Georgian opposition gathers for sanctioned rally
( RIA Novosti ) - Several hundred Georgian opposition supporters have gathered in front of parliament in Tbilisi for a sanctioned rally to demand parliamentary elections in spring 2008.
President Mikheil Saakashvili wants to extend lawmakers' term from four to five years and hold parliamentary and presidential elections simultaneously in early 2009. The opposition has pledged to continue protests until its demands are met, but has ruled out a new "revolution."
The opposition expects at least 100,000 people to turn up outside parliament by 2 p.m. local time. During the night, several thousand people rallied on the streets, and additional supporters arrived in the capital from the provinces.
A leader of the opposition People's Party, Koba Davitashvili, called on President Saakashvili to join the dialogue. "We want a dialogue and early parliamentary elections. We will not go home until there is a dialogue," Davitashvili said in a live interview with the Imedi TV channel.
However, he said there would be no coup. "We do not want a revolution, and there will not be one," he said.
The presidential press service said Saakashvili, who himself came to power on the back of a bloodless "rose revolution" in 2003, had no plans to make any statement or meet with the opposition in the next few hours.
A Georgian opposition leader, former defense minister Irakly Okruashvili, was arrested in late September after accusing his former ally Saakashvili of corruption and plotting the murder of a political opponent, an allegation denied by the president. Okruashvili was released on bail and flown to Europe Thursday, one day ahead of the opposition rally.