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7 Oct, 2007 03:14

Georgian opposition: "Cut president's power!"

The united opposition in Georgia has held a rally demanding a reduction of the presidential powers. The arrest of former Defence Minister Irakly Okruashvili in late September prompted the opposition to unite and form the so-called People's Movement.

Activists from Georgia’s newly united opposition headed out into the provinces in a convoy of flag-flying cars on Saturday to hold a rally in the small town of Gurjaani.

The bulk of the county’s opposition groups began to work together in September, after ex-Defence Minister Irakly Okruashvili was arrested on corruption charges. The former minister was detained two days after accusing President Mikhail Saakashvili of a string of crimes, including plotting assassinations, and though most of the groups are not political supporters of Mr Okruashvili, they view his arrest as politically motivated. For his part, the former Defence Minister has requested that he be questioned over the accusations he levelled against the president.

“With the agreement of Okruashvili we appealed to the prosecutor general with the request for him to start an investigation and question him in connection with the accusations he made, so that everything is down on paper,” Mr Okruashvili’s defence lawyer Eka Beselia said.

The 500 person rally moved from folk songs to political speeches, as opposition leaders demanded early elections and a reduction in the powers of the presidency. This was the united opposition’s first provincial rally, and they promise to hold similar actions all over the country.

“We must reach our goal. People should get out onto the streets. Parliament is elected by the people – everything depends on the will of the people,” Ketevan Ghvianiashvili, one of the protestors, stated.

The united opposition consists of about ten political parties and NGOs from a wide variety of political persuasions, and other than a common desire to be rid of the current government, it is unclear exactly how united they are.

“The main thing is to reach the elections with the good legislation. Then all parties can use their power to reach the votes,” Levan Gachechiladze, MP from opposition Democratic Front, believes.

With just under a month to go before their next major rally outside Georgia’s parliament, the opposition must now search for some more common ground.

Most of Georgia’s main opposition groups were represented at the rally, and they all were calling for early elections and for Georgia to become a parliamentary republic, but as the diversity of party flags showed, they are still far from rallying to the same standard.