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16 Mar, 2008 17:06

Opposition vs Saakashvili: tug-of-war continues

In the Georgian capital Tbilisi thousands of people have rallied in support of opposition activists on hunger strike. They're demanding changes to the country's electoral code and a re-count of January’s presidential election as well as the resignation of

Up to 5,000 opposition supporters gathered in front of Georgia's parliament, where a campsite has been set up for hunger striking politicians and activists. A donation box was passed around the crowd to help raise funds for bedding and medical supplies.

The strikers say they will remain encamped until the government agrees to recount the results of January's presidential election and change aspects of electoral legislation. Some strikers have already had to be hospitalized. Opposition leaders say nothing will stop their campaign.

“The hunger strike is going on in spite of the fact that time is passing by and people's health is becoming worse. We won't stop though, until we get what is called a free election,” Levan Gachechiladze. 

But President Saakashvili shows no sign of caving in to the opposition's demands. He has appealed for a return to negotiations.

“I want to tell everyone, the ruling majority, as well as the opposition, both moderates and radicals, now it is time to stand together for protection of our country. I also want to tell those people who are on hunger strike, that I am very sorry that they are resorting to a form of political struggle which is not Christian,” said Saakashvili.

Meanwhile, the republicans say that even if the opposition's demands are not met, their victory in the forthcoming parliamentary elections is assured.

With no end to the deadlock in sight, the opposition's campsite outside parliament will be there for some time to come.