Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 194

Two separate events affecting Georgia’s opposition groups vividly demonstrate the

extremes of contemporary political life in Georgia.

On October 17, the Conservative and Republican parties announced the establishment

of a new parliamentary faction composed of former members of the ruling National

Movement and former allies of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. After the 2003

Rose Revolution both the Conservatives and the Republicans quit the National

Movement. Now they seek to protect the gains made by the Rose Revolution through a

different mechanism.

On October 3, the nationalist politicians not represented in parliament announced an

“Anti-Soros” public movement to repel the spreading ideas of billionaire

philanthropist George Soros, which, they claim, “threaten the nation.”

The anti-Soros movement confirms the increasing polarization of the already extreme

Georgian political spectrum and reveals the ongoing clash of basic values that has

become particularly visible since the Rose Revolution. Saakashvili’s team has dared

to shake the seemingly entrenched, archaic belief systems largely inherited from the

Soviet past but identified by segments of Georgian society as “national values.”

“I regret that I used a Soros grant,” lamented Maia Nikolaishvili, a well-known

forensic expert and co-founder of the movement. “Is it possible that Georgian

society still has not become aware that Soros is the enemy of Georgia and each of

us?” she asked.

The anti-Soros movement unites a diverse group of politicians and civic leaders,

including followers of former president Eduard Shevardnadze and the former leader of

Ajaria, Aslan Abashidze. The anti-Soros movement members seek to protect “national”

values against creeping Western values.

Several leaders of the movement, including Nikolaishvili, believe Tbilisi must

rebuild its relations with Russia to protest the excessive “Westernization” of

Georgia. “Uprooting Soros-ism” in Georgia is viewed one of the tools to accomplish

this task. The “Anti-Soros Movement” also plans to oust Saakashvili’s government but

in a constitutional manner. The anti-Soros group claims that Saakashvili’s

government places instructions from Soros above the Georgian Constitution.

But when Soros visited Tbilisi on May 29-31, he reportedly faced a rather cool

reception from the Georgian government, allegedly because of disagreements between

him and Saakashvili. In January 2005 Soros, together with the United Nations

Development Programme, established a “Capacity Building Fund” that provided high

salaries for Georgian officials. This program likely is the basis of rumors about

Soros co-opting the government of Georgia.

Now some politicians believe that a rift has developed between the two men and that

Soros has begun to finance the anti-Saakashvili opposition. Soros reportedly has

turned to the Republican Party as a counterweight to Saakashvili’s National

Movement. “Like the government, some of the so-called “opposition parties” are

financed by Soros,” says Mamuka Giorgadze of the Popular Party.

Whether or not the anti-Soros movement is a symptom of Georgian society’s

frustration, the consequences remain to be seen. Leaders of the anti-Soros movement

claim that Georgian citizens are becoming increasingly anti-American. A political

campaign that plays upon the sensitive topic of Georgian national identity, which

Soros and his Georgian henchmen have allegedly violated, may be attractive to the

public, especially to citizens unhappy with Saakashvili’s governance.

Some local analysts, who frequently refer to Saakashvili as a Soros puppet, believe

the anti-Soros movement is a precursor to an anti-globalization movement that would

condemn the Saakashvili government for its pro-globalization values. They argue

that, although the pro-Soros resources outweigh the anti-Soros forces, the emergence

of this movement sends a clear message that the West-supported reforms frequently

equated with Soros ideology are not popular in Georgia.

The announcement of a new parliamentary faction by the Conservative and Republican

parties surprised many analysts. Both parties have always been considered part of a

moderate opposition to Saakashvili (see EDM, July 11). David Zurabishvili, who

recently defected from the National Movement parliamentary faction, is expected to

lead the 15-seat faction, which has already invited MPs from other factions,

including the ruling party’s group, to join. So far the National Movement has

reacted surprisingly calmly, and parliamentary chair Nino Burjanadze expressed hope

for “constructive cooperation” with the faction. The two parties will preserve their

organizational independence at least for now.

The new faction’s stated primary goal is to safeguard the gains of the Rose

Revolution. “We both — Republicans and Conservatives — are democratic political

forces with a revolutionary background,” declared Davit Berdzenishvili of the

Republican Party. He stressed, “The revolutionary opposition should inspire the

people” since “the revolutionary authorities are worth nothing.”

While the new faction’s devotion to the achievements of the Rose Revolution suggests

that the National Movement can no longer claim to be the sole custodian of the

Revolution, Saakashvili and his pro-Western team can likely still count on the

Conservatives and Republicans in the ideological struggle with the

ultra-nationalist, anti-revolution opposition forces that, according to some

analysts, are unwittingly playing into Russia’s hands by criticizing American and

European policies in Georgia.

The relations between the new faction and the ruling party will largely determine

the balance of political power in Georgia.

(Regnum, October 4, 15; Argumenty, October 6; Akhali Taoba, October 6, 8,15;

TV-Imedi, Rustavi-2, Resonance, Kavkaz Press, Civil Georgia, October 17)