Georgia’s rebel minister back on wanted list

An arrest warrant has been requested for former Georgian Defence Minister Irakli Okruashvili, according to his lawyer. He has been in Germany after fleeing the country in the wake of corruption allegations against Georgia’s President.

A corruption case against Okruashvili is due to start in Tbilisi Friday.

Okruashvili was arrested in late September after he made the corruption allegations against President Mikhail Saakashvili.

He was later released on a $US6 million bail and left the country, saying he would return when summoned by the court.

The prosecutor is now demanding Okruashvili be put under arrest given the seriousness of the charges against him.

Okruashvili has not returned to Georgia yet and remains in Munich.

Meanwhile, the country’s Parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze has announced a state of emergency in Georgia will be lifted on November 16.

Candidates confirmed for election

It comes as parties firm up candidates for an early election on January 5.

At least five candidates plan to run against President Saakashvili in the forthcoming election.

43-year-old Levan Gachechiladze has the backing of nine opposition parties.

It’s thought his first act as President would be to call a referendum to change Georgia into a parliamentary system.

The woman he favours as Prime Minister is Salome Zurabishvili – a former Foreign Minister and the leader of the Georgia's Way Party, whose motto is “Georgia without a president”.

“The decision to hold presidential elections was made by Saakashvili in order to create additional difficulties for the opposition,” she told Russia Today.

“We decided to answer in our own way by nominating a person who will beat Saakashvili by choosing a ticket where I’m the candidate prime minister to show that we are not fighting for the presidential job but against President Saakashvili and to prepare the country for parliamentary elections and a parliamentary system,” Mrs Zurabishvili said.

Georgian business tycoon and exile Badri Patarkatsishvili has also announced he'll run, although many believe he’s only doing it to gain immunity from charges of organising a coup.

Also in contention is Harvard economist Gia Maisashvili.  He's confident he and his Future Georgia Party have a chance, even though the campaign period is short.

“I don’t know how many candidates there will be, I am focusing on our campaign and on our message and our vision of the future,” Maisashvili said.

Georgia's Labour Party is also fielding a candidate.  Leader Shalva Natelashvili is standing despite accusations that he's in cahoots with the Russian government. His party would like to see Georgia transformed into a parliamentary republic, with close ties to both the EU and Russia.

And the last candidate to throw his hat into the ring is Davit Gamkrelidze, the leader of the New Rights Party. He’s pushing for a constitutional monarchy and closer ties with the West.

The European Union is keeping a close eye on election preparations.  EU Special Representative for South Caucasus, Peter Semneby, says it's vital to do something “meaningful in the short time that remains”.