Recent weeks have demonstrated that Georgia is leaving “politics of streets and extremism in the past,” President Saakashvili said on May 18.
“There are some people among radical [opposition], who assess this situation properly; but there are also some people [within those opposition groups], who have very particular financial liabilities before our ill-wishers… For that reason they have no way back for retreat; but those who love this country and who have no liabilities of that kind and who are not caught with their ears will of course be in favor of a dialogue,” President Saakashvili said in live televised remarks.
He was speaking at a meeting with lawmakers from his ruling National Movement Party, held in Tsinandali in eastern region of Kakheti.
He said that “a good dialogue” was ongoing with the parliamentary opposition, despite “many disagreements.” Saakashvili also praised the parliamentary minority group for, as he put it, criticizing the authorities for those issue “which are really a source of concern for the population.”
Saakashvili also said while referring to those opposition parties, which are behind the ongoing street protest rallies: “Various political figures have emerged within the radical [opposition] groups, including those who take more responsible approach and who assess the situation more realistically.”
He also added that there also were “some people” among those groups “who think that there is no way back and for whom the major political recipe is to mess up the country and to halt the economy.”
“I want to say that the Georgian society demonstrated special wisdom and has not yielded to any provocation which was plotted both within and outside Georgia, catching our ill-wishers by surprise,” Saakashvili said. “Our ill-wishers’ expectation was that Georgians would have yielded to provocation and would have hit each other… Nothing of that kind has happened. The Georgian society, which is in hardship and which has lot’s of problems with the best part of our territories occupied by very aggressive and dangerous force, showed special wisdom, patience and courage not to yield to any provocation.”
Speaking about his proposals towards the opposition, Saakashvili said that the goal of planned commission, which would work on the constitutional reform, was not “to weaken any branch of the government.”
“The country with so many challenges needs very effective presidential institute – I am serving my last presidential term and I am not really preparing it for myself – it also needs very strong parliament, which will control the executive government and needs independent judiciary, which is developing in Georgia – although slower than we wish, but anyway we are moving gradually to that direction,” he added.
Saakashvili also said that “we should learn to hold elections.”
“We should at first see whether it is possible to negotiate on kind of an election system, wherein we will recognize [election] results,” he said.
He then reiterated again the authorities’ readiness to hold local self-governance elections earlier in 2010, instead of originally planned autumn, 2010.
“Then we can move to next stage and hold parliamentary and presidential elections in dates as it will be envisaged by the constitution,” Saakashvili added.
“Elections are of course one of the instruments for defusing political processes,” he continued. “But when elections are simply used as a pretext for messing up the country, that can not be the way towards solution.”
He has also claimed that Bondo Shalikiani was among “active sponsors” of the protests in Georgia. Shalikiani, a former lawmaker and once a tycoon with assets in western Georgian region of Imereti, was arrested in early 2004 for alleged embezzlement, but was released after agreeing to hand over some of his assets to the authorities. He then left for Russia and resides there. On May 18, the Georgian weekly, Kviris Palitra, published an interview with Shalikiani in which he says: “I will spare no efforts to make him [Saakashvili] held responsible for everything he has done.”
Saakashvili also said that corrupt former officials and business figures were trying to regain their influence in Georgia lost after the Rose Revolution. He, however, said these attempts would fail “as now we have a different reality and Georgia is now the state… and Georgia will never go back in the past again.”
“If some one misses [ex-president Eduard] Shevardnadze, they can go and guest him in Krtsanisi [residence in Tbilisi, where Shevardnadze now lives],” Saakashvili said.
Saakashvili mentioned his predecessor, Eduard Shevardnadze, who in his recent media interviews called on Saakashvili to resign, in separate episode of his televised speech. “This is the man during whose [presidency] scrap metal topped Georgia’s export,” Saakashvili said. “Starting from 2005 share of scrap metal in total export came down from number one and now it is actually on the hundredth place and I think now it not even being exported at all.”
Here he also made a reference to ongoing protest rallies in Tbilisi with so called ‘town of cells’ by saying: “If someone wants to sell scrap there are lots of cages, which can serve as a perfect scrap metal and they can sell their own scrap.”
Ferrous metal scrap was number two Georgian export in 2008, amounting USD 128.5 million and accounting 8.6% of total exports, according to the Georgian state statistics department; and it was the sixth largest export commodity in the first quarter of 2009 accounting 6.4% of total export.