Government and opposition representatives met for the first time Thursday evening at the residence of US Ambassador Kelly Degnan to look for solutions to the continuing political crisis in the country.
The meeting lasted three hours and was attended by representatives of all major parties as well as the speaker of parliament. After it was over, participants were tight-lipped about the details of the talks, which were also attended by EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell and the Ambassador of France, Diego Colas.
Nevertheless, all sides agreed that the start of negotiations is a significant positive step to resolve the deadlock after the October 31 general elections.
“The public should not expect major agreements to be reached at the first meeting, although the start of a political dialogue is positive,” Speaker of Parliament Archil Talakvadze said. “We exchanged arguments. Most importantly we listened to each other in a constructive environment. I believe and hope that this political dialogue will end with a concrete result.”
“The differences are huge. We as a responsible political force have a goal to gradually, step by step, try to find a compromise. I hope we will finally be able to reach an agreement,” Davit Bakradze of European Georgia said after the meeting.
A few hours earlier, however, almost the entire opposition spectrum was reluctant to negotiate with the government without preconditions. They said that only details of new elections would be discussed at negotiations, which would be held with the newly staffed Central Elections Commission.
Grigol Vashadze, the chair of the largest opposition party UNM, had been strongly criticized for proposing to start a political dialogue with the government. All opposition parties, including his own United National Movement, understood his stance as bowing to authorities.
All eight opposition parties which achieved more than the one percent needed to get into parliament, continue claiming that the general election of October 31 was rigged and that the official results do not reflect the will of the voters. They have declared a boycott of the newly elected parliament, which means that only the ruling Georgian Dream will be participating in the legislature, unless the opposition retracts its decision.
The opposition is especially angry at Tamar Zhvania, CEC chairwoman, whom they blame for “stealing votes”.
Opposition parties rallied in the center of Tbilisi on Sunday, demanding to cancel the result of the October 31 election, replacing CEC management, particularly Tamar Zhvania, and holding a new general election.