Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Georgia: The Rose of the Caucasus (part 1)
On 20th April, Easter Monday, I left Romania again for an exciting new trip, visiting Armenia, Georgia and Warsaw. In this third report I would like to tell about my trip to Georgia. The aim of that visit was to learn more about their situation, about the work of the Christian Democratic Movement and to discuss collaboration with the ECPM.
Although the city was blocked for some time because of the demonstrations against President Saakashvili, and the situation in Georgia was still tense, the CDM organized an impressive program to learn more about the beautiful country of Georgia, about the party and also about their local offices. In the first evening, I had dinner with the party leader of the CDM, George Targamadze, and with the Director of International Relations, George Rukhadze, (interesting: the Georges from Georgia) in a beautiful setting, overlooking the beautiful skyline of Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.
When you see the skyline, you notice two things. First, that Tbilisi seems to be a very modern and Western-type city. Secondly, you notice also the beautiful illuminated churches. It was such an impressive balance between modernity and culture, about progress and faith.
George Targamadze explained that the demonstrations had lasted for a long time already and that no end was in sight. As a consequence of fraud in the elections, proved by the OSCE (but their report was too late to be able to change anything), a part of the opposition did not accept their mandates. The dissatisfaction regarding the increasing power of the president, and the war with Russia in the summer of last year brought this part of the opposition on to the streets to require the dismissal of the president.
There were great worries about the situation. Beside the fact that the demonstrations cause great economic loss for the country, blocking the center for months causing traffic jams and general confusion is more and more irritating to the general public. The question now is how long this will last and whether the resistance against the demonstrations is growing: is there a danger for serious clashes? Also another cause for concern is whether Russia will try to influence the situation or interfere in a negative way by supporting the demonstrators or by trying to divide them.
The rapid growth of CDM
The CDM was officially founded at the beginning of 2008. As a consequence of the limiting of freedom of the Press, well-known journalists started a new party based on Christian Democratic values: within a few months this party grew and with the first elections they won 7 places in the parliament (there are 150 places).
I was impressed by how the party has grown so much in such a short time, but also that the party is characterized not only by great enthusiasm, but also by professionalism and realistic opinions about political values. They consider that it is not wise for the opposition not to accept their mandates, because of the people who voted for them. They also think that the solution does not lie in the dismissal of the president but in the constitutional reform that is needed first: to spread the power, to guarantee fair elections and so on.
Therefore one of the most important requests of the CDM to the ECPM was to help them in the formation of this Christian Democratic base. They do not agree, of course, with the politics of the president, nor those of the opposition. This means that they have an excellent intermediary position between the two extremes and that their view is also shared with the international community.
However, this middle way, though realistic, can have its negative consequences for support for the party itself if society is more and more divided into the two groups. The party is currently doing very well, with 15% in the opinion polls.
The beauty of the country
As said before, I was very impressed with the program they organized. During the morning of the first day, we visited the party office of the CDM which also showed the combination of “Western style, enthusiasm, professionalism and pragmatism”. After this we went into the country. First we visited the Bodbe convent in the beautiful walled city called Signagi.
The Bodbe monastery was built on the place where Georgia’s enlightener – Saint Nino – was laid to rest. That’s why it has enormous significance for the nation. The city Signagi is built on the southeast slopes of the Gombori mountain range, situated on a high mountain cape, looking at the Alazani Valley from above. It is linked with the name of King Erekle II (1726). After the visit to Bodbe we visited this beautiful, excellently restored city and also the Georgian national museum which contains works by internationally renowned Georgian painters like Niko Pirosmanashvili and where diverse ancient ethnographic materials are exhibited. Later we saw the beautiful Alaverdi monastery in the Telavi region. It was very impressive to see the beauty of this country, and its cultural and historical richness. Georgia is really the rose of the Caucasus.
( To be continued)