Saturday 24th of August 2019, 19:03 CET|
|Georgia's opposition pledges to overthrow president|
November 6, 2003
Posted by HW on August 24, 2019
The opposition in the former Soviet republic of Georgia pledged to take to the streets to overthrow President Eduard Shevardnadze after late results from parliamentary elections gave him a tactical boost.
Abashidze nr. 1
The results meant that a party led by Aslan Abashidze, a regional chieftain, has leapfrogged other blocs to take the lead.
Abashidze is no friend of Shevardnadze's but is accused of forming an alliance with Georgia's president against the mainstream opposition parties.
Those opposition parties reacted furiously to the late results, claiming that Shevardnadze and Abashidze had entered into a conspiracy to rig the result and deprive them of their rightful majority in parliament.
"Battle for Georgia"
They called on their supporters to take to the streets in the capital Tbilisi, and cities across the country Friday in what one opposition leader has billed as the "battle for Georgia."
"Tomorrow, in Tbilisi, Gori, Zugdidi and other towns peaceful demonstrations will begin in order to overthrow Shevardnadze's regime," opposition leader Mikhail Saakashvili said at a press conference Thursday evening.
"I call on the population, in peaceful form, to protest and not allow this coup, organized by Shevardnadze and Abashidze to go ahead." Anticipating trouble, riot police and interior ministry troops have been put on high alert.
Passions have already been running high since Sunday's election, with two days of opposition streets protests earlier this week in Tbilisi over the vote which western observers said was flawed by vote-rigging.
In Georgia, political disputes have a habit of spilling over into violence.
The country was wracked by civil war in the early 1990s, and Shevardnadze, a former Soviet foreign minister who, along with then Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, oversaw German unification, has twice been the target of assassination attempts.
Georgia's political stability matters to the West because the country lies on the route of a US-backed pipeline which, when completed in 2005, will export Caspian Sea crude to world markets.
The disputed election has already attracted criticism from the US State Department, which said it was concerned about voting violations and about the delay in releasing the final tally.
"I think that President Shevardnadze understands the seriousness of our concerns and will undertake to be responsive," a State Department spokesman said in Washington.
Abashidze: 94% of Adjar votes
Until Thursday evening, Shevardnadze's For a New Georgia bloc was in the lead, followed closely by Saakashvili's National Movement. In all, opposition parties gained about 70 percent of the vote.
However, that tally did not include voting figures from Abashidze's semi-autonomous republic of Adjara on Georgia's Black Sea coast.
When those figures arrived after a four-day delay late Thursday, they showed that 94 percent of Adjara's voters had voted for Abashidze's Revival party, firing it into the lead with 23.5 percent of the vote, followed by For a New Georgia and the National Movement.
Central Election Commission chairwoman Nana Devdariani said the figures were not final as other regions of Georgia had still not submitted their returns.
Abashidze, who runs Adjara as a personal fiefdom, is on tetchy terms with Shevardnadze. But he also has poisonous relations with the mainstream opposition parties.
In the byzantine world of Georgian politics, his strong showing is being viewed by the opposition as part of the campaign of ballot-rigging they claim has been orchestrated by Shevardnadze to frustrate the opposition.
"As a result of a conspiracy between Shevardnadze and the feudal regime of Aslan Abashidze, they have shared first place," said Saakashvili.
There was an uneasy calm in Georgia as both sides prepared for possible confrontation Friday.
The only violent incident Thursday was when a crowd of Saakashvili's supporters tried to storm into the local election commission headquarters in Gori, the birthplace of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, northwest of the capital. One man was hurt in scuffles and has been hospitalized.