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End of Street Protests for Now
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 27 Jul.'09 / 13:15

Daily protest rallies demanding President Saakashvili’s resignation in Tbilisi by a group of opposition parties ended on July 24 – 107 days after the launch on April 9.

Opposition politicians, behind the campaign say “it’s not an end of the struggle” and the opposition’s drive will continue from autumn; although at this stage they fail to give specific plan saying consultation will continue on the matter between the opposition parties.

“We need to restore our forces and resources; we do not drop our demands… We will restore our forces and restart it again,” Levan Gachechiladze, an individual opposition political, told protesters on the last day of rally on July 24.

Nino Burjanadze, a former parliamentary chairperson and leader of Democratic Movement-United Georgia, said opposition would resume protest “when we deem it necessary in a form, which will be appropriate.”

“The protest charge is high in the society; what we, the opposition, are doing is to direct this charge within the political course; but it can go beyond this course if the authorities do not become reasonable… I mean that this sense of protest, which is in the society, may spill out from the political processes and we, the leaders, may not be able to control it,” she told the public TV’s talk-show, Political Week, on July 26.

Salome Zourabichvili, the leader of Georgia’s Way party, described the campaign as “passing a halfway” towards achieving the goal.

“I am today even more optimistic, then I was before; I can say that we have already passed a very difficult halfway… We have passed this way without going beyond the constitution,” she told the public TV’s talk-show Political Week on July 26.

Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of New Rights Party, part of Alliance for Georgia, however, acknowledged that at this stage the campaign failed to bring tangible results.  

“The reason why this stage of [protests] did not bring result is that there was no alternative to Saakashvili,” he said in an interview with the Georgian weekly, Kviris Palitra, published on July 27. “At this stage the Georgian society, as well as the international community, could not make a choice between the worst and ambiguity.”

He, however, also said that although Saakashvili maintained grip on power, “the protest rallies have weakened him very much.”

“Today Saakashvili is vulnerable and the opposition should try to replace him as painlessly as possible,” Gamkrelidze said and added that achieving of holding early parliamentary elections could be a step in that direction.

At this point, however, focus seems to be shifting in direction of local elections, which President Saakashvili has offered to hold on May 30, 2010, instead of next autumn. The proposal also includes direct election of the capital city’s mayor.

“It’s always worth to run in elections if they are fair, especially if Tbilisi mayor is elected directly. From the political point of view, directly elected Tbilisi mayor will be second heavyweight political figure after the President,” Gamkrelidze said.

Echoing his political partner Irakli Alasania’s remarks, who is the leader of Alliance for Georgia, Gamkrelidze also said that a proper electoral environment should be established before the local elections, involving free media and depolitization of law enforcement agencies.

Opposition also says that with the end of street protests problems facing the country have not faded away and they will not without real democratic reforms by the authorities.

“It’s now up to Saakashvili to decide: he should either compromise or resign,” Salome Zourabichvili said and added that U.S. Vice President’s speech made in the Georgian Parliament on July 23 should serve as a guideline for both the opposition and the authorities.

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