Georgia is protesting again and building barricades. This time it is about the arrest of Nikanor Melia, an opposition activist and supporter of Mikheil Saakashvili. Although he never went to jail, he was saved by the resignation of Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia. The institutions of power were temporarily paralyzed. RIA Novosti learned how the republic is planning to resolve its political deadlock.
The “hand of Moscow” again.
When the Tbilisi city court ordered the arrest of opposition activist Melia, he barricaded himself in his office. Police officers prepared to take the politician by force to a prison cell. But the storming of the headquarters of the United National Movement, where the convict was hiding, failed.
Melia, the chairman of the party, gave a briefing to journalists and supporters. And the law enforcers waited and listened to his statements. The crowd was tormented by one question: whether the activist of Saakashvili’s party would admit guilt and go to jail. But he started from afar.
“I was lucky enough to fight against Vladimir Putin and his henchmen. Georgia’s freedom requires me to take these extreme measures,” the jailed politician said.
The participants of the briefing did not understand the thought. They were asked qualifying questions. Melia explained the logical connection: “The ruling Georgian Dream has a pro-Russian policy. Sooner or later this party will integrate Georgia into Russia. That’s why I refuse to obey the authorities and am ready for physical resistance to the special forces”.
Up until last fall Melia was faithfully under control. But again, the “hand of Moscow” got in the way. The opposition did not recognize the results of the October parliamentary elections. The “Georgian Dream” was accused of falsifying the results and even saw Russian influence in the falsification technologies.
Demanding the annulment of the voting results, Melia threw away the bracelet. The politician was fined again, but he refused to pay. He was deprived of parliamentary immunity. The case was taken to court, where they ruled on his arrest. In response, barricades were set up.
On the day the verdict was pronounced, Melia’s supporters gathered outside the headquarters of the United National Movement. At first, they did not allow the police into the building, but then they backed off. The crowd chanted, “We will not give up Nika!” There were also those who took advantage of the situation and demanded that the lockdown in Tbilisi be lifted.
The police had run out of patience and began their assault. But the sudden news of Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s resignation stopped them. The oppositionists applauded and waved their national flags.
“It’s time to celebrate,” the crowd booed. People clapped again and some even danced.
“This is a victory for the opposition.”
The news of the prime minister’s resignation also took the ruling Georgian Dream by surprise. At first, no one believed it, but Gakhariya soon spoke out in person. He explained his resignation by his disagreement with the court ruling for Melia’s arrest. And it was not a matter of sympathy for the oppositionist.
“I have decided to leave my position. I want to believe that this will reduce polarization in Georgia. Right now political tensions and the fight against the pandemic are off the charts. The law regarding Melia should have been implemented after all the risks have been removed,” Gakharia said.
Despite the PM’s departure, the government will continue to work until a new cabinet is elected. Gaharia’s successor is to be confirmed within two weeks, but the opposition has threatened to block the process. And put forward a condition: to hold early parliamentary elections, and after them to form the cabinet. But the Georgian Dream has a majority in parliament and does not need approval.
Request for bright leaders
“Why arrest Melia if the political crisis in Georgia is practically solved and the government has outplayed its opponents? – Tornike Sharashenidze, professor at the Georgian University of Public Affairs, is perplexed. – Gakharia was convincing his fellow party members that pressure on the chairman of the United National Movement is beneficial for the opposition and increases its popularity. The PM’s dismissal shows his disagreement with the ruling party.
However, according to the Georgian political scientist, Gakharia has never been at home in the Georgian Dream. He was considered there as a man of Bidzina Ivanishvili, a businessman and founder of the party. But after the oligarch’s recent decision to step aside, Gakharia was left on his own. During his premiership, he has neither formed a team nor found like-minded people. Hence his disagreements and resignation.
Now the ruling Georgian Dream has no bright leaders, which the expert sees as a serious danger. “The court’s decision to arrest Melia and Gakharia’s resignation will lead to new opposition demands for early parliamentary elections. And there is no guarantee that the Georgian Dream will gain a majority. Besides Tbilisi mayor and former soccer player Kakha Kaladze, there are no popular politicians left in the party,” Sharashenidze explains.
Ivanishvili’s departure has not helped overcome the accumulated negative attitude towards the Georgian Dream. Without a strong leader, the ratings went down. Current Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister Maia Tskitishvili may become the new head of the government. But Sharashenidze doubts that her premiership will be effective because of the many problems within the party.
The parliamentary crisis in Georgia, according to Archil Sikharulidze, political scientist and founder of the Georgian research center SIKHA Foundation, has turned into a political farce. The opposition is aware that reelections are impossible but insists on its own. It uses any situation for pressure on the authorities and calls on the West to interfere.
“The story of Melia’s arrest and Gaharia’s resignation is another reason that the supporters of the United National Movement have taken up. But the authorities understand that re-election would set a dangerous precedent. Saakashvili’s supporters will regard it as a victory. The opposition has already thrown in a slogan that the ruling party is close to disintegration. However, even if the vote takes place, the opposition will not win. It is too fragmented,” says Sikharulidze.
The political crisis will end if the authorities retain control over all state institutions. So far, this has succeeded, but, according to the expert, any wrong step can be fatal.