New Party Offers Issue-Based Cooperation with Opposition

Q&A with Salome Zourabichvili

The political party of ex-Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili – “Georgia’s Way” will hold its inaugural assembly on March 12 in Tbilisi and start preparations for the local self-governance elections scheduled for this autumn.
In an interview with Civil Georgia on March 8 Salome Zourabichvili said that on the eve of the local elections, her party is ready for issue-based cooperation with other opposition parties. She said that winning in the elections should not become a goal in itself for the cooperation between the opposition parties. In the interview she also outlined priorities of her new party’s platform and commented on recent developments in the country, including on her opinion about other opposition parties.

Q.: Would you please outline major principles of you party’s platform?
A.: Unlike other parties, our party will not be based on certain individuals; it will be based on the party’s platform. This platform is very simple: real and effective democracy based on human rights, legal system, rule of law and proper separation of powers.
Today, we think, the Parliament does not really balance the executive authorities. The court is not independent. I think that the Georgian society is well-prepared for democracy, but there are no institutions to balance the authorities. Also, media is not effective enough as it should be in a democratic state. The non-governmental organizations should operate more efficiently. There is no dialogue between the authorities and the society.
Economic issue is one more important trend based on private property. Today, private property neither exists in its full scales, nor is protected. Georgia needs promotion of private initiatives in order to give momentum to economic dynamics.
One more key priority of the [platform] is the State based on Georgian values. The country should return to those values, which have been justified historically. As far as I can see, there is a high level of hatred in the present society and it is absolutely impossible to build anything under such conditions. We need more forgiveness and tolerance as one of the key elements of Christian and Georgian culture.
Another part of the political platform is peaceful resolution of conflicts. War is disastrous for Georgia. We should analyze the recent developments [during Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflicts] and build up new relations. Otherwise, it will be impossible to settle conflicts, since the key principle must be that we should live together afterwards. In this regard we should not overvalue role of our foreign partners and expect conflict resolution from them.
I think that Georgia’s role in the Caucasus region should be strengthened. We should use the role and potential of this strategic region.  
As for international relations, the country should definitely focus on NATO and European integration and on partnership and normalization of relations with Russia. These foreign policy trends have no alternatives and are beyond dispute.
But, the most important issue is to define whether the driving force behind this police is a real democracy, or just an empty declaration? I mean are there real democratic changes underway, which should help us to achieve these foreign policy goals?

For example, the Georgia’s current policy towards Russia is extremely tough and aggressive. Simultaneously, the ongoing privatization process is extremely open for Russia. I do not mean that we should not let Russian investments in Georgia. But I think we should let them only to a certain level. Generally, I think that our policy towards Russia is extremely unclear.

Q.: What kind of structure the party will have?
A.: It will be a kind of a mix of European and American models. The party will have a small council with its board. We will have a great assembly, like the shadow cabinet, which will be composed of experts in different fields. They will work in close cooperation with the “Salome Zourabichvili’s Public Movement” [set up last November].
We will set up local structures in the regions, which will be led by local residents, who will be elected through primaries.
Q.: What are you observations about major trends characterizing the country’s political parties?
A.: Most of the parties are mainly focusing on slamming the authorities. I understand that there really are reasons for criticizing the government, but this kind of stance only depresses society, because if you hear only criticism and negative statements every day and you are not shown the way out, you do not know what to do. So, you should either fall into depression or launch a new revolution, which is extremely dangerous.
Our party’s supreme goal is to show this way to the society. Just therefore our party is called “Georgia’s Way.” This does not mean that we will not criticize the authorities. We think that the society is conscious enough and does not need extra explanations. It is necessary to show what to do and how to avoid this difficult situation. 
Q.: What kind of cooperation will you establish with other opposition parties?
A.: I have told other parties that I can cooperate with them over certain issues. For example, I can cooperate with all political parties over the [Sandro] Girgvliani’s murder case
I think that winning in the elections should not become a goal in itself for the cooperation between the opposition parties. If you cooperate only for this purpose, you may gain a victory, but what then? If there is no common policy, this election coalition will collapse. It means that your primary goal is not pursuing your policy, but simply winning the elections. Victory in these [local] or further [parliamentary] elections is not our goal in itself.
The consultations [with opposition parties] have already been launched. I will meet with all the parties, including the Freedom party of Koko Gamsakhurdia [son of Georgia’s late President Zviad Gamsakhurdia]. If we judge by his speeches and statements, I agree with him in many aspects.

However, the necessity of merger is questionable. I think that at the same time democracy means a multi-party system and not only one opposition. I do not know why the authorities want that these opposition parties merge into one. The current law [on self-governance] also incites us to do so.  
However, despite these laws and despite of possible attempts of ballot rigging, we still have a chance to gain a victory. Of course, we will not win everywhere, but we will show way of our party in those places were we will win.

Q.: Can you list those political forces, with which your party can feel more comfortable from the ideological point of view?
A.: I have much common with the Republican Party [led by Davit Usupashvili]. I also see closeness with the New Rights [led by MP Davit Gamkrelidze]. I cannot say anything about the Conservative Party [led by MP Koba Davitashvili]. I am not familiar with their political platform. 
Probably, I will have no relations with [Igor] Giorgadze’s [Georgia’s ex-security chief who is wanted for masterminding terrorist act against Eduard Shevardnadze in 1995] party [Justice] regarding any issues.  
We can cooperate with [Shalva] Natelashvili’s [Labor] party only over a very few issues, since our ideology is very different. 
Q.: What do you think is the key problem of the opposition parties?
A.: Lack of trust in the population. Within past 15 years politics and the authorities have been discredited, that triggered mistrust in the population. All these faces are familiar for the society. Therefore, we try not to recruit well-known persons in our party. We basically focus on professionals and experts, instead of politicians, because the population is irritated with these politicians.  

On the other hand they have become ‘oppositional’ opposition, since it is the easiest form. It is very easy to criticize. They even sometimes become victims of deliberately thrown hooks over certain issues.
Not all the problematic issues have the same importance. For example, you cannot protest against the cash registers and Girgvliani’s murder case equally. I think that it is not necessary to hold a street rally regarding the cash registers. You should demand and submit your proposals and force the authorities to take them into consideration. In this case you will be a strong opposition. Walking out in the street indicates that the opposition is not strong.
However, this cannot be said about Girgvliani’s case. You should spare no efforts over this issue – be it street rallies, media statements, etc. Because, if a syndrome of fear appears, if a guilty is not punished, if one part of the guilty is covered up, if there is no court, then we can go towards the totalitarian regime. Then what is the difference between this and previous [Eduard Shevardnadze’s]. Just these issues are of vital important nowadays.
Currently the stance of opposition is to focus on those issues, which are simple and populist. But this is an improper understanding of the Georgian society, because, I am sure that the society is more anxious with Girgvliani’s case, rather than with its everyday personal problems. 

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