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Opposition Gears Up for Third Day of Protests as Saakashvili Keeps Silence

Some opposition politicians have indicated that despite calls for Mikheil Saakashvili’s resignation, the President still has a chance, what they called it, “to survive” if he sidelines “some of notorious politicians” from his inner circle.

Ten-party opposition coalition, which has so far campaigned under the so called “four-demand moderate banner,” gave a new twist to their drive on November 3 after demanding President Saakashvili’s resignation – the move which seemed to be an attempt of giving new momentum to mass protest rallies. Opposition leaders have claimed that the society’s demands were much more radical then just calls for elections to be held in April, instead of late 2008.

Early on November 3 some opposition politicians told protesters outside the Parliament that Saakashvili’s resignation should have been their major demand. These statements, made by politicians from the National Forum party, were not coordinated with other members of the ten-party coalition, whose members have a handshake agreement to pursue agreed strategy. Later the opposition leaders have gathered for consultations and after an hour-long meeting they announced about the decision to jointly demand President Saakashvili’s resignation.

Later on November 3, politicians from the Republican Party, which is regarded a relatively moderate group within the ten-party coalition, made remarks in what appeared to be an attempt to leave at least some space for possible talks with President Saakashvili.

Davit Usupashvili, the leader of Republican Party, told Imedi TV that President Saakashvili still had a chance to make a right choice in favor of the people “He has to choose between his people and his inner circle,” he said.

When speaking about Saakashvili’s inner circle, the opposition leaders are usually referring to an influential lawmaker from the ruling party Giga Bokeria and his allies both in the parliament and the cabinet, including Alexander Lomaia, the education minister; Gigi Ugulava, the mayor of Tbilisi. These officials are often described by the opponents as hardliners within the government who are against of having any compromise with the opposition.

Another politician from the Republican Party, MP Davit Berdzenishvili, said: “President Saakashvili can survive if he sets himself free out from being hostage in the hands of [lawmaker Giga] Bokeria, [interior minister Vano] Merabishvili and others.”

Usupashvili has also spoke about, what he called, “reasonable persons” within the authorities “who still can appropriately assess the situation and take appropriate decisions.” He pointed out that Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze could play “an important role in defusing current tensions.”

“But for doing so she may need to undertake a risky step and undertake responsibility. I want to hope that she, who is the second-highest-ranking official after the president in the country – will cope with this responsibility,” Usupashvili said.

President Saakashvili, meanwhile, keeps silence. The last time he made the public appearance was on November 1 when he addressed a high-profile international conference in Tbilisi. Saakashvili’s closest allies from his administration brushed off the opposition’s demands as “not serious” and “blackmail.”

Meanwhile, thousands of protesters spent the windy day outside the Parliament on November 3. The turnout, however, was lower than on November 2 when tens of thousands of people protested. 


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