Georgian president hounded by fiery messages

Georgian opposition wants Mikhail Saakashvili to resign
With the upcoming mass opposition rally in Georgia, activists are doing their best to give President Saakashvili the jitters. Outside his residence on Thursday night the message ‘Stop, Misha’ was written in flames.

The call was written in meter-high letters by a youth group and kept burning for several hours for everyone including the addressee to read, reports news agency Interfax.

Speaking to journalists, leader of the group responsible Georgy Kvartshelia claimed they were distanced from politics, but he added that Saakashvili’s policies were harmful for the country and pledged to participate in a mass protest rally in Tbilisi scheduled for April 9.

Earlier another group of Georgian youths revealed that they will stalk President Saakashvili to wear him down and make him resign.

“We’ll protest loudly wherever Saakashvili goes, we’ll do it round the clock,” said Jaba Jishkariani, leader of the ‘November 7’ organization.

So far Georgian police have been confronting them in their attempts to ruin the president’s recreational hours. On April 1, a rally in front of the bar where Mikhail Saakashvili was dining was dispersed by the police. The activists involved were later unlawfully fined, according to Georgia’s ombudsman Sozar Subari.

A game of nerves

Numerous Georgian opposition parties and organizations have agreed to start mass protests on April 9. They demand the president’s resignation and a snap election.

The protests may last for days, as was the case in November 2007, when mass rallies calling for a snap parliamentary election ended only after the government ordered riot police to brutally disperse the crowds.

The situation ended with Saakashvili ordering and subsequently winning an early presidential election, which the opposition was not prepared for.

This time, when the opposition demands the president to resign, he is adamant in refusing the calls. He has said on several occasions that he will hold the office for the full term, which ends in 2013.

The opposition hopes that, when faced with thousands of people protesting day after day, the Georgian leadership will lose their nerve and give in to demands.

“We don’t want a coup. We’ll make Saakashvili resign as president with peaceful action,” said former Foreign Minister turned opposition member Salome Zurabishvili.

Others opposition members are not that optimistic.

“The opposition is not ready for a change of power in Georgia now. Making the authorities leave is a difficult task that needs serious preparation. I don’t think the authorities have expired their resources to stay in power,” said Irakli Tsereteli, leader of Georgia’s National Independence Party.

Crackdown on opposition

Meanwhile some opposition parties accuse the authorities of launching a defamation campaign ahead of the rally. Several members of Nino Burdzhanadze’s ‘Democratic Movement – United Georgia’ party have been arrested for illegal weapons possession.

Later the interior ministry accused them of planning to stage a coup d’état during the upcoming protests. Burdzhanadze said they were target of persecution.

“The government is trying to discredit one of the most serious political parties in Georgia,” she said.

When trying to investigate the arrests, the Georgian ombudsman was obstructed by the Interior Ministry, he told journalists Thursday. He said he was not allowed to see them or even learn of their whereabouts.

‘No dialogue with this man’

Moscow recently made it unambiguously clear that while Mikhail Saakashvili stays in power there is no chance for a dialogue between Georgia and Russia.

Speaking at the London School of Economics, President Medvedev put it bluntly:

“I don’t want to have any relations with Mr. Saakashvili, and I won’t.”

He added the situation may change when the Georgian leadership is changed as part of a democratic process.