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2 Oct, 2007 13:26

Okruashvili’s arrest unites Georgian opposition

In Tbilisi, the National Council of Opposition Organisations is launching a nationwide campaign called “Georgia without President Saakashvili”. This unit consists of more than ten parties and movements protesting against the recent arrest of I

Georgia’s newly unified opposition are calling for early elections in the wake of the ongoing scandal caused by the arrest of former defence minister Irakli Okruashvili. Most of Georgia ’s leading opposition forces have declared their intention to work together in a so-called National Council to gather support and coordinate protest actions.

“Preparation of the next election which is the most important turning point for Georgian democracy. We will be united as a minimum for getting this election as a free and fair election,” Salome Zourabichvili, Georgia’s Way leader, said. 
This new found unity follows large protests on Friday, when up to 10,000 people gathered outside parliament. The protest was sparked by the arrest of ex-minister Okruashvili on corruption charges, two days after he accused president Saakashvili of usurpation of power and plotting assassinations.
However, there are indications that attention may already be shifting away from Okruashvili. His arrest may have triggered the unification of the opposition, but today their demands have focused on changing the government through fresh elections.

But condemning the handling of the case, some of the opposition groups in the Council are far from being supporters of Okruashvili.
“This was a scandalous case of Okruashvili, we are of course not political supporters of Okruashvili. It is clear for us,” Koka Gamsakhurdia, Freedom Party leader, explained.

The different ideological backgrounds and political programmes of the groups united in the national council will make close cooperation difficult, and the government says it does not consider the opposition as a genuine rival.
“Everybody knows that there is no values, no principles, no vision that unites them, so I think that this unity is doomed in elections because people do not support hatred, they support vision and principles and political will to bring some changes,” member of Georgian parliament, Giga Bokeria, said.  

Though the national council are gathering signatures and planning more protests, it remains to be seen whether they will be able to remain united and emerge as a serious challenger to the government.