Georgian opposition calls off hunger strike

Georgia's opposition has withdrawn its threat of a hunger strike after its demand for air time on a government-controlled TV station was met. They claim they were not given enough coverage during the recent presidential election. Meanwhile, media tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, who came 3rd in the election, has been charged with plotting a coup.

Georgia's united opposition presidential candidate Levan Gechechiladze has met with Mikhail Saakashvili, who claimed victory in the election in the first round, according to preliminary results.

They discussed ways to solve current political disputes in the country.

Gechechiladze insists the poll was marred by fraud and a second round of voting must be held to prevent further unrest.

The National Council of Opposition seems to be closer to resolving its dispute with the country's authorities over the results of the Presidential election.

Earlier, they threatened to go on hunger strike and hold mass rallies unless their demands were met. They were calling for a recount or a run-off of the election and more exposure on state-controlled TV.

Levan Gachechiladze said the demand for more access to TV was key.

"They don't give us the right to appeal to people. That's why we are starting a protest action. We need the opportunity to appear live on TV," Gachechiladze had said.

The opposition claimed the Georgian public broadcaster was distorting the news. They gave the TV station 24 hours to provide what they call 'equal access'. Otherwise, a group of activists would go on hunger strike, they said.

But the beginning of the strike was put back several times.

It was finally expected to begin at 7 pm local time on Thursday, but was called off after the demand for airtime on a government-controlled TV station for the opposition presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze was met.

It's reported that Gachechiladze, who lost the election according to official results, has been invited to appear on a government TV station on Thursday. However, this is unlikely to fully satisfy the opposition's demands.

"Today it seems that we might get three to five minutes on the public channel. So, for the time being we have suspended the protest. Let's see whether this promise, at least, will be upheld," opposition member, Salome Zourabishvili, said.

A small group of Gachechiladze supporters gathered on the steps of Georgian public broadcasting to protest the channel's alleged bias.

Representatives of the channel categorically deny any bias in their coverage. They have agreed to give the Gachechiladze and his team live airtime on their flagship news show.

Meanwhile, the Prosecutor's General's office has charged tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, who came third in the election, with a coup plot and preparing a terrorist act.

The charges relate to a secretly recorded conversation the tycoon had with a top interior ministry official. In the conversation, Patarkatsishvili offers the official $ US 100 million for his help in staging post election unrest.

His bank account in Georgia has been frozen. But Patarkatsishvili, currently in exile, will not be charged directly. He visited Georgia during the November protests, and left shortly afterwards.

On Wednesday, Georgia's Central Election Commission declared former Mikhail Saakashvili the winner of the presidential election.

The man who is now almost certain to be inaugurated as President has been keen to offer the hand of friendship to the opposition. Some analysts say it may be an attempt to take the sting out of a mass protest called for January 13.

Mikhail Saakashvili says the country must unite to face future challenges.

"I don't think marginalisation or radicalisation is in anybody's interests," he said.

"I think we should reach out to the opposition and make next the government more inclusive. I think we should be more sensitive to the concerns of the people," he added.

Saakashvili even intends to offer positions in his new government to opposition representatives. But with the opposition promising massive protests on Sunday, it's going to take more than offers of co-operation to alleviate tensions. ( RT )

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