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President Saakashvili’s Written Statement
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 10 Apr.'09 / 15:59

The English-language written statement released by the President’s press office

April 10

Yesterday, democracy in Georgia took a major step forward. Thousands of people exercised their democratic rights by voicing their concerns about their elected government. They did so without violence. The police also acted with maximum restraint, as I ordered them.

Yesterday, we paid tribute to those who fell in defense of Georgian independence. I would like to believe that those heroes would have been proud of how our democracy performed.

I want to thank everybody who participated in yesterday’s events -peacefully and within the framework of the law.

By demonstrating peacefully-by the complete and total lack of violence, by ensuring the right to free movement and freedom of assembly-we proved the maturity of our state and of our democracy.

According to international observers deployed across Tbilisi and the rest of Georgia, during the demonstrations all these fundamental rights were protected, ensured, and defended.

The world was watching and we proved once again that Georgia is a European democracy, in content and action.

The police and other Government agencies also deserve our appreciation. The exceptional training and preparatory work they did paid off.

One critical factor yesterday was transparency. The Interior Ministry spent the past weeks briefing foreign governments and the media on its plans for protecting citizens and safeguarding their civil liberties. This behavior symbolizes the institutional functionality of our state.

The Government also took the extraordinary step of inviting representatives of foreign embassies and international organizations into the Interior Ministry’s situation room. They were able to see, in real time, the crowd and how public officials handled the situation.

This full transparency was critical in dispelling rumors and quieting tensions. When reports emerged that opposition activists had been arrested, or roads to Tbilisi blocked, both the MIA and international observers were able to quickly disprove these allegations.

Yesterday, part of the Georgian population raised their voices. The nation listened, and I heard.

I want therefore to respond. I want therefore to show that our offer of a dialogue on strengthening our democratic institutions, on addressing our economic challenges and our security concerns is real and profound. And that offer is made to all walks of society -to all parties-no matter their size or political affiliation.

There is only one way forward: that is by sitting down and addressing our challenges and needs together. I recognize that this is not an easy process - that it is easier to issue ultimatums - but my entire government and I are ready for it. Today I once again invite all political actors to join in this process.

This Dialogue on Democracy that I am proposing can lead to tangible, democratic results. Here I refer to real discussions on reforming the electoral code; to making profound and significant changes to our Constitution that will enhance the power and oversight of our Parliament; and to instituting reforms in local governance, including the direct election of the mayor of Tbilisi.

At the same time, I know that some may continue their demonstrations today. I therefore call on all demonstrators and all relevant Government agencies to act with the same care, respect, and peaceful approach, as they did yesterday.

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