President Saakashvili has offered those twelve opposition politicians, who have refused to take their seats in the legislative body after last year’s elections, “to return back to the Parliament.”
“If they wish let’s amend the law as part of the agreement to allow those who have refused to take seats in the parliament last year to return back to the parliament and to take those seats. Let them return back,” Saakashvili said in a lengthy live interview with the Rustavi 2 TV’s weekly program, Position, late on June 19.
He said that potential for a dialogue with the non-parliamentary opposition leaders remained “large” and said that except of publicly announced talks there also had been “many other meetings” between the opposition and the authorities. He did not specify.
“No matter whether some radicals join or not this process of dialogue, we are not going to stop, the train will keep moving,” Saakashvili said. “It is better for them to get on board soon before this train moves slowly, because it will be more difficult – although not impossible - to get on board, when the train gains speed.”
He reiterated that ongoing rallies “even with blocking of number of streets will not force the government to resign especially in this very decisive moment for our country.”
He said that protest rallies in general should be a wake-up call for the authorities, but “complicating life” should not be the goal in itself of the street demonstrations.
“I have listened to our people; I have heard what required to be heard and saw everything that required to be seen and I respect those people [demonstrators],” he said.
Saakashvili again ruled out holding of either early parliamentary or presidential elections and reiterated that only the local elections could be held next spring, instead of originally planned late 2010.
He said that “from the political point of view we have gained a lot from these rallies,” because nothing that could have portrayed Georgia as an undemocratic country happened.
“These are times of political firmness and maturity for the authorities, which I think is an achievement for the state,” he said.
He, however, said that the ongoing street protests had a negative result for the country’s economy.
Saakashvili said that he had “fundamental difference” with “radical leaders” of the opposition.
“I can not agree with them when they say that Georgia has lost the war and lost its territories and that this is hopeless struggle,” Saakashvili said. “I believe that we have not lost anything; we have saved our statehood; of course we have not won yet, because our victory will be when our territorial integrity is restored. This is a huge and daily struggle.”
“They believe that people are a tool and some of them even think that people are a mob; but I think that we have very wise people… They think that fight against criminality contravenes the Georgian mentality… They believe that all the methods are admissible in the political struggle: including permanent lies and seeding of hatred… And they believe that Georgia will never be able to establish itself as an European civilization, because it contravenes to the Georgian values… But despite these differences we have one motherland.”
Asked about the authorities’ suggestions about Moscow’s hand in ongoing protests in Tbilisi, Saakashvili said: “I can not point the finger at anyone– although we have some information – it’s not my business to point at anyone saying they are agents… that is up to law enforcement and judiciary to do that.”
He, however, said that when some opposition politicians criticize western diplomats and when “it is said that Georgia attacked sleeping Tskhinvali, a question is asked: whose interests do they express?”
“We have the wise people and let them judge for themselves,” he continued. “Medvedev said that they wanted early elections in Georgia… So we should be cautious.”
Asked about the opposition’s complaints that the authorities were not investigating cases of attacks on opposition activists and supporters, Saakashvili said: “Sooner or later – sooner than later – everything will be investigated.”
And when asked about “excessive use of force by the police” on June 15 outside the Tbilisi police headquarters, Saakashvili said that policemen were sworn at by protesters “night and day” one should “not be surprised if these people [policemen] exaggerated.”
He reiterated position of lawmakers from his ruling party about opposition politician Salome Zourabichvili’s readiness to take the post of deputy interior minister and said that his offer to the opposition should not be understood as if an opposition politician could serve on the post of deputy interior minister and participate in the protest rallies and “continuing swearing at the police” at the same time.
Saakashvili said that he would have focused more on social and security issues if he were in the opposition now.
“If I where in the opposition today, do you know what would have been my source of criticism of the authorities? Today our major problem is that best of our territories are occupied and that our statehood is in danger. So I would have spoken all the time about whether or not the government is effective in tackling this problem and also about whether or not the government is helping people to overcome hardship,” he said.
He also said that “no one should think that I have given up developing our armed forces.”
“Some say now ‘why did we need to spend billions on defense’ – we should have invested twice more,” Saakashvili added.