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About the political crisis, Pompeo’s visit and the railway through Abkhazia

About the political crisis, Pompeo’s visit and the railway through Abkhazia

For a long time or for a short time, the entire political spectrum of Georgia – the authorities and leaders of the opposition, again came to the residence of the US Ambassador, which is of course sad, since it indicates that the issues that are resolved in civilized countries through free, democratic elections are here become a puzzle for our Western partners. And nothing can be done about this, the authorities, which do not want to listen to either the opinion of the majority of the population or the opinion of civil society, not to mention their political opponents, the ability to hear can return only thanks to the efforts of our partners. That is why the leaders of the “Georgian Dream” today are forced to listen to the opposition’s claims at the residence of the US ambassador.

The goals are clear – to find a compromise and get out of the political crisis. This is an extremely difficult task, because a compromise in the understanding of the authorities and the opposition is completely different things, and for each of the parties it can mean practically political death. The opposition sees the ultimate goal of the compromise in that the Dream renounced power, and the authorities, so that the opposition would recognize the status quo. Otherwise, the Dream remains in parliament in splendid isolation, as it was in Soviet reality, and the opposition goes out into the streets, because it simply does not have any other methods of struggle. For both sides, the situation is deadlocked, but what is even sadder, the situation is deadlocked for the country. After all, everyone understands perfectly well that if the “Georgian Dream” agrees to a new composition of the CEC and new elections, it will lose power with a high degree of probability.

And yet, what can the authorities and the opposition agree on and what is the way out of this situation?

The most logical, acceptable for international partners and less painful for the country, would be a complete recount under the strict control of the missions of international observers, and adjust the election results accordingly. In this case, Dream is likely to lose a few percent, and the opposition will slightly improve the result, which will complicate the formation of the government of the ruling party and increase the intrigue of the second round. But if in the course of such a recount it would have been established that the violations were massive and the results could not be corrected, this would already become a legal basis for annulling the general results and calling for repeat elections. However, not to mention the Dream, now the opposition itself is categorically against the recount of votes for the reason that, in their opinion, the authorities have already erased the traces of falsifications. Moreover, violations such as bribery of voters, intimidation or so-called carousels cannot be foreseen. So the recalculation no longer makes sense.

However, if the massive fraud cannot be proven legally, this means that the results will not be canceled and no re-elections will be called. Therefore, there are only two options for a compromise solution. First: a political agreement between the government and the opposition, according to which a compromise on the part of the opposition will consist in joining parliament, and the government in holding early elections in 2021 under the conditions of a reformed CEC. The second option could be the formation of a government of national accord, in which the main portfolios of the cabinet of ministers will belong to Dream, as the winning party, and the rest will belong to the opposition. In this case, the compromise on the part of Dream will be in the distribution of power, while the opposition will enter parliament and participate in governing the country until the new elections.

If a compromise cannot be reached, and the likelihood of this is very high, then, in fact, the opposition will have two paths across the street – the Gandhi path (long-term civil disobedience) and the Locke path (the people’s right to revolt against tyranny).

In the meantime, not the most relevant topic is the visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Tbilisi. The head of the foreign policy department of the most powerful power in the world is coming to Georgia amid dramatic changes in the geopolitical situation in the region. Russia has essentially legalized the presence of its troops in Azerbaijan, the only country in the South Caucasus, where until recently there were no Russian troops. Washington’s logical response to what is happening may be to increase its military or other presence in the Caucasus and, accordingly, in Georgia. Despite all the problems, it is our country that is the main US ally in the region. However, if Georgia goes through the process of Turkmenization, if we have a semi-legitimate government, if opposition leaders find themselves on the streets, and the country will have chaos and a persistent smell of gunpowder, Georgia’s ability to remain the main support of the United States in the Caucasus looks extremely doubtful. That is why the surprise visit by the secretary of state should send a signal to both the government and the opposition that the failure to reach a compromise seriously affects the interests of not only Georgia, but also the United States. It is no coincidence that just three days before Pompeo’s visit, the authorities and the opposition found themselves once again at the US Embassy. And if the authorities have at least a little reason, they use the current situation not for internal squabbles, but to strengthen the country’s security and accelerate Georgia’s integration into NATO.

In conclusion, it is worth paying attention to the recent statement of Nikol Pashinyan, in which he demanded the opening of alternative railway routes with Iran and Russia. It is easy to understand that this is a kind of compensation to Yerevan from the Kremlin in exchange for defeat in Karabakh and the issue concerns the opening of a railway through Abkhazia.

An active discussion of this topic began with the coming to power of Bidzina Ivanishvili, but soon the issue was closed due to the scandal and the extremely negative attitude of the public. The restoration of the railway route was discussed under the previous government with some guarantees from the West and was even one of the main preconditions for Georgia’s accession to Russia in the World Trade Organization, although the de facto government of Abkhazia has consistently opposed this issue. According to our source, this issue was agreed between Putin and Bzhania at a meeting in Sochi on November 12, in exchange for which the de facto President of Abkhazia received a promise of long-awaited economic preferences from Russia. The same source reports that consultations were also conducted with Ivanishvili. If this deal is confirmed, it will become clear that Moscow is really well versed in the situation in the region, including Georgia, and this could be one of the main goals of Pompeo’s visit and the main subject of discussion with the Georgian authorities. We just need to ask the government directly: is there an agreement with Russia to open a railway to Abkhazia and what does Georgia get from this ?!

Giorgi Targamadze, GSAC