The opposition said on October 2 it would launch a nationwide campaign to push the authorities to hold parliamentary elections in April 2008, as was originally planned before controversial constitutional amendments were introduced.
An umbrella body for ten opposition groups campaigning for the release of ex-Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili said in a statement that the campaign would culminate in a mass protest rally in Tbilisi on November 2. Meanwhile, the campaign is set to be extended to the provinces starting from October 6.
“We are launching a national-wide campaign with the main slogan, Georgia Without a President,” Koka Guntsadze, a lawmaker and member of Okruashvili’s party, Movement for United Georgia, said. “This will be a movement of civil resistance – the people against the authorities.”
Kakha Kukava, a lawmaker from the opposition Conservative Party, was quick to clarify the exact meaning of the slogan. It meant, he said, the abolition of the presidency.
“Georgia should be a parliamentary republic,” Kukava told Civil.Ge on October 2.
Tina Khidasheli, one of the leaders of the Republican Party, said that calls for parliamentary elections to be held in April 2008 did not amount to a demand for early elections.
“What we are demanding is the restoration of normal constitutional process,” she told Civil.Ge on October 2.
Presidential and parliamentary elections, in line with last December's constitutional amendment, will be held simultaneously sometime between October and December 2008. It is up to President Saakashvili to set the exact date for the polls. The amendment was slammed by the opposition as “undemocratic” as it has prolonged the term of the sitting Parliament for several months. It, however, has also decreased President Saakashvili’s term in office by several months.
The opposition has also demanded that Irakli Okruashvili, who is charged with extortion, money laundering and misuse of office, be released on bail. Okruashvili was remanded in custody for two months pending investigation.
The campaign involves nine political parties: Conservative, Republican, Labor, Georgia’s Way, Freedom, Georgia Troupe, On Our Own, Party of People, and Irakli Okruashvili’s Movement for United Georgia parties. One non-governmental organization, Equality Institute, represented by ex-State Minister Giorgi Khaindrava, is also part of the campaign.
Koka Guntsadze of Movement for United Georgia said that before the campaign in the regions got underway, opposition leaders would meet with the Georgian intelligentsia in Tbilisi on October 3. He also said that an outdoor screening of a film by an investigative reporter, Vakhtang Komakhidze, about the circumstances surrounding the death of the late PM, Zurab Zhvania, would be held at the Rose Square in downtown Tbilisi on October 5.
The regional campaign, he said, would be launched from Gurjaani in the eastern Georgian region of Kakheti. Kakheti is home to over 60% of Georgia’s vineyards and reports say that winegrowers there are unhappy because of the low price for grapes this year.