Conquering the Georgian Dream
A conversation with Nino Burjanadze, a Georgia politician and presidential candidate.
ELŻBIETA KUSTRA-PIRWELI: How do you estimate your chances of winning the election?
NINO BURJANADZE: At this moment unlike my main competitors, Democratic Movement doesn’t receive a single penny from the state budget for the election campaign, it isn’t represented in central and local election commissions, Democratic Movement observers in the election commissions are not financed from the state budget, and I do not have free commercial time on television for the campaign. These issues are putting me in an unfair competition, not to mention the administrative resources my two competitors can count on. Nevertheless, every public poll illustrates my growing popularity, and based on the observations I make during my daily meetings with people and their attitudes, I am convinced that victory will come in the first or second round of this election.
The motto of your election campaign is to return justice to the country. Why did you choose this issue?
The main reason why people overwhelmingly supported the Georgian Dream (GD) coalition last year was because they were fed up with permanent terror, blackmail and injustice from previous government. Thousands were deprived of their private property, thousands lost their jobs because for different political opinions and thousands were arrested unjustly. Unfortunately, the GD coalition did not or could not keep the main promise to people: restoration of justice.
What will be your first steps if elected president? Will there be parliamentary elections?
Today, on the eve of the presidential elections, the country is once again confronted with the most serious decision. In case of the correct decision, we have the chance to break out from the vicious circle we’ve been in for last 20 years. For this reason, it is extremely important that the forthcoming Georgian president be neither a nominee of GD nor a criminal from United National Movement (UNM). Otherwise, people will get a co-habitation guided elite, instead of a government accountable to its citizens.
The country needs system change! The ugly system inherited from UNM should be dismantled. The syndrome of impunity should be eradicated once and for all. The law must be mandatory and obliging. The notion of the Supremacy of Justice shouldn’t remain just words. Only by meeting the mentioned requirements can we build a decent state, where every citizen respects each other, takes care of the ancient culture, safeguards and keeps bound to the traditions of our ancestors.
The current parliament does not represent the will of the Georgian people. Firstly, UNM only has 40 per cent because of falsification and fraud during last year’s elections, Unfortunately, GD accepted the results. Secondly, the GD coalition is loosing its legitimacy because people did not vote for the parties represented in the coalition. People voted for Bidzina Ivanishvili. After his resignation there will be situation in which parliament doesn’t represent the attitude and will of the people. This is why extraordinary elections are necessary.
You have stated that you know how to settle Georgian-Russian relations. How would you like to regulate these relations?
At present, relations with Russia is very unclear. There is no visible strategy or “action plan” for normalisation of the relationship. Small steps by the government are creating an illusion of normalisation of the relationship. At the same time we see “barbed wire” and new boundaries on our territory.
I will ensure the start of full-scale negotiations with Russia (including on the most painful issues and not only on trade issues). We will make steps to abolish the visa regime for Georgian citizens and remove all trade barriers for Georgian products. Broad access of the Russian market will facilitate the development of the Georgian economy and business. We should initiate full-scale negotiations with Russia on the restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity. We should achieve a positive role of the Russian Federation in conflict resolution during direct talks with Abkhazia and Ossetia. And as a result, we should achieve the return of IDPs (internally displaced persons) to their homes.
Georgia will promote peace and stability in the Northern Caucasus. A peaceful and stable Caucasus is of the highest priority for us. Georgia should intensify its relations with its neighbours and our actions should facilitate regional stability and peace. Georgia will never facilitate the creation of a threat to any neighbouring country, including Russia.
What about Euro-atlantic dimension as chosen by Georgia?
Unfortunately, we need to face up to the reality: we will never get full NATO membership as long Russian troops are stationed on Georgian territory, and 20 per cent of the territory is beyond the control of Georgian government. Any statement that we will soon be members of NATO is false and an illusion. One of the negative consequences of the war in 2008, in addition to the occupied 20 per cent of our territory, is losing the chance of NATO membership.
Cooperation with NATO should be mutually beneficial and serve our national and state interests. Cooperation must not be directed against the legitimate interests of the third countries; on the contrary, it must strengthen regional security. The relationship with EU should be maximally deepened and broadened.
Nino Burjanadze is a Georgian politician and lawyer who has served as Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia. She has also served as the acting head of state of Georgia twice. In 2013 she announced her intention to run for president in the October 2013 election.
Elżbieta Kustra-Pirweli is a specialist in the field of international relations and the South Caucasus region. She has served as the monitor and the deputy spokesperson of the European Union Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM) in the regional office in Gori.
To read a conversation with Davit Bakradze, Georgian politician and UNM presidential candidate – visit our partner Eastbook.EU