In a special appeal ahead of the first anniversary of the police break up of anti-government protest rallies, President Saakashvili said the authorities had learnt lessons from last year’s November 7 events.
The statement comes before opposition plans to hold a rally on November 7 outside Parliament. The first anniversary of the November 7 events is the formal reason behind the rally; however, the opposition is expected to use the occasion to push political demands, one of which is early parliamentary elections. Opposition plans and tactics are still unclear, with consultations ongoing to arrive at a common position.
Saakashvili said in televised remarks on October 27 that the events of November 7 painful to recall for “Georgia and especially for me personally.”
“Our duty is to remember November 7 and to very well understand what happened in order to make conclusions so as to prevent its reoccurrence,” he said.
“We have all learnt big lessons from November 7; we have seen mistakes made by the Georgian authorities; those events demonstrate how important it is for the government and the president to listen to the people and how important it is to maintain dialogue even with minor groups,” Saakashvili continued. “November 7 has also taught us that unity is needed if we want to have a democratic society. It has taught us that confrontation is not the way to resolve differences; it is the way of death. It has taught us that unity is the most important value. If it hadn't been for these lessons, we would have failed to demonstrate such incredible unity in August [during the war with Russia].”
“Many things have changed in Georgia since November 7 and we have progressed since then. We have launched many democratic reforms and we are undertaking measures for the parliament to be stronger, for more public control, for the opposition to be more involved in state affairs, for the establishment of proper rules of the game between the authorities and opposition.”
“I think we have all – the majority of people – learnt the lessons of November 7,” he said. “Today, Georgia is a more democratic state than it was a year ago; the opposition is more influential – regardless of whether they are in Parliament or not – than it was a year ago.”
He also said that “a new wave of legal reforms” was underway and he was looking forward to the launch of a jury system in Tbilisi courts, starting next January.
Saakashvili was speaking at a meeting with lawmakers from the parliamentary majority.
He made his remarks after speaking about a cabinet reshuffle and the nomination of a new prime minister – 35-year-old diplomat Grigol Mgaloblishvili, who has thirteen years' experience of working in the Foreign Ministry, but has never been involved in politics.
Mgaloblishvili will replace Lado Gurgenidze, who also was a newcomer to politics when he was nominated for the position by President Saakashvili just nine days after last year’s November 7 events.
Also on October 27, President Saakashvili's former close ally and ex-speaker of parliament, Nino Burjanadze, announced the launch of “a clear-cut opposition” party. “Recent developments [reference to the August war] have demonstrated that those people who are currently in the government cannot prevent new threats,” she said in a statement.
Meanwhile, a Georgian news agency, Pirveli (First), broke the news about an unannounced meeting held last week between Levan Gachechiladze, a former opposition presidential candidate; Koka Guntsadze, an opposition politician; and former Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli – who in a newspaper interview last month slamned the Saakashvili administration and announced his intention to make a political comeback.
According to the news agency the meeting was held in a Tbilisi restaurant and was witnessed by one of its journalists. The agency reported that its journalist heard Gachechiladze asking his two interlocutors when they would prefer to have early parliamentary polls – January 4 or January 20. The agency also quoted Gachechiladze as saying at the meeting: “Last November it was a different situation… The Russian background [a suggestion that the Saakashvili administration suffered as a result of the August war] gives us the upper-hand. We should put an end to Saakashvili.”
Gachechiladze, however, denied saying that. “That is a provocation,” he told Rustavi 2 TV by phone.
Guntsadze told Rustavi 2 TV by phone that he and Gachechiladze had met the ex-PM “by chance.” He also said that the news report that the three men had discussed political issues was “utter nonsense.”