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Timeline: Events Leading up to Early Elections
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 2 Jan.'08 / 13:32

Key events leading up to the political crisis and early presidential elections:

September 12
The governor of the Shida Kartli region, Mikheil Kareli, a close associate to the ex-defense minister, Irakli Okruashvili, dismissed after his participation in riots in Gori, following the arrest of several officials of the local municipality for corruption charges.

September 14
Two lawmakers, Teo Tlashadze and Ketevan Makharashvili, both close associates of Okruashvili, quit the ruling National Movement party.

September 25
Dimitri Kitoshvili, the president’s spokesman and parliamentary secretary, with close links to Okruashvili, was arrested and charged with extortion. Revenue Service launched tax audit of businesses owned by Okruashvili’s close friend Kibar Khalvashi on the same day.

Also on the same day Okruashvili announced about launch of his political party Movement for United Georgia. He accused President Saakashvili of engaging in “anti-state steps” and “ordering to murder” business and media tycoon, Badri Patarkatsishvili.

September 27
Irakli Okruashvili was arrested and charged with extortion, money laundering, misuse of power and negligence while serving as the defense minister.

September 28
Thousands gathered outside the Parliament in the largest protest rally in recent years demanding Okruashvili’s release and early parliamentary elections, as well as abolishment of the president’s post.

September 29
President Saakashvili made his first comments on Okruashvili and said the latter’s accusations against him were false.

October 8
Okruashvili retracted his accusations against President Saakashvili of plotting to murder Patarkatsishvili and said that his accusation had been aimed at “gaining political dividends” for him and Patarkatsishvili. He also pleaded guilty of extortion and negligence in a surprise taped video confession. He was then released on GEL 10 million bail. Although it still remains unclear who paid the amount.

October 10
Business and media tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, who became involved in the standoff between the ruling party and opposition after Okruashvili’s retraction of his accusations against Saakashvili, said the current “difficult situation” in the country could force him to go into politics.

October 11
Okruashvili’s associates announce that the ex-defense minister quit the politics.

October 17
Ten opposition parties, campaigning jointly for early parliamentary polls, outlined their priorities in a joint twelve-point manifesto. On the same day the coalition outlined four major demands.

October 19
Thousands gathered at the opposition-organized protest rally in Georgia’s second largest city, Kutaisi. The event was part of a campaign by ten opposition parties as a lead-up to a planned rally outside Parliament in Tbilisi on November 2.

October 22
Ten-party opposition coalition warned of permanent protest rallies.

October 23
Thousands people participated in an opposition-organized protest rally in Batumi.

October 25
Salome Zourabichvili, Davit Usupashvili and Konstantine Gamsakhurdia – the leaders of opposition Georgia’s Way, Republican and Freedom parties, respectively, met with EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, in Brussels. The meeting was part of a ten-party opposition coalition’s international efforts to promote its moderate, less radical, image.

October 28
Business and media tycoon, Badri Patarkatsishvili, said he would provide funding to the opposition for holding protest rallies “in a civilized manner.”

October 28
The opposition’s protest rally in Zugdidi was marred after a group of the ruling party supporters attacked and beaten up two opposition lawmakers and several opposition activists.

October 30
Giga Bokeria, an influential lawmaker from the ruling party, tells Civil.Ge the authorities will not compromise on elections date.

November 1
Thousands of protesters arrived from the provinces.

November 1
Daniel Fried, The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs said in Tbilisi the United States did not see its role as a mediator in the current political standoff between the authorities and opposition in Georgia.

November 2
Tens of thousands of people gathered outside the Parliament at the opposition-organized rally. Later on the same day the opposition leaders met with Parliamentary Chairperson, Nino Burjanadze and several other key lawmakers from the ruling party. Burjanadze said that the authorities would not compromise on the elections date.

November 3
Thousands resumed protesting outside the Parliament. Opposition announced President Saakashvili’s resignation was its major demand.

November 4
In his first comments after the launch of protest rallies, President Saakashvili said he did not plan to compromise on major demands pushed forth by the opposition.

November 5
On the fourth day of protest rally at least dozen of protesters, including an independent lawmaker Levan Gachechiladze launched a hunger strike. Meanwhile, New Rights opposition party – which was not part of the opposition coalition running street protests, called for holding a referendum on timing of the next parliamentary elections.

Also on November 5 Irakli Okruashvili, the ex-defense minister, made a surprise appearance and said in a late-night live interview with Imedi TV that he was forced to retract accusations against President Saakashvili while being in jail.

November 6
Badri Patarkatsishvili, a business tycoon, has warned that the authorities’ tactic of brushing off tens of thousand protesters calls may trigger “uncontrolled processes.”

Meanwhile, on the same day opposition leaders have announced that they were planning to set up, what they called, “a town of tents” – a reference to permanent protest rallies.

November 7
Early in the morning police, with use of only batons, broke up a small group of protesters, including hunger striker, which was occupying only a small square in front of the parliament. Opposition leaders, however, called supporters to resume rally.

Few hours later, protesters started to again gather outside the parliament, which eventually resulted into a clash with police. Protesters pushed the police back and managed to block the Rustaveli Avenue in front of the parliament.

At about 1pm local time riot police and water cannon vehicles were deployed on the Rustaveli Avenue. Shortly after tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons were used to disperse protesters. Masked men in black civilian uniforms were also seen attacking and beating up protesters.

At about 5pm local time thousands of protesters gathered on an open area called Rike several kilometers away from the parliament. The rally, however, was again dispersed by the riot police.

In the evening President Saakashvili said the unrests in Tbilisi were masterminded by Russia and implemented through the help of “some radical opposition parties.”

Imedi TV was shut down in a police raid and Tbilisi-based local television station, Kavkasia, went off the air at about 9pm local time.

At about 10:30pm local time PM Zurab Nogaideli announced about declaring state of emergency only in Tbilisi.

Economy Minister Giorgi Arveladze, however, announced after midnight that state of emergency was declared on the entire territory of Georgia.

November 8
Riot police disperse protesters in Batumi. Protesters thought state of emergency was declared only in Tbilisi, as many in Georgia did not know about late-night announcement by Arveladze that emergency rules were imposed on the entire territory of Georgia.

November 8
In the evening President Saakashvili said in his televised address that he was planning snap presidential elections for January 5 in an attempt to gain the people's “unequivocal mandate” in his drive “to tackle foreign threats.” He also called a plebiscite – a non-binding referendum – to decide when to hold the next parliamentary elections – in spring, as demanded by the opposition, or in late 2008.

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