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13 Jan, 2008 10:06

Georgia's opposition back on the streets

Tens of thousands of Georgians have hit the streets of the capital Tbilisi to protest against what they say was a “falsified” presidential election. Poll commissioners have declared Mikhail Saakahvilli the winner with 53% of the vote.

Georgia's Central Election Commission has announced the official results of the poll. As expected, Mikhail Saakashvili has been re-elected. He won 53.47% of the vote.

The opposition maintains the vote was rigged.

Meanwhile, Mikhail Saakashvili has been outlning is objectives for a second term. He has announced plans to tackle poverty and said he wants improved relations with Russia.

At his meeting with Levan Gachechiladze on Wednesday, Saakashvili said he discussed a possible role for the opposition leader in Georgia's government. He said nothing was set in stone, and that he wasn't offering anything unconditionally.

Saakashvili outlined his position on relations with Russia. In his first major news conference since winning the election, he said he is “very hopeful” that Russian President Vladimir Putin will find the time to visit Georgia.

“We believe that we need to improve the relations between our two countries. The situation is not normal. It is one of my biggest regrets during my first term as President. It’s not important whose fault it is, but we need to improve things,” the president elect said.

Saakashvili has begun inviting world leaders to his inauguration, penciled in for January 20 or 21. It’s believed President Putin has been asked to attend.

Georgia's 'rebel minister' on hunger strike in France

Georgian ex-defence minister Irakly Okruashvili has gone on hunger strike to protest against what he called a rigged presidential election. Okruashvili, who is currently in a French prison, has been refusing food for the last four days.

He was arrested last September in Georgia on corruption charges but was later released on bail.  He then left for Germany, allegedly for medical treatment.

There, he was seized in late November following requests by the Georgian Prosecutor's Office.

Okruashvili travelled to Paris from Germany earlier this month.  He's applying for asylum in France, the country that issued him his Schengen visa.

'The Georgian-American Museum of the Lie'

Saakashvili’s rhetoric of co-operation is not enough to satisfy his political opponents.

The Georgian opposition claim that the presidential election was falsified, and are angered by the fact that Georgia’s western allies have recognised the result.

On Saturday, they held an exhibition called 'The Georgian-American Museum of the Lie'. The exhibits included ballot papers and vote summaries that the opposition say are evidence of electoral fraud.

The exhibition was dedicated to Matthew Bryza, an American diplomat who the opposition accuse of bias.

Opposition leaders say that they will present their case directly to the international community.

“We've invited all the international observers who said the election was democratic. Unfortunately they didn’t' come. But it's not a problem for us. We’ll send them all these documents by post. Let them look through the results thoroughly,” Zviad Dzidziguri, Conservative Party leader said.   

Opposition plans

The opposition are hoping to repeat the success of last November rallies, which forced Saakashvili to call an early election. They say everyone in Georgia knows when the rally is scheduled and where it will take place.

However, Georgia's new Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze is unfazed by this prospect. He says Georgia is back on track.

“There’s a lot of work ahead. For us it’s usual business. We’ve been working through all the holidays, and pre-election and post-election periods. We’ll continue doing so,” Gurgenidze said.

Ex-president speaks

Former Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze told RT that the poll demonstrates that the country has made the transition to democracy.

“The fact that the acting President gets more than 50% of the votes, almost as many as all the opposition, indicates that Georgia has a democratic set-up,” he said.

“Georgia should come to an agreement with Russia, regardless of it’s joining NATO or the EU,” Shevardnadze added.