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You won't stop us! - opposition leader warns Saakashvili

Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili has stepped down to start his campaign for re-election on January 5. Meanwhile, 10,000 people took to the streets of the capital, Tbilisi, on Sunday for an opposition protest. Their leader Levan Gachechiladze claim

The campaign begins

The race is on. Campaign season in Georgia began in earnest on Sunday with the resignation of President Saakashvili. The country's parliament has accepted Saakashvili's resignation along with the date of the vote, January 5.

The president's resignation is a prerequisite when snap elections are called. His resignation now means that Saakashvili can participate in the election as a candidate.

Following Saakashvili's resignation, the country will be run by the Speaker of Parliament, Nino Burdzhanadze. This move was also approved by parliament on Sunday.

“Because of the situation in the country, the President has decided to give the people the right to choose the course of our nation's development. So we are voting in favour of snap elections on January 5. The decision is made,” said Mikhail Machavariani, acting Speaker of Parliament.

Constitutionally bound to step down in the run up to the snap election, Saakashvili will now focus on his campaign.

Saakashvili's main rival?

If anyone can thwart Saakashvili's hopes of re-election, it's Levan Gachechiladze, an independent MP, who's the chosen candidate of the coalition of nine opposition parties. On Sunday he rallied his supporters for a peaceful demonstration and a march to Georgia's parliament.

“Mikhail Saakashvili, I am repeating to you again – we are coming, you won't stop us! Autocracy is over!” Gachechiladze’s supporters greeted his slogans with shouts and applause.

In the capital, Tbilisi, ten thousand people took part in a demonstration. It took place at the spot where, on November 7, police used force to disperse a large protest action. Thankfully, Sunday's protest passed off without any incidents, but the memory of the violent events of November has given the opposition a new-found determination.

Opposition activists say that each step on their march is a step closer to victory on January 5 and, with the resignation of Saakashvili, the campaign and subsequent election look set to have a huge bearing on Georgia's future.

Independent media issues

The demonstrators demanded that the local Imedi TV channel be allowed to broadcast again and that those detained during the opposition protests earlier this month be released. Protest leaders said demonstrations will continue until their demands are met.

Professor Aslan Abashidze, from Moscow's University of International Relations, told RT that problems with the independent media are evidence of a state of dictatorship in Georgia.