Protesters thwart Georgian president’s annual address (VIDEO)
Hundreds of people, among them recently-released political prisoners, blocked the entrance to the National Library in Tbilisi on Friday, where Saakashvili was to address the nation. Gathered outside the library, the protesters demanded the president’s resignation and called on him to pass through the so-called “hallway of shame.”
Scuffles broke out between former political prisoners and supporters of President Saakashvili.
The embattled president, whose party lost parliamentary elections to the opposition in October, was forced to deliver a televised speech from his residence. “The president decided to give a televised address, and not to come to the library, to avoid civil unrest. He will give the address at 8 pm (4 pm GMT) local time from his residence,” Saakashvili's spokesperson Manana Mandzhgaladze told the press on Friday.
She also accused Saakashvili's rival Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and his supporters of organizing the protest.
The Georgian capital Tbilisi mayor, Gigi Ugulava (C), scuffles with protesters in Tbilisi , on February 8, 2013 (AFP Photo / Vano Shlamov)
Earlier, the country’s parliament indefinitely postponed Saakashvili's annual address after his minority United National Movement refused to cooperate in the creation of amendments to the constitution that would limit the president's authority to dissolve the parliament and approve a new government without the legislature’s approval.
The majority Georgian Dream party, led by the billionaire Ivanishvili, holds 85 of the in the parliament’s 150 seats and needs support from some of its opponents to get a constitutional majority.
As Saakashvili cannot run for another presidential term, he changed the law to give broader powers to the parliament and PM, in hopes of winning last year’s parliamentary poll and continuing to run the country.
However, this did not happen. Georgian Dream won the election despite numerous legal obstructions and political pressure from Saakashvili’s regime. Ivanishvili became prime minister and appointed the new government, but Saakashvili remains president and most of the regional administrations are still headed by people from his United National Movement.
In the Friday state of the nation address, Saakashvili however stated that a compromise with Georgian Dream is possible. He said he may support some amendments regarding the presidential powers.
Hailed in the West as an exemplary democratic ruler, Saakashvili lost popular support as a result of his crackdown on the opposition and claims of human rights abuses.
Watch RT’s Aleksey Yaroshevsky’s report from Georgia