Georgia: Tough Questions for Saakashvili
Now that the dust is slowly starting to settle after a tragic conflict between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia, there are some signs that questions are starting to be asked by political forces in Tbilisi about why a war broke out in the first place. Having now effectively lost both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, yesterday gave an hour long speech which was aired live on TV to explain why military action was necessary.
But while society and opposition forces are still largely united behind the president, Civil Georgia reports that this situation might not remain the case for long.
Opposition parties, as well as former parliamentary speaker, Nino Burjanadze, said on August 18 Russian troops’ withdrawal was now a priority, but the government would definitely face “tough questions” afterwards about what led to the conflict and why it all happened.
“I’m afraid it will not be very easy for the government to answer all the questions,” Nino Burjanadze said in an interview with Reuters. “It was impossible to imagine that Russian tanks would be 20-25 minutes drive from Tbilisi, that we would have so many refugees and displaced persons and so many casualties among civilians.”
Meanwhile, leaders of two opposition parties – Republican and New Rights – Davit Usupashvili and Davit Gamkrelidze, respectively, said at a joint news conference on August 18, that they would continue, what they called, “a moratorium” on conformation with the authorities. But, they said, questions would be asked and analysis would be made of what had happened as soon as the crisis recedes.
Other opposition politicians are also cautious from making any harsh remarks for now, at least for the Georgian media. But on August 15, the Financial Times carried quotes of Levan Gachechiladze, co-leader of opposition coalition and Kakha Kukava, leader of the Conservative Party, warning the authorities about the anticipated protest rallies.
Gachechiladze was quoted by FT.com as saying that the opposition would campaign for elections to be held “at the earliest opportunity”, perhaps within two months. And Kukava was quoted as saying: “Saakashvili was personally responsible for the military operation, and for starting a war we could not win.” He also added the opposition would wait until the situation had cooled and then call for mass demonstrations aimed at removing the government.
As soon as the quotes were carried in the Russian news wires, both of the politicians prompted to announce that their remarks were put out of the context.
“Today, when Russian tanks are rolling on the Georgian territory, on the most part of its territory, we need unity, firmness and our enemies should never see political tensions in the country,” Levan Gachechiladze said on August 15.
“Our position is that Russian tanks should leave Georgia and afterwards discussions will start over who is responsible for what has happened,” Kukava told Civil.Ge.
Photo: Mikhail Saakashvili, Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia © Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2008
- 08.25.08 / 1pm by Onnik