TBILISI, DFWatch–The Ivanishvili government is making plans for a different kind of Independence Day celebration on May 26. Instead of a big military parade in the capital, as was the rule under President Saakashvili, it is planning to hold many smaller events in 25 of the country’s towns and villages.
As DF Watch has previously reported, the president is not invited to the celebration, but government officials say he is expected to attend, as an ‘ordinary citizen of Georgia’.
Foreign Affairs Minister Maia Panjikidze on Friday told journalists that she is sure the president will show up.
“There won’t be the same events as there used to be when the government does something and the rest of Georgia is staring. This will be a common national celebration,” she said, adding that she will also participate together with the rest of the population.
Deputy Culture Minister Manana Berikashvili said a commission has been created specifically to handle the May 26 events, and has made various plans for 25 towns and cities.
“This will be a people’s celebration rather than a single concert, but we want to keep some things as a surprise,” she said, adding that events are planned in the capital as well, on the main street Rustaveli and around the capital’s districts.
The May 26 celebrations will also have some religious elements. Metropolitan Andria, who attended the May 26 events’ commission session on Friday, said that the Church of Georgia will participate in the events as well and there will be prayers of gratitude performed in each cathedral city.
Giorgi Margvelashvili, Minister of Education and chairs of the commission, explained that Independence Day will have ‘beautiful military components’, but without a military parade.
He said soldiers will be ‘together with people’ and military equipment will be on display.
President Mikheil Saakashvili and his allies in the former government strongly criticize the decision not to hold a military parade.
“Today we have a government which is ashamed to conduct a parade of independence and openly declares it,” the president said, adding that the government is violating the image of Georgia’s armed forces.
Saakashvili plans to go to Afghanistan on May 26 and celebrate Independence Day in the company of Georgian soldiers serving in NATO’s ISAF mission.