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Georgia: fourth day of protests

Thousands of protestors are gathering for the fourth day in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. Many of them have spent the night in front of the parliament’s building. Opposition leaders are demanding the resignation of President Mikhail Saakashvili.

“Most of the people here believe we should stay as long as we have to, in spite of all the difficulties, no matter what the weather is, if it's rain or snow. We spent two days travelling; the government tried to prevent us from coming, but we still came, and we will remain here until the end,” stressed protester Maniya Dvalishvili.

Many of the protesters say they must protest to ensure their rights are protected.

“There is no food, no heating. It's very difficult to live in a country like this. Unless they call an election, people won't tolerate this any longer. These {points at the people} are the people of Georgia. I was here during the Rose Revolution. At that time, criminals helped Saakashvili to come to power. This time, hungry people will storm the parliament building,” protester Guram Meskhi said.

Even though the protests remain peaceful, the police presence has intensified. Riot police and water cannons are not far from the protest site.

Georgian media report that more than 30 buses with young people and public sector workers are heading to Tbilisi from the country's provinces.

Their trip to the capital is reportedly being organised by authorities to counteract the opposition rally.

Early election dismissed

The Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili is yet to make any official comment, but the speaker of Georgia’s parliament, Nino Burdzhanadze, has dismissed the idea of early elections.

“It is crucial for the election to take place as scheduled, according to the Constitution – that is to say, in the autumn. We will announce the specific date in due course. I assure you that this will be a democratic election and that every citizen of Georgia will have a chance to vote and to make his or her choice. This is where we stand. This is where the president stands,” she said.

The protesters are being led by a former Saakashvili minister, Georgy Khaindrava, and Georgia’s richest man, Badri Patarkatsishvili.

“I think it's obvious for the whole world what's going on in Georgia. It's a democratic revolution. The whole of Georgia is here, all regions, all cities. This is enough to persuade the present government and the world community that our society is a highly developed one with a democratic spirit,” said Georgy Khaindrava.

What sparked protests?

The rally is the second of its type in as many months. In September, 10,000 protestors took to the streets after former defence minister Irakly Okruashvili was arrested on corruption charges, after accusing president Saakashvili of a string of crimes.

Okruashvili eventually withdrew the accusations, before being released on bail.

The former minister left the country on Thursday and the Georgian government says he is receiving medical treatment abroad, though his supporters deny this.

“The government will have to fulfill the demands of its people and the opposition – and that is civilised democratic elections. I think the party of Saakashvili has had its day in the political life of Georgia,” stated Khaindrava.

Businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili has provided financial support for the opposition and has been using his television channel Imedi also.

The opposition, made up of 10 parties, appear to be united over the call for early elections, but traditionally they’ve been ideologically divided.