No Agreement on TV Debates
23 August, 2012
No Agreement on TV Debates

Ruling party offers debates between PM Vano Merabishvili and Bidzina Ivanishvili, the leader of Georgian Dream and its prime ministerial candidate. But Ivanishvili says Merabishvili is not the right person to debate with and insists on sitting down with President Saakashvili, who is the chairman of UNM.

After Ivanishvili challenged on August 20 Saakashvili to one-on-one televised debates or as an alternative offered to come face to face with a group of several leading ruling party and government figures, UNM announced that

the debates should take place between prime ministerial candidates and top party-list MP candidates.

UNM said parliamentary chairman Davit Bakradze would lead its party-list in the October 1 elections and PM Merabishvili would again be named as UNM’s prime ministerial candidate after the elections.

According to the constitution after the October elections, the government and PM will have to resign and President Saakashvili will have to present new cabinet or re-submit the one existing at the time to the newly elected Parliament for confidence vote. Prime Minister’s powers will remain the same after the parliamentary elections; PM’s authority will only increase significantly, becoming the country’s leader, when the new constitution goes into effect after the presidential elections in late 2013. The ruling party remains noncommittal whether it would like to see Merabishvili as its prime ministerial candidate beyond 2013 presidential elections.

Ivanishvili says that if the ruling party declares Merabishvili as a figure whom it wants to see as PM after 2013 presidential elections, he will sit down with Merabishvili in TV debates now. “Otherwise it won’t be even interesting for the public to listen to our debates,” he told journalists on August 21.

Speaking about Merabishvili, Ivanishvili said that by appointing him as PM in July, President Saakashvili actually “demoted him and he no longer has the same powers” he used to have when he was the Interior Minister.

“I have said for number of times that I respect Vano, but [debates with him] will not work,” Ivanishvili said and added that currently he and Merabishvili were not of “same weight.”

Ivanishvili, however, also said that although he was not going to debate one-on-one with Merabishvili, he was ready to sit down with the Prime Minister if at least six other ruling party and government figures also participate in the same TV debates against him. He also said that his primary goal was to debate with President Saakashvili and added that would “make things easier for him [Saakashvili] and will not ask question about his mistakes” and would only talk about the country’s future perspective.

After these remarks by Ivanishvili, the ruling party reiterated its position on TV debates.

“UNM’s prime ministerial candidate, Vano Merabishvili, is ready to participate in the debates and we hope that the Georgian Dream’s candidate, Bidzina Ivanishvili, will not shun away from this challenge and will accept this offer and challenge Mr. Merabishvili in debates in the Georgian Public Broadcaster,” MP Chiora Taktakishvili, ruling party’s spokesperson, said on August 21.

WHERE ARE LONG-TERM OBSERVERS?

‘Houses in the Georgian villages close to Tskhinvali will be demolished’- according to Ossetian media, declared Leonid Tibilov, President of the so-called South Ossetia. After the August war these villages were abandoned by Georgian population. According to Tibilov, in place of the houses industrial and agricultural objects will be built. While Ossetian separatists, instigated by Russian patrons, are so diligently trying to erase Georgian trace, pre-election campaign in Georgia is entering its decisive phase. Under this situation presence of long-term observers would be the best way out but the representatives of organizations aren’t seen anywhere. We are talking with Kakha Kakhishvili, a political scientist.

Q. – Working group of ambassadors supports democratic development of Georgia, equal access to media and fundamental principles of rule of law. Today, when there are less than two months left until the elections, do you think these principles are observed?

K.K. – Actually only one-and-a-half months are left until the elections but no long-term working mission have arrived as yet; this gives rise to reasonable doubt. There can be two reasons: one – maybe, while inviting them, the authorities didn’t observe all the procedures, gaining time by this in order to prolong their arrival; and two – maybe they themselves didn’t desire long-term observation.

Long-term mission is interesting not only because it has to reflect infringements in its report but also because it’s preventive, - when the authorities know that each of their step is watched and specified in details, they of course won’t be so daring and will try to abstain from illegal operations. Whatever is going on today, starting with bank auditing and court operations to minor provocations and using of administrative resources with such dosage indicate that the authorities, together with other circumstances are encouraged by absence of long-term observers.

Q. – ‘If something is built, they are irritated. Listen, people, why are you annoyed, time will change presidents, powers, everybody  but this will remain, it belongs to entire Georgia’ – this is one of the declarations made by President; in the second one Saakashvili says: ‘We are going to build Georgia during many years to come ‘. What do you think the President intends to say? Generally, are the authorities changed by time or by elections?

K.K. – Here we are dealing with a kind of technological moment, - they want to make the voters feel not to be afraid, to stand firm as they aren’t going to quit. By this they are actually mobilizing their activists because when a strong opponent appears everybody thinks how to save his skin as well as whether to defect to the rivals’ camp. Thus, these messages are preventive and are meant for one’s own team as well. But there is something else – all these have acquired the form of proof that in itself is unconstitutional because people are the source of authorities and it’s up to them to decide who should come to power.

Q. – ‘Due to encashment imposed on accounts of four member parties of ‘Georgian Dream’ Coalition GEL 100.000 have been taken by budget’, - Nodar Khaduri, one of the leaders of ‘Georgian Dream’ declared to journalists. According to him all six parties of the Coalition have been fined by the State Audit Office and encashment have been imposed on accounts of four parties – ‘Free Democrats’, ‘Republican Party’, ‘Conservative Party’ and ‘National Forum’. Is there a threat of directing people’s protest to street?

K.K. – I’m not a big supporter of dramatizing the street actions but holding of street rallies, by the way, is one of the means for European countries to strengthen the democracy to which we seem to be heading. But lately, thanks to their rhetoric and propaganda, the authorities managed to establish opinion that street actions are a sign of being undemocratic and backward, that everything should definitely be decided inside the buildings and they even incited one part of opposition to this. Thus, I think it was the opposition’s mistake when they said street actions would be only radical means of expressing protest; but it is one of the constitutional rights. Opposition shouldn’t follow the authorities’ rhetoric that only aggressive opposition goes to street. But in its due time even if the legislative amendments with regard to financial transparency were actively protested we shouldn’t face the present situation.

The authorities use this at their discretion. They’ve got hold on a strong lever. Thus, saying that a street action is dangerous or it achieves no goal is wrong.

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