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10 Mar, 2008 15:24

Georgia’s opposition hungers for democracy

About 30 Georgian protesters have joined the hunger strike begun on Sunday by five opposition leaders. They are calling for a recount of January’s presidential election, which saw Mikhail Saakashvili returned to power.

Though the opposition had promised a massive rally in the capital Tbilisi, barely 1000 people turned up to show their support. The five hunger-striking opposition leaders were joined by volunteers from the public.

Hunger striker Jemal Vanodze said they had not other option.
“All resources for engaging in dialogue with the government have been exhausted. This is the only form of protest we have left,” Vanodze said.

Each volunteer was introduced by name, and greeted with applause by the small crowd. The strikers are demanding that changes are made to electoral legislation, and a re-run of the January 5 presidential election. They say they'll stay on the steps of parliament until their demands are met.

“The second day of the hunger strike is not so difficult. I think the 7th will be the hardest. In general we are fine, the weather is ok, but if it rains we have tents and we will fight to the end,” Koba Davitashvili, leader of the People's Party, who is also a hunger striker, said.   

Medical tents were erected, while camp beds and mattresses were laid out in front of parliament. First aid will be available to the hunger strikers from doctors at the scene who support their cause.

The protesters have begun to direct their anger against the speaker of parliament Nino Burjanadze. Gathering underneath her office, protestors chanted 'traitor' at her window.

Burjanadze said the hunger strike was just a sign of the opposition's weakness.
“We are ready for dialogue. It's their problem if they want to break down an open door just because hardly anyone turned up at the protest. I don't think they will garner much support this way,” Burjanadze said.

Nevertheless, the opposition has called on all their supporters to gather on Tuesday, and is still looking for volunteers to join the hunger strike.