: “I do not rule out anything.”

Asked whether he expected repeat of events similar to those of November 7, Merabishvili responded: “It’s hard for me to say.”

It was Merabishvili first media interview since the November events. When speaking about those developments, he said breaking up of protest rally last November “was normal.”

“Is there a state in the world where the police do not use force when the situation gets out of control?” Merabishvili said. “Our police had no practice. But the operation was carried out correctly and professionally – no one died and there was not a single serious injury.”

“When we came into power, the police had no arms or clubs. Now we are well armed. We used modern means for dispersing demonstrations, including acoustic technologies. We used [tear] gas. Of course, it was a very difficult decision, because of what happened in Tbilisi on April 9, 1989 [when at about 20 people died after Soviet troops broke up peaceful demonstrators outside the parliament in Tbilisi]. But we acted professionally. When we buy gas, we test it well. And we change it every year.”

In the interview Merabishvili also spoke about breakaway Abkhazia and said that Russians were “forcing them [Abkhazians] to prepare for war.” He said that Moscow wanted to provoke hostilities in Abkhazia in order to thwart Tbilisi’s NATO drive.

“If there is any military actions NATO will not receive Georgia in its membership,” Merabishvili said. “Russia gives money and arms [to Abkhazia] so they can fight against us.”

Merabishvili acknowledged that Georgia’s two drones were shot down over Abkhazia, instead of seven as claimed by the Abkhaz side. So far Tbilisi was claiming that only one of its drones was shot down on April 20.

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