The Georgian opposition demands an exit of the country from the CIS

The Georgian opposition demands an exit of the country from the CIS

( )- Three lawmakers and two other opposition politicians launched hunger strike on March 9 outside the Parliament and vowed to continue it unless their demands are not met.

MP Zviad Dzidziguri of the Conservative Party told several thousand protesters at a rally outside the Parliament that his and four under hunger strikes' demands were: repeat presidential elections; creating conditions for holding free and fair parliamentary elections and release of all those persons, who were arrested in connection with the November 7 events. The opposition said only eight persons were released so far, while others still remained in jail.

Other hunger strikers include: MP Gia Tortladze of the Movement for United Georgia (party set up by ex-defense minister Irakli Okruashvili ); MP Bidzina Gujabidze of the Conservative Party; Koba Davitashvili of the Party of People and Irakli Melashvili of the National Forum - all part of the eight-party opposition coalition.

The opposition eight-party opposition coalition resumed protests on Sunday and vowed to keep rallying unless their demands are not met. The New Rights Party has joined the rally. Gia Maisashvili , the leader of small Party of Future, who was an underdog presidential candidate in the January 5 polls, has also joined the protests.

Republican Party leaders have not participated in the March 9 protest rally. It said on March 9 that it agreed with all those demands of the protest rally which were related with the opposition's January 29 memorandum, but added hunger strike and demanding repeat presidential election were "politically inappropriate."

"In the existing political situation we deem it politically inappropriate to launch a hunger strike and to demand repeat presidential elections, as parliamentary elections - which were declared [earlier by the opposition] as run-off of the [January 5] presidential polls are expected in just two months," Davit Usupashvili , the leader of Republican Party, said at a news conference on March 9.

Number of protesters outside the Parliament on Sunday was far less than at the opposition protest rallies in previous months. The Sunday's rally dispersed in the evening, however, hunger strikes remained outside the parliament.

In their speeches to supporters the opposition leaders called for a large scale protest rally on March 11, when the Parliament plans to discuss with its second hearing a controversial proposal on electing 75 majoritarian MPs. The issue was obviously in a center of opposition leaders' speeches at the rally.

Ruling party leaders have suggested recently that the opposition calls for resumed rallies with the demand for repeat presidential election was just a pretext, while the real reason behind the renewed street protests was the opposition's drive to prevent endorsing the proposal on the rule of electing 75 majoritarian lawmakers in the new 150-member Parliament.

"New November is starting today," MP Levan Gachechiladze leader of the eight-party coalition, told several thousand supporters at the beginning of the rally, "we will not stop unless we achieve our goal and our goal is to have free and fair parliamentary elections."

He called on supporters to join the rally and said "a large-scale protest rally" was needed to make the authorities to compromise. He said that he planned a visit to Baltic States on March 10-15, but he had canceled that visit "because I have to stand here, where my people stands." "I want to apologize to ambassadors of the Baltic States [in Georgia], because they did everything to organize my visit," he said.

Gia Tortladze of the Movement for United Georgia Party, part of the eight-party coalition, focused in his address to the opposition supporters on the Parliament's recent decision on the rule of electing majoritarian MPs. He told the supporters that the Parliament planned to discuss the decision with its second hearing on March 11. "So we need especially large scale protest rally on March 11," he said.

Koba Davitashvili , the leader of Party of People, party of the eight-party coalition, said that "illegitimate President" Saakashvili's call on opposition for cooperation in the face of Russia's decision to lift sanctions from Abkhazia, was just a PR stunt.

"We condemn Russia's this outrageous move. This outrageous decision, however, was encouraged by the Georgian authorities' irresponsible policy, as it still refrains from withdrawal from the CIS and from pulling out Russian peacekeepers from Abkhazia and South Ossetia ," he said.

Davitashvili also pointed out that the Parliament's recent decision about holding majoritarian elections only in 75 constituencies without not counting five in Abkhazia was a step against the Georgian's territorial integrity. "At first annual this rule [on electing 75 majoritarian MPs]; then withdraw from CIS and raise the issue of withdrawal of the Russian peacekeepers, and then call on us to cooperate," Koba Davitashvili said.

MP Davit Gamkrelidze , the leader of the New Rights Party, told the rally: "Our party has always been in favor of a dialogue [with the authorities], but I have to admit that Saakashvili , Burjanadze and the entire government has become blind by desire to retain power. We have no other way except of peaceful protest rallies, so we join the demands put forth by the National Council [the governing body of the eight-party coalition]."

He also said that the opposition was criticized by some of its supporters for not being radical and for a failure to appropriately pressurize authorities after the fraudulent January 5 presidential elections. "But please believe me that thanks to the opposition and the National Council in particular, it was possible to prevent developments similar to those that happened in Yerevan," MP Gamkrelidze said.

" Saakashvili and Burjanadze have decided that the opposition protest has lost a momentum and they can again steal elections to remain in power. But we are saying: No, we will not let it happen. We should stand here unless we achieve holding of free and fair parliamentary elections," Gamkrelidze added.

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