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15 Jan, 2008 13:03

Georgian opposition win TV concession

Another opposition rally has taken place in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, with protestors celebrating a victory: opposition members will now be included on the board of the country’s public TV broadcaster.

First victory

The opposition, who claimed the public broadcaster has treated them unfairly and subjected them to a campaign of media terror, rallied outside the government TV station Rustavi.

Now, the government has agreed to appoint opposition members to the board of trustees. The opposition greeted this news with triumph.

“I think the credit for giving public television back to Georgia should go the people of Georgia. This is the result of the struggle we have been waiting for since September 28. I hope  public television will become a standard for objective journalism,” said opposition candidate Levan Gachechiladze.

Meanwhile, government representatives said they too were unhappy with the channel's performance.

Popular former news anchor Giorgi Targamadze, who is about to launch his own opposition party, hailed the decision.

“Before the parliamentary election our political movement will have the structure and all of Georgia will be informed about our aims,” he said.

Demands change

There have been less people rallying today, with up to 10,000 gathered, while tens of thousands protested on Sunday demanding a second round of voting between Mikhail Saakashvili and Gachechiladze.

But what the opposition are demanding now is not necessarily a run-off vote, but a full recount of all the votes cast in the January 5 poll. They say if Saakashvili is still the winner, they'll accept it.

Earlier during his first news conference since the election, Saakashvili said he would welcome honourable and patriotic members of the opposition into his government and possibly even into his cabinet.

Acting Georgian President Nino Burdzhanadze echoed him on Tuesday:

“Now we should prepare ourselves, our country and political representatives for the parliamentary election. That is why it’s very important to begin dialogue between political parties”.

She also commented on the protestors’ demands regarding the election.

“All NGOs and representatives here in Georgia once again mentioned that there are no grounds for the second round. They said the election was free, fair and democratic”.

Election results challenged in court

For the past week the opposition has been challenging the election results in court, trying to prove that Mikhail Saakashvili received less than half of the total vote. A simple majority allows him to avoid a run-off against the leading opposition candidate Levan Gachechiladze. Saakashvili gained 53% of the votes. Gachechiladze, a candidate from the opposition National Council, finished second with nearly 26%.

The opposition's appeals have been rejected.

Now, the protesters are hoping to put pressure on Saakashvili through street protests.  But many believe it's the reaction of the international community that holds the key.

The head of the Central Election Commission says that the opposition has not given convincing evidence of vote-rigging. But that’s unlikely to deter the opposition.

A series of rallies in November, which were broken up by the police armed with batons and tear gas, forced Mikhail Saakashvili to schedule the early election.

Hoping for a similar result, the opposition is planning more demonstrations outside key government buildings this week.