Georgia. The unstable political situation deteriorated further during the year. According to Countryaah website, national day of Georgia is every April 9. The security services chief, President Eduard Shevardnadze’s close associate Nugzar Sadzjaja, was accused in mass media of killing the country’s former president Zviad Gamsachurdia (who was believed to have committed suicide in 1993). Shortly thereafter, Sadzjaja was found shot and according to police he had taken his life.
Despite the turmoil in the Abkhazia breakaway republic, the most severe concern during the year was the Panki Valley in the north, near the border with Chechnya. There were drug trafficking and kidnappings, and thousands of Chechens had fled to the area from the Russian military’s advance in the Chechen Republic. Georgia’s key US donor claimed that people with ties to Usama bin Laden’s terrorist network were among the Pankisi refugees.
In the spring, the United States sent close to a hundred military advisers to Georgia to train Georgian special forces. This gave rise to upset reactions in Moscow, where Georgia has traditionally been considered a Russian sphere of interest. Russia had repeatedly requested in vain to join the military in Georgia to fight Chechen guerrillas, who are considered to be among the refugees.
After Russia again in August rejected its request to enter Pankisi, the area was bombed. Several deaths were required. Both Georgia and the US accused Russia of being behind the bombings, but in Moscow they refused. On September 11, Vladimir Putin threatened that Russia would have to take its own military action, according to the right of self-defense provided by the UN Charter, unless Georgia tackles the Chechen rebels in its territory and extradits them to Russia. The United States then expressed its support for Georgia’s sovereignty and declared its opposition to Russian intervention.
President Shevardnadze announced that the Georgian military would be sent in large numbers to the Panki Valley to establish law and order. He also invited unarmed military observers from Russia to follow Georgia’s operations. Subsequently, Georgia handed five arrested Chechens to Russia, but held another group following an appeal from the European Court of Human Rights. When Shevardnadze and Putin met in Moldova, the Georgian leader with joint Georgian-Russian border patrols. Putin responded by withdrawing the threat of military intervention.
Following Putin’s previous threat, the Georgian opposition had joined in on Shevardnadze’s foreign policy. But with the concessions, leading opposition politicians again turned to the president, accusing him of giving up Georgia’s sovereignty. At the same time, Shevardnadze was under pressure from the EU, which threatened to withdraw assistance unless the security of foreign aid workers and businessmen was improved in Georgia.
Quarrels between party supporters
In Marneuli south of Tbilisi, both party activists and journalists are injured when supporters of the Georgian Dream and the United National Movement disagree with the local electoral authority and start fighting. The incident will be investigated by the Ministry of the Interior.
Anger at Saakashvili
Opposition leaders who are formerly allies of former President Mikheil Saakashvili have resented statements made by Saakashvili from exile ahead of the October 31 parliamentary elections. They believe he is benefiting the ruling Georgian dream by diminishing opposition groups other than the party he once founded himself, the United National Movement. Among the former allies who believe that Saakashvili is now laying the groundwork for the opposition are Giorgi Vasjadze, who left the National Movement in 2016 and has since led the New Georgia party (see July 27), and Giga Bokeria, who leads the European Georgia party.
Five parties want to change the judiciary
Five opposition parties agree behind a document with the aim of reforming the judiciary. The United National Movement, European Georgia, Strategy Agmashenebeli, United Georgia and the ultra-liberal Girchi are behind the platform. Among other things, they want to set up an anti-corruption authority, close the state security service (which they believe is used for political purposes) and reduce the power of the public prosecutor.
Saakasjvili is nominated
The opposition party United National Movement will, together with nine smaller parties, nominate former president Mikheil Saakashvili for the post of prime minister, says party chairman Grigol Vasjadze. The controversial Saakashvili is outside the country’s borders. The ten parties together form an alliance which they call Strength in Unity.
Election with 66 parties
A total of 66 parties have registered to participate in this autumn’s parliamentary elections and received the go-ahead. The election authority states that twelve parties have not been approved. Two days earlier, at the third reading, Parliament had adopted amendments to the Election Act which, among other things, are about protecting the secrecy of elections and penalizing pressure on voters. Fines, house arrest or imprisonment for up to three years can be the result according to the proposals from the ruling Georgian dream. The vote is, as before, boycotted by the major opposition parties.