Why can’t Georgian politicians overcome differences on their own?
Christian Danielsson – Special Envoy of the President of the European Council Charles Michel arrived in Georgia today. Danielson is holding meetings in Tbilisi, trying to help establish a dialogue between the Georgian authorities and the opposition, whose relations have reached an impasse.
Charles Michel himself, during his visit to Georgia last week, suggested that the Georgian opposition and the leadership, after a three-month pause, hold a spontaneous, fifth round of negotiations. The parties met on the same evening. The meeting was also attended by the President of the European Council, who said that from now on the EU is changing the role of a facilitator to the role of a mediator in negotiations between political opponents in Georgia.
After that, on March 9, President Michel announced that he would send Swedish diplomat Christian Danielson to Tbilisi as his envoy, who, together with the EU Ambassador to Georgia Karl Hartzel, would directly participate in the negotiations of Georgian politicians.
The crisis in Georgia began after the October 31, 2020 elections. After the results of the voting became known, the opposition MPs announced the falsification of the election results. Since then, 54 opposition MPs have boycotted the work of the tenth parliament, demanding a repeat election. Of the opposition, only 6 opposition deputies from two parties did not refuse their seats in parliament.
The political crisis escalated in mid-February, when Nikanor (Nika) Melia, chairman of the largest opposition party, United National Movement, was detained for refusing to pay an additional amount of bail ordered by the court. This decision of the authorities drew sharp criticism from the international community.
Professor at the Georgian Institute of Public Administration Tornike Sharashenidze believes that the inability of Georgian politicians to resolve existing differences is due to the fact that they are “under the dominant influence” of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili and founder of the ruling Georgian Dream billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili.
“The problem is that Saakashvili and Ivanishvili view each other as an existential threat, and accordingly, at the negotiating table, representatives of the opposition and the authorities are limited in their actions, which makes it difficult to reach a compromise. Unfortunately, this demonstrates that Georgia is still a failed democracy, which finds it difficult to solve its problems without the help of Western partners, ”the political scientist believes.
At the same time, according to Sharashenidze, the fact that the European Union is interested in solving the political crisis in Georgia and is directly involved in resolving differences between the parties is a “very positive” circumstance for a country that has an ambitious plan to apply for EU membership in 2024. …
Polarization and no warranty
Nika Chitadze, head of the Center for the Study of Security and International Relations, considers the existing polarization in Georgian society to be one of the main problems of the country, which, he says, is reflected in the fact that political opponents in Georgia cannot find a common language on their own.
“The categorical rejection of the opposite opinion and criticism, the absence of questions to politicians from the so-called own camp, all this is characteristic of the Georgian society, and we see it in politics,” Chitadze said in an interview with Voice of America.
The mediation of special envoy Christian Danielson in the dialogue between the Georgian authorities and the opposition, according to the expert, “gives hope, but does not guarantee” that the parties will be able to reach an agreement.
“The participation of such a high-ranking diplomat in resolving the crisis in Georgia is an unprecedented fact, confirming that the European Union is not indifferent to what is happening in the country. It is regrettable that instead of discussing with Georgian politicians Georgia’s progress on the implementation of the Association Agreement with the EU and accelerating the process of European integration, European diplomats are forced to spend time on settling squabbles, ”the expert summed up.