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29 Dec, 2007 18:21

Georgia's opposition rallies for fair election

The opposition in Georgia has held a protest rally in the capital Tbilisi just days before the snap presidential election. They're warning the authorities against rigging the ballot, which is scheduled for 5 January.

Instead of joining the country's holiday frenzy, thousands of supporters of the so-called United Opposition and their presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze have rallied on Rike square in downtown Tbilisi.

They say they have proof the authorities are planning to rig the vote and are obstructing the opposition's campaign.
The opposition has announced that its representatives will closely monitor the January 5 election and guard each polling station.
Demonstrators claim they will stand their ground and defend their votes firmly, but peacefully.
The authorities gave the go-ahead for Saturday's rally, insisting it must remain peaceful.
Acting President Nino Burdzhanadze said the main thing for political protests is that they remain legal and non-violent.
“Holding peaceful acts of protest or support is the right of every person or political force,” she said.
But relations between the authorities and the opposition have been anything but peaceful so far.
In the beginning of November thousands had been rallying for five days on the streets outside the parliament building.  They were demanding an early parliamentary election and the resignation of ex-President Mikhail Saakashvili.
Then, on November 7, Tbilisi police violently dispersed the crowds using tear gas, rubber bullets and water canons. RT correspondent Katerina Azarova and her cameraman also suffered a tear gas attack while covering the clashes.
More than five hundred were injured in the clashes. International human rights organisations condemned the use of force by the Georgian police.
On the same day, a countrywide state of emergency was declared by ex-President Mikhail Saakashvili.
Later he called for an early presidential election in January. 
And it is unclear whether the vote at the beginning of 2008 will bring stability to Georgia or another year of unrest.