“InterPressNews” interviewed Merab Basilaia, program director of “Alpe” foundation.
-Mr. Merab, President Saakashvili made many memorable statements, but the last one, namely: “if they agree to return control over Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region and if they pull out their troops, I am ready to cut and send them those parts of my body about which they have numerously expressed their interest”, will dwell for a long time in the society’s memory. Taking into account that Putin threatened to hang Saakashvili “by the balls, there is no doubt that the statement of the Georgian President contained a particular perception. In your opinion, what did the President want to say? And what kind of response will it evoke in Moscow?
- I don’t know what kind of response it can evoke in Moscow, but it’s clear what kind of message Saakashvili attached to his words. He emphasized that the thought that if he quits, then Russia will do something positive for Georgia is absurd. The President said that he’ll quit and added some piquant details. Let’s see whether Russia will pull out their troops from Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Anyhow, I think that Saakashvili responded to Medvedev’s absurd tone with the same manner. Medvedev has never been an independent figure; he has always been subordinated to Russia’s real ruler, Putin. It’s a fact that Medvedev will go down in history as a mechanical President of Russia. I don’t remember any precedent in world history when a political figure of such a high rank finished his political activity so unpretentiously.
-Saakashvili’s pre-election overactivity can’t go unnoticed. The President in person is engaged in working the land; keeps on opening the hospitals; meets with students and promises them benefits; visits construction sites. It’s indisputable that the government doesn’t wish to relinquish leadership in the information space to anyone. In your opinion, how efficient is the government’s PR-campaign?
- I don’t share the opinion that Saakashvili has changed the dynamics of his activity. From this point of view, he’s always been active. He’s in absolute line with his political conception and philosophy. He’s always acted in such a way. As to how efficient is the government’s activity in the eyes of the society, I don’t know it. It should be assessed by analysis and by the results of the elections. That’s why I’m not going to speculate subjectively about this issue. Generally speaking, when the politicians try to win the hearts and minds of the voters, it’s a normal situation.
-It’s obvious that the government is trying to make a Russian backed fright of “Georgian Dream”. The President more often makes hints about this in his public speeches. It reminds me of the situation when Shevardnadze’s team blamed Igor Giorgadze and then Aslan Abashidze for having connections with Russia. In your opinion, the attempt to make a Kremlin project of Ivanishvili, how successful might it be?
- You are right. Shevardnadze’s team tried to portray Giorgadze and Abashidze as Kremlin backed figures. By the way, later it was confirmed. Nobody doubts that it was so. As to the accusations against Ivanishvili, time will show their validity. Personally, I think that there are some points which don’t induce to believe that Ivanishvili’s team is clearly pro-Western. Besides that, there is no reason to believe that Ivanishvili and his team are predisposed to respond adequately to Russia’s daily challenges against Georgia.
-How do you assess the pre-election tactics of the Georgian opposition? I mean the “Georgian Dream”, the “National Democratic Party”, the “Christian-Democratic Movement”, the “New Rights Party”.
-I think that none of these parties, except the “Christian-Democratic Movement”, have neither a pre-election strategy nor a political conception. From my point of view, the ““Christian-Democratic Movement” replaced the Socialist Party in Georgia. I'm not talking only about the social programs of the CDM. The substance of the CDM’s approaches became socialist. I’ll lie if I say that at this stage I see the electoral strategy and tactics of any political party. One is under the impression that they are waiting for the power like manna from heaven.
-The “Georgian Dream” often states about the political harassment of its supporters in the regions. What will you say about this? And why don’t the “National Democratic Party”, the “Christian-Democratic Movement” and the “New Rights Party” don’t have the same problems?
- It might be explained by the fact that the “Georgian Dream” more actively began opening the regional offices. Of course, the political party always tries to make noise about the problems of this type. The facts that have been published, in my opinion, were very undefended in terms of description. This applies to the activity of the Chamber of Control in the regions, which was estimated by the “Georgian Dream” as persecution of its supporters. In my opinion, they protested justly the Control Chamber’s form of activity, but they said nothing about why the Chamber of Control interrogated their activists. As to the second part of the question, Parties tend to claim that they have problems in their regional activities. According to my observations, the CDM often uses TV channels broadcasting all over Georgia. I don’t know what is the reason for this. Perhaps this is due to the fact that they treat the government in a liberal manner.
-What kind of impression did the government hour leave on you? The parliamentary majority blamed the opposition for the incompetence; the opposition blamed the parliamentary majority for saying yes to the ministers…
-Nothing special happened. The expectations of the majority of the population were realized. Personally, I didn’t hear anything new either in the questions nor in the responses.
-One was under the impression that the Interior Minister, Vano Merabishvili, spoke like a prime minister. How likely is it that the pro-government team is considering Merabishvili as prime minister?
-The discussion of this issue looks like guesswork. And this is not my strong point.