TBILISI, DFWatch–President Mikheil Saakashvili says three main challenges are facing democracy in Georgia: establishing independent courts, to end pressure against the media and to stop political persecution.
He said this after a meeting with Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili Monday afternoon, against the background of a breakdown in a power-sharing situation the country has been in since Saakashvili’s party, the National Movement, lost the election in October, 2012.
As planned, the two held separate press conferences after the meeting. The president was first, saying that it was a very ‘interesting’ and ‘pleasant’ meeting and it is ‘always interesting to converse with Bidzina’.
But he says there are fundamental differences in their points of view and neither of them hide this.
Saakashvili says he doesn’t feel comfortable with being president at this time, as his usual ‘lifestyle’ has changed. Earlier, he used to wake up in the morning, have meetings, have new buildings to open and to present, but today he only has one last theater to open in Batumi for the remainder of his time as president.
“But the only reason why I am staying in this post when I don’t do much anymore, is that we should keep a democratic space, create constitutional stability, find a common language and civilized form of relations. This is my function and my duty,” he said.
The president said it is a lie when government officials claim the court belongs to Saakashvili, and if there is no corruption in the courts it should be maintained and this system should become independent.
He also spoke about problems in the media, saying that the Public Broadcaster as well as other channels are under pressure. Some channels have been closed, while other TV companies have recently changed owners.
“All type of media should exists. There should be pluralism and no temptation to establish control over the media. There should be an alternative opinion in the country and opposition,” he said, adding that no-one has immunity in the country, not the president, not the mayor nor members of parliament, but ordinary people shouldn’t be pressured only because they want to join an alternative political force.
The president said those three things are crucial, and need to be solved, and he hopes they will overcome all obstacles, not through blackmail or ultimatums, but through consensus.
“I told the prime minister that I would really like to meet again, to have a dialogue,” he said.
The president said that Georgia has problems in the international arena. He also said that his visits abroad are always criticized by the government, and said it would be better if ministers came with him on his trips.
He drew attention to a recent visit he made to the United Arab Emirates, where he thinks agriculture, finance and economy minister should have joined him and help manage the foreign affairs policy together.
Saakashvili said that if the prime minister’s political bloc and the president have different positions in regards to foreign policy, they shouldn’t speak about it in public, because it can only serve the interests of Russia, and he therefore welcomes this type of meetings and dialogue.
The president took the opportunity to criticize a recently introduced amnesty and also spoke about the difficult situation in Georgia’s economy.
“Why it matters – today Saakashvili is president, tomorrow Kibrotsashvili [“John Doe”, ed.], but we should act together,” he said.
“The meeting was full of emotions and such meetings doesn’t have an alternative, our strength is in unity.”