Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Georgia protests enter fifth day

Thousands of opposition supporters in Georgia have begun a fifth day of protests, calling on President Mikhail Saakashvili to step down.

The demonstrators gathered outside the parliament in Tbilisi, before marching on to the presidential palace, where they plan to hold an ongoing protest.
Correspondents say turnout is falling and the opposition seems increasingly unsure of how to continue its campaign.
Mr Saakashvili says Russian oligarchs are financing the Georgian opposition.

The opposition accuses him of mishandling last year's conflict with Russia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia, and of being increasingly autocratic.

Consistent message

After a brief pause on Sunday, more than 20,000 opposition supporters returned to the Georgian parliament building for a fifth day, chanting "Misha, Go!". They again blocked the capital's main street, cheered on the main opposition leaders and began to march on the presidential palace.

Mr Saakashvili's critics say his style of government is autocratic

"The fight continues, and today I have the impression that this fight will end soon with your victory," said Levan Gachechiladze, the main opposition candidate in last year's presidential election.

"Saakashvili must leave," he added. "There is no place for him in Georgia's future."
The BBC's Tom Esslemont in Tbilisi says the protesters' message has not changed - they still want Mr Saakashvili to resign - but with a diminishing turnout, the opposition seems increasingly unsure as to how to convince him or the rest of the country of its cause.
Some 60,000 people rallied at the start of the campaign on Thursday.

On Saturday, the opposition leaders talked about entering dialogue with the president and about spreading their protest to the regions.

Now, those two seemingly unpopular ideas appear to have been shelved, our correspondent says. While many opposition supporters hold the president to account for leading his country into a disastrous war with Russia last summer, others see no alternative to him as president and are wary of further destabilising their country, he adds.

Mr Saakashvili remains resolute in his determination to finish his final term in office and has repeatedly offered to engage in dialogue with the opposition.


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