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Georgia: Opposition protests on hold, new concerns emerge

Russian Roadblock, Gori, Republic of Georgia © Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2008, Licensed under Creative Commons

With the Russian military reportedly mobilizing within striking range of Georgia, many online commentators are becoming increasingly worried by the tactics employed by the opposition as it continues its campaign to force the president, Mikhail Saakashvili, to resign.

Just eight months after the August war, The Tbilisi Blues, for example, is particularly concerned by plans to bring protesters from the regions to Tbilisi, the Georgian capital.

No water, no electricity, no work and occasional handouts from the Red Cross, he says. Such is daily life in Ditsi and other villages like it along the South Ossetia border region. But it could be worse. […]

And to make matters worse, the demonstrations in Tbilisi have got these people on edge yet again as Russian armor began to mobilize the day the protests started.

[…] I guess the opposition needs reinforcements since fewer people are turning up to their rallies. I advise them to save the gas and stay away from the former “buffer zone.”

The same point about dwindling attendances is also made on a number of other blogs. Writing on his Frontline Club blog, for example, Al Jazeera's Matthew Collin says Georgia's “Cabbage Revolution” has wilted.

[…] “All Georgia is here!” declared one optimist from the stage. It was not. These few thousand, or a good proportion of them, were the opposition’s hardcore perennials; the people we’ve become accustomed to seeing time and again at protests here down the years – the unemployed, the pensioners, the dispossessed and the desperate, chewing on sunflower seeds, spitting the husks, and smoking.

[…]

Some correspondents have also suggested that a significant number of Georgians simply don’t trust the opposition – a fragile and sometimes fractious alliance of liberal democrats, belligerent nationalists, conservatives and street-corner populists – to do any better at running Georgia than Saakashvili. Some of the current opposition alliance are former regime insiders who’ve defected and […] others are the kind of veteran authority-baiters who would probably demonstrate against themselves if they ever came to power.

That's not to say that the situation in the country is fine, the blog adds. Indeed, says Collin, there are many problems still left unresolved. However, asks Lingelien Ludicrous Legends, does the opposition offer an alternative?

[…] I do not like misha :). I'm just afraid that the strategy of the opposition does not work. since 1. I have the feeling they only want misha out, but don't have political programs to make a change, 2. are too devided and 3. do not have one leader, furhtermore 4. blocking roads everywhere does not build sympathy with the ones not already joining your protest and 5. i'm afraid changing leaders in a democratic country only by revolutions/protest does no good. […]

The same point is also picked up by a GIPA journalism student. Writing on Alibayli’s Blog, even some of the dispossessed remain unimpressed by the campaign of street protests.

Among the thousands of protesters in front of parliament on Saturday, April 11, is Rauf Zakaryan, 45, a homeless man.

[…]

He lived in Russia, Ukraine, and Armenia before, but moved because of the lack of money and to find somewhere to live.

[…]

Zakaryan decided to live in Georgia because he heard it was a more law-abiding country. He thinks Georgia is a fairer place to live and is puzzled by the calls for Saakashvili’s resignation.

[…]

“There have to be elections, there is no other way to get rid of the president,” said Zakaryan, before going off to look for a new place to sleep for the night.

Meanwhile, the GIPA Journalism Blog reports that protests are effectively on hold while the opposition campaigns in the regions ahead of rallies planned for next week.

More updates will be posted on Global Voices Online as of when, but in the meantime it's worth keeping an eye on the GIPA Journalism School Blog as well as Twitter at #tbilisi.

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