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Popular Support Boosts Opposition Morale

Click on image to view protest rallies in pictures.
Photos by David Machavariani

Opposition leaders announced today the authorities stepped back after thousands rallied in Tbilisi on November 4, amid accusations that the November 2 parliamentary elections were falsified. However the opposition intends to keep mounting pressure on the government to achieve final success.

Chairperson of the Central Election Commission announced today that the Burjanadze-Democrats opposition alliance, led by Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze, has cleared 7% barrier necessary to secure seats in the Parliament.

However the opposition leaders intend to hold rallies in Tbilisi and in other parts of Georgia this evening , as another opposition alliance National Movement loses a close race for the first place with the pro-presidential bloc For New Georgia, which according to the preliminary information leads the polls with 24%, while the National Movement has 22,6%.

“Statement of CEC’s Chairperson indicates that we have achieved a slight but very important victory. This is only the beginning and much is left to be done. Authorities must admit that the National Movement won the elections – this is our next goal. And finally, after the government admits that the opposition won the election we will continue our fight in the new Parliament to achieve dismantling of the Shevardnadze’s regime,” Zurab Zhvania, former Parliamentary Chairperson and one of the leaders of Burjanadze-Democrats said on November 5, while addressing a crowd of more than 3,000 in the Philharmonic Hall.

The numerous irregularities during the elections triggered opposition’s accusations that the authorities rig the ballots and manipulated election results.

The United States expressed concern on November 4 over the irregularities during the elections and urged the Georgian authorities “to continue working to ensure that the final voter count is transparent.”

“Yesterday [November 3] we noted that there were inaccuracies in the voter lists that lessened voter confidence in the election process. Overnight [from November 3 to November 4], the vote count was stopped in Georgia. This was something of great concern to us. Our Ambassador in Tbilisi raised it with Georgian officials. Early today [on November 4] the vote counting resumed. Our goal remains a free and fair election, and we are focusing our efforts on ensuring an honest count in a timely way,” Adam Ereli, the Deputy Spokesman of the U.S. Department of State said at a news briefing in Washington on November 4.

According to the official results, with more than 50% of the votes counted, the pro-presidential election alliance For New Georgia leads the polls with 24%, followed by opposition National Movement with 22,6%, the Labor Party, which refused to join the opposition’s protest rallies in on the third place with 13,8, followed by the Burjanadze-Democrats with 8,9%.

However it is anticipated that these results can change by the late November 5 after the election results in Adjara Autonomous Republic is summarized. Election observers say that elections in Adjara marred with mass ballot fraud and the turnout rates were inflated.

That is why the opposition leaders decided to continue mounting pressure on the government and carry out protest rallies not only in Georgia, but also in the regions. Mikheil Saakashvili said on November 5, that he intends to visit Rustavi, near Tbilisi, where mass election irregularities were reported.

Nino Burjanadze left for her hometown Kutaisi in western Georgia, where she was running for the single-mandate constituency. The authorities tried to cancel the elections in Kutaisi, where Burjanadze was leading however on November 5 CEC Chairperson admitted that according to the preliminary information Burjanadze is winning Kutaisi single-mandate MP elections.

As the opposition leaders discuss further plans, the chiefs of the law enforcement agencies held an emergency meeting at the State Chancellery.

After the meeting Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili told reporters that the criminal charges were brought against “the persons who were calling for the unrest.” He also said “we will use force if it becomes necessary. Law should be observed in the country.”

The riot police are on high alert, while the units of interior troops are deployed to the center of Tbilisi to guard the State Chancellery (President’s administration).

The protests have started yesterday following the consultations between Nino Burjanadze, Mikheil Saakashvili and Jumber Patiashvili of the Unity alliance, which was attended by the representatives of the civil society organizations.

The New Rights and the Labor refused to join the protests, while the Revival and Industrialists have condemned them.

President Eduard Shevardnadze said “use of pressure against the government is inadmissible.”

Mikheil Saakashvili said on November 5 that in case the authorities do not recognize the victory of the opposition in the November 2 parliamentary elections, he will demand President Shevardnadze’s resignation.


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