Georgian president announces early elections on 5 of January 2008

Georgia Materials 9 November 2007 01:57 (UTC +04:00)
Georgian president announces early elections on 5 of January 2008

( RIA Novosti ) - Four years after the 2003 "rose revolution" that propelled him to power, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is facing the same problems as his predecessor, Eduard Shevardnadze.

However, on Wednesday, Saakashvili showed that he was unwilling to share the fate of Shevardnadze, who resigned as a direct result of street demonstrations, clamping down harshly on opposition protests that had lasted six days.

Saakashvili followed this up by proposing on Thursday early presidential elections along with a simultaneous parallel referendum on parliamentary elections. The move has been seen as an attempt to snatch the political initiative from his opponents.

On Wednesday, after hundreds of riot police with shields and batons had broken up a rally outside the Georgian parliament, opposition supporters staged a new protest on the city's Rike Square. The police again employed harsh methods to dispel the crowd, including rubber bullets and tear gas.

The protesters were demanding President Saakashvili's resignation and early elections. A total of 508 people were injured in the clashes, and 94 protesters remain in hospital, the country's Health Ministry said on Thursday.

Saakashvili said on Thursday in a televised address: "I would like to hold a plebiscite alongside the presidential elections, and let the people decide for themselves when parliamentary elections should be held - in the spring or fall of 2008."

Earlier in the day, the president had said that early presidential elections would be held on January 5, 2008. "I am cutting my presidential term of my own will for a second time, and I do it in the full belief that Georgia is a democratic country. I think the people will demonstrate their will on January 5," he said.

Parliamentary and presidential elections had previously been due to be held simultaneously in the fall of 2008.