In Saakashvili’s Georgia, the Bloom Is Off the Rose


by Stephen Lendman

Since May 21, anti-goverment protests rocked Georgia. Organized by an alliance of opposition parties, they erupted initially in September 2007 for early elections and democratic change, as well as ending corruption and police state terror. More on current protests below.

In 2003, Georgia’s bloodless “Rose Revolution” replaced Edouard Shevardnadze with Mikhail Saakashvili, a totalitarian US-installed puppet with ties to other NATO countries and Israel.

Shevardnadze became a liability when he began dealing with Russia on energy pipelines and privatizations. Funded by the State Department, US intelligence, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), George Soros, and Freedom House, efforts to replace him played out as follows.

Georgia held parliamentary elections on November 2, 2003. Without evidence, pro-western international observers called them unfair. Saakashvili claimed he won. He and the united opposition called for protests and civil disobedience.

They began in mid-November in the capital Tbilisi, then spread throughout the country, peaking on November 22, parliament’s scheduled opening day. While it met, Saakashvili-led supporters placed “roses” in the barrels of soldiers’ rifles, seized the parliament building, interrupted Shevardnadze’s speech, forcing him out for his safety.

Saakashvili declared a state of emergency, mobilized troops and police, met with Sherardnadze and Zurab Zhvania (former parliament speaker, chosen for new prime minister, then killed in February 2005), apparently convincing the Georgian president to resign.

Celebrations erupted. A temporary head of state was installed. Georgia’s Supreme Court annulled the elections, and on January 4, 2004, Saakashvili was elected and inaugurated president on January 25.

On March 28, new parliamentary elections were held. Saakashvili’s supporters used heavy-handed tactics to win. Carefully scripted events assured it. Once installed, neoliberal reforms followed, including privatizing state enterprises, gutting the civil service, and instituting a regressive pro-business tax system, as well as widespread corruption to game the system for profit.

Moreover, heavy-handed terror solidified power, turning Georgia into a police state. As a result, political and popular opposition was crushed by suspicious deaths, mass arrests, detentions, torture, closing an opposition television station, and suspending civil liberties.

Early on, the bloom was off the rose, including by allying with Washington’s imperial agenda. Georgia is strategically important for the Anglo-American Caspian oil pipeline. It extends from Baku, Azerbaijan (on the Caspian) through Georgia, bypassing Russia and Iran, and across Turkey to its port city of Ceyhan. Called the BTC pipeline, it’s adjacent to the South Causasus (gas) Pipeline with a capacity of about 16 billion cubic meters annually. BTC handles around one million barrels of oil daily.

Georgia also became a coalition partner in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a proxy force against Russia in August 2008 by attacking South Ossetia, Georgia’s breakaway province. Calling it blatant aggression, Russia responded and prevailed, including in Abkhazia, Georgia’s other independent province. Both conflicts, in fact, threatened a potential East – West confrontation, especially if Georgia and Ukraine joined NATO, pushing it and Washington’s missile defense to Russia’s border, what Moscow won’t tolerate.

Anti-Government Protests Rock Georgia

On May 21, over 10,000 Georgians protested in Tbilisi, demanding Saakashvili resign. According to Reuters, a television building was also attacked in Batumi, capital of Georgia’s southwestern autonomous Adjara republic.

Opposing Saakashvili’s rule, former parliament speaker Nino Burdzhanadze rallied protesters in Tbilisi’s Freedom Square, saying:

“We will fight to the end together with you. It is the final and decisive fight for all of us and we are not going to take any steps back. We cannot wait until the next election and if we do not want to wait we should act now.”

Saakashvili’s term ends in 2013. Protesters want him out now.

On May 22, New York Times writer Michael Schwirtz headlined, “Protesters Call for the Resignation of Georgia’s President,” saying:

“Police clashed with anti-government protesters (Sunday), at one point firing tear gas and rubber bullets, as hundreds….gathered in (Tbilisi),” demanding Saakashvili’s ouster.

On May 23, Russia Today (RT) headlined, “Georgian opposition promise president’s ouster by Wednesday,” saying:

“Thousands of anti-government protesters” filled Tbilisi streets for the third straight day, opposition leader Burdzhanadze saying:

“A revolution is already going on. And it is not up to us – the government began the revolution (when it started terrorizing) people, when (it) arrested hundreds of absolutely innocent people, when (it) very seriously beat lots of people, when they confiscated property of the citizens and….cracked down four times on peaceful manifestations.”

Political analyst Irina Kobrinskaya believes, unlike past failures, this protest may succeed, saying:

“In fact, (Saakashvili) is not a political personality, who can easily step down.” He won’t go quietly. “But this time, really, the scale of the protest may go far and wide. (If) the opposition is consolidated enough,” he may have no choice but to go.

On May 24, RT said Georgian opposition supporters continue round-the-clock protests, preparing for a decisive “day of rage.” According to Burdzhanadze:

“We are fighting for democracy. We are fighting for a better future for everybody in Georgia….We do not want to live in a neo-bolshevik country. I know the government will use any kind of force….to survive. (We’re getting reports) that our supporters have been kidnapped or arrested.”

Undeterred, she expressed assurance “we will achieve our goal – the resignation of the president as well as free and democratic elections….” Millions of Georgians hope she’s right, wanting out from Saakashvili’s repressive rule.

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