( RIA Novosti ) - Georgia's opposition will nominate a single candidate for January's early presidential elections, which were announced on Thursday after six days of mass rallies in the capital, a party leader said.
President Mikheil Saakashvili said early presidential polls would be held on January 5 and proposed holding a simultaneous plebiscite on the date of parliamentary elections, after protesters demanded early parliamentary polls and the president's resignation.
"We have begun discussions on choosing a single candidate," Republican Party leader Tinatin Khidasheli said, adding that ten opposition parties and movements were taking part.
Analysts have said the opposition camp lacks a leader popular enough to challenge Saakashvili at elections, and have predicted his return as president and fresh protests. Some experts suggest the opposition will fail to advance a single candidate in such a short time, something Saakashvili staked his hopes on.
Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burdzhanadze, along with opposition leader and ex-foreign minister Salome Zourabishvili, have been mentioned as likely presidential contenders.
In a bid to ease the Caucasus state's worst political crisis since Saakashvili came to power four years ago, the president also promised on Thursday to quickly lift a state of emergency, which shocked Georgians and triggered sharp criticism from the West and Russia.
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer warned on Thursday that Georgia's aspirations to join the Euro-Atlantic security alliance could be at risk.
The opposition shares Saakashvili's drive to integrate the ex-Soviet state with Western organizations, reducing Russian influence, but has accused the president of becoming too authoritarian and of failing to make headway on economic reforms.
The opposition discontinued protests following the announcements. Tbilisi's main avenue has reopened for traffic.
A total of 16 people including four police officers injured in clashes on Wednesday remain in hospital, the Georgian Health Ministry said on Friday. About 600 people have sought medical treatment since Wednesday, when police fired tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse protesters.
Russian TV broadcasts, suspended during the state of emergency declared on Wednesday, have been partially resumed, a cable television provider said on Friday. Broadcasts by all Russian television channels are expected to be resumed in full by the end of the day.
Saakashvili's 15-day nationwide state of emergency included a ban on demonstrations and news broadcasts, except for state TV.
Speaking in a live broadcast on Thursday, Saakashvili said he needed a new presidential "mandate" to counter pressure on the country and "attempts to annex its territory" in an apparent reference to Russia and its support of Georgia's two breakaway regions.
Saakashvili accused Moscow of orchestrating the unrest and expelled three Russian diplomats. Russia dismissed the accusations and expelling three Georgian diplomats in response.