(Transitions Online) Friday 27 June not only brought Georgia into closer association with the European Union – perhaps even more remarkably, it brought the country’s bitterly divided political factions into harmony. Representatives and supporters of the governing Georgian Dream coalition and the rival United National Movement (UNM) party agreed that the signing of a political and trade accord with Brussels was a hugely significant day for Georgia, maybe the most significant since independence in 1991. Most other political groups took a similarly celebratory line.
Resounding though it was, the sentiment was not unanimous. Archil Chkoidze, leader of the Tbilisi-based coalition Eurasian Choice, is decidedly unimpressed with the EU pact. He chose 27 June to announce a prospective slate of activities by his group starting in September, including “a big anti-Western rally.”
The focal point of protest will be Eurasian Choice's contention that if Georgia hopes to regain the breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it had best abjure the EU and NATO – “where we will not be accepted whatsoever,” Chkoidze insisted – and instead join the Eurasian Economic Union of Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and, as of next year, Armenia. […]
Wresting power in 2012 from UNM, Georgian Dream promised to reset relations with Russia while continuing former President Mikheil Saakashvili’s push to tighten ties with the West. Finding that hard power failed to divert Georgia from that course, Moscow is now testing soft-power opportunities, said Kornely Kakachia, a professor of political science at Tbilisi State University and director of the Georgian Institute of Politics, a think tank in the capital.
“Russia will try to play on the hesitant population in an attempt to create a so-called third power” in Georgia, he said, “built on the idea of social conservatism that is typical of Putin’s Russia.” […]
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