The upstart Christian-Democrat Movement follows its own game plan, positioning itself as the main parliamentary opposition party and emphasizing moderation in contrast to the irreconcilable opposition leaders. Party leader Giorgi Targamadze created this organization from scratch, shortly before the electoral campaign. Targamadze capitalized on his image and name recognition as programming director for billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili’s Imedi Television from 2003to 2007. Prior to that he was television director for Ajaria’s pro-Moscow satrap Aslan Abashidze and leader of Abashidze’s group of deputies in the Georgian parliament. Given this background, the Christian-Democrat title looks like a flag of convenience for Targamadze’s party. His core team is based on former Imedi employees. Many of its votes came from Abashidze’s former supporters in Ajaria, who lost out when Tbilisi restored its effective sovereignty in that part of Georgia.
Targamadze, a key participant in the opposition’s unconstitutional campaign for regime change in 2007, seems to have recognized the significance of the parliamentary elections’ results. The electorate has clearly opted for stability and continuity of the country’s course while international institutions are closely interacting with it. Accordingly, Targamadze has shifted gears by choosing cooperation with the governing majority. He drafted and submitted to the new Chairman of Parliament, Davit Bakradze, a memorandum defining “the basis” on which the Christian-Democrat Movement and other oppositionists would take up their parliamentary seats and cooperate with the governing majority. Since June 11, Bakradze has steered the talks toward a successful conclusion to establish “new standard of dialogue” between the governing party and the opposition (Rezonansi, Kviris Palitra, June 13-16).
Under this agreement and some parallel proposals by the National Movement, the Parliament will institute up to six posts of vice-chairman, up to three of which will be filled by opposition parties. Deputies from these parties will hold the vice-chairmanships of all parliamentary committees. The majority party will “consult” with the opposition parties prior to introducing any constitutional amendments. The electoral, executive, and judicial authorities will “study and analyze” alleged violations and irregularities that were reported during the recent electoral campaign and balloting. The minimum number necessary for parties to form parliamentary factions will be reduced to six deputies, thus enabling the Christian-Democrat and Labor parties to take advantage of factions’ privileges in terms of parliamentary agenda-setting, committee assignments, staff resources, foreign travel and the like (The Messenger, Civil Georgia, June 13, 16-18).
Whether this party’s course is a short-to-medium term tactic or a long-term course is not yet certain. Targamadze seems to hint that the former option remains a possibility. Citing his past role in Abashidze’s party, Revival, he argues that even that parliamentary minority “created a basis for subsequent developments that considerably undermined [then-president Eduard] Shevardnadze’s government” (Rezonansi, June 17). This allusion tells only part of the truth, however. Abashidze and his party undermined Shevardnadze as long as the latter was in conflict with Russia but moved to support Shevardnadze when he engaged in a rapprochement with Moscow in the final year of his presidency.
For now, United Opposition and Republican leaders dismiss this modus vivendi as a “farce” and an “excuse for ignoring the boycott” of parliament by those groups. They might, however, ultimately decide to avail themselves of that avenue for returning to legitimate politics within the parliamentary institution.
The Christian-Democrat Movement’s decision to act as a constructive opposition makes it impossible for the irreconcilables to portray this legislature as a “one-party parliament.” As columnist Eka Kvesitadze has noted, the radical opposition’s decision to remain in the streets amounts to self-marginalization, now aggravated by anti-Western rhetoric. While these leaders criticize the United States and international organizations for legitimizing the elections’ outcome, the government and the parliamentary majority pay attention to those organizations’ recommendations and work to implement them (24 Saati, June 17).
On June 17 United Opposition leaders met to discuss proposals on creating an “alternative political center“ or a “shadow government.” The meeting, however, ended in disagreement, merely announcing a time-out until autumn (Rustavi-2 TV, June 18).