02/25/2021, 10.27
GEORGIA
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The 'Georgian Dream' stifles pro-Western opposition

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Demonstrations resumed after the arrest of Nika Melia, head of the "United National Movement" party, inherited from Saakashvili. Melia has been subjected to arrests, trials, allegations of electoral fraud and attacks on his life by hired gangsters. In recent years, nearly 20% of the population has left the country, torn between love for the West and submission to Russia amid a languishing economy.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Mass protests have resumed in Tbilisi after the arrest of Nika Melia, head of the opposition party "United National Movement". On the morning of February 23, police officers stormed the office where Melia was staying, using pepper spray.

The politician is accused of causing the mass unrest of June 20, 2019, when the Russian deputy Sergej Gavrilov was House Speaker. The opposition considered this episode to be yet another demonstration of Russia’s attempt to subdue the country, and discontent resulted in spontaneous street demonstrations, violently dispersed by the police.

Fearing uncontrollable reactions across the country and unwilling to take responsibility for it, Georgian Prime Minister Georgy Gakharya had even submitted his resignation five days earlier, in order to avoid an assault on the opposition party headquarters.

The clash has brought a volatile situation that has been simmering for several years to a head. Melia represents the pro-Western party of former president Mikhail Saakashvili; opposed by the ruling party, the "Georgian Dream" founded by the billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. His candidate for premier, Iraklij Garibashvili, accuses Saakashvili of being a "traitor" who led the country to ruin, especially due to the armed confrontation with Russia in 2008-2011.

At present, Saakashvili lives in exile as a politician in Ukraine. Commenting on recent events in an interview with Currentime.ru, he compares the protests in Tbilisi to the Belarusian protests against Lukashenko and to the Russian protests in favor of Navalnyj. In his opinion, "Putin certainly feels great satisfaction with what is happening in Georgia".

Another Georgian politician and magistrate sheltered in Ukraine, prosecutor David Sakvarelidze, in an interview with Gordon speaks of a "feudal reaction of the Georgian oligarchy", similar to what happened in Kiev before the Euromaidan in 2014. In his opinion, "in the Over the past eight and a half years Georgia has turned into an extremely backward country, which has been abandoned by 900,000 people, nearly 20% of the population. The oligarchic power has no interest in improving people's living conditions, and fails to govern the health situation and organize a vaccination plan, but only seeks to stifle all forms of freedom”.

There have been numerous attempts to block the political activity of Melia and his party: several arrests and trials, electoral fraud and attacks on his life, even involving organized crime. According to Sakvarelidze, "they will not be able to detain him for long", and reactions are expected not only from within the country, but also from various Western partners, who initially remained silent due to the difficulty in understanding the turning points of the Georgian internal conflict. After Melia's arrest, several US, EU and NATO politicians and diplomats have presented their grievances over the government's brutal actions.

Even the leaders of the party in power, moreover, declare themselves pro-Western, but according to the opponents "they do whatever Putin needs".

The economic conditions in Georgia are very critical: there is a very high rate of unemployment, widespread corruption and internal conflict similar to that of the first half of the 1990s.

In all likelihood, Melia's arrest will not be enough for the current regime to keep the protests under control. Rather, it will provoke a further reconciliation of the various oppositions and the reaction of the many independent media. Unlike Russia and Belarus, Georgia's orientation towards the West and Europe is a very marked identity factor, which even the "Georgian Dream" in power cannot defeat. This is why many new waves of conflicts are expected before new elections, all yet to be planned.

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