DAILY BABEL EXCLUSIVE: REPORT FROM GEORGIA

For DAILYBABEL

 The political situation in Georgia is coming alive with new intrigues as domestic and foreign players seek conflicting goals. The most active on the political scene are internal stakeholders representing opposition political parties considered by Georgian authorities to have their financial and political origins in Russia.

 As the UN Observer Mission in Georgia reports: Salome Zurabishvili, leader of the Path of Georgia party, told reporters: “During the so-called negotiations, Saakashvili alleged that I was a GRU [Russian military intelligence] agent, that Nino Burdzhanadze [former parliament speaker, who now heads the Democratic Movement-United Georgia] was receiving money from Russia.” She called on the leadership to come forward with any facts to substantiate their allegations, saying they should “put up or shut up.”

Georgia’s opposition parties are demanding the resignation of President Saakashvili and accuse the President of inefficiency during the South Ossetian war. They also point to what they believe to be the beginnings of a dictatorship in Georgia. The international economic crisis has provided the opposition with useful leverage to coordinate its demonstrations and they now look to extend their anti-government demonstrations to areas beyond the capital Tbilisi, in regions such as Kataisi and Batumi.

As the opposition builds its momentum, Saakashvili’s requests for dialogue are continually rejected. In a bid to remove the President from power and usher in new elections, the opposition has refused any negotiations regarding the creation of a special commission to reform the Georgian Constitution. Meanwhile, Russian influence and interference in its Caucasian neighbor’s affairs is steadily growing.

On May 14th, the International Conference of the Georgian Peoples, which took place in Sochi, Russia, addressed Moscow’s interest in promoting the anti-Saakashvili movement. Not only is the Kremlin hoping to end the current pro-Western establishment in Georgia, but it is also eager to pull Georgia away from what it sees as the encroaching interests of NATO.

The Caucasus could prove to be a tinderbox in the near future as NATO is still interested in this region despite Moscow’s consternation. With the go-ahead on Europe’s energy-providing Nabucco project, political tensions in Georgia can only rise as Moscow’s influence attempts to grow.

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