Facing the Locals

Political Parties Position themselves for the General Elections

The local self-governance elections, that precede approaching parliamentary elections, attract special attention. As politicians and independent experts admit, June 2 elections will be different and important than any other election that took place before.

Many leading MPs are ready to leave the Parliament and move to Tbilisi Sakrebulo [elected city council], which also talks about importance of these elections. Several influential parliamentarians have their names listed for the local elections and pretend for chairmanship of Tbilisi Sakrebulo.

“Local self-governance elections are important in their nature, not because something would really change in Georgia’s reality, but because the political parties will use pre-election battle to add more points to their ratings, which they will need in post-Shevardnadze period,” says David Losaberidze of the non-governmental organizations Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development.

Main functions of the municipalities are limited down to solution of the communal problems. However, experts believe, that existing legislation would not allow local self-governance bodies (Sakrebulos) to achieve any feasible success in this regard. There is no relevant legal or financial basis and the central government possesses all means of control. In such circumstances, the municipalities hardly would change anything even if they try to.

District division and small-scale municipalities, that are not able to contain themselves financially, are maintained. The Law on Local Property, which was aught to be adopted in December 1997, still is not in force. A law on partition of budget rights does not exist either.

“Existing self-governance system is quite imperfect. In fact it is a reshaped Soviet model. Therefore, with these elections we would not have considerable structural changes or ‘municipalization’ in the Western meaning of this word,” says David Losaberidze.

Because of these reasons, it is widely believed that the political parties will use pre-election campaign to reinforce their positions for the parliamentary elections of 2003.

In difference from the last elections, when the competition was bipolar, between the central government of Georgia and Adjarian Autonomous Republic, now number of forces that fight for victory is much bigger and many of them have more or less equal chances. “These elections give us unique chance to make steps towards pluralism in the country,” says David Usupashvili of IRIS Georgia.

These parties with equal power and chances also share one common feature – each one of them claims to be in the opposition to the government, except the “Citizens Union”, which participates in the locals as a governmental party. The parties try to acquire votes via mutual criticism.

Mikheil Saakashvili’s National Movement and their ally – Zhvania’s team, has become a main target of criticism of many political parties. The new Rights are most characterized with such confrontation.

The conflict between the parties reached such a major scale that certain representatives of the civil society decided to come up with address to all political forces.

“Dispute between the political parties and their leaders is becoming more and more aggressive, evolving into uncompromising confrontation and personal offence. We consider it necessary that the leaders shall immediately develop mechanisms to avoid violence from the side of their supporters and undertake public responsibility for peaceful conduction of the elections” – says the address of may 30, signed by Ghia Nodia, Ramaz Sakvarelidze, David Usupashvili and other civil activists.

David Usupashvili believes, that the pluralism can be achieved only if the political forces would distribute the votes and conduct the pre-election campaign in civilized manner.

“I think there is a feasible threat of social unrest. We see complete insubordination and disobey to the law and this is bare fact” – says David Losaberidze.

However, the law enforcers declare that they are not expecting deterioration of the situation during the locals. Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili says that he does not possess information about any kind of force planning destabilization.

Giorgi Sepashvili, Nino Kutsidze, Civil Georgia


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