President Saakashvili has again urged for unity in the face of external threats and called on the opposition to stop ongoing hunger strike, calling this form of protest "not Christian." ( Civil )
"Now it is very critical and important moment for Georgia," he said on March 16. "On the one hand there is a huge battle ongoing for Georgia's NATO membership. It is really a huge geopolitical struggle around Georgia. And on the other hand you know that very critical situation is in respect of Georgia's regions [referring to Abkhazia and South Ossetia], in respect of games conducted by our neighbor [referring to Russia] around our regions [of Abkhazia and South Ossetia]. So it is important to strengthen our international position and we all should be maximally mobilized both within and outside the country."
Saakashvili was speaking with Georgian journalists in Batumi just before departure to the United States, where he plans to meet with the U.S. President George W. Bush on March 19.
I want to call on everyone, including the parliamentary majority, opposition, including the moderate and radical opposition.
"I want to tell everyone, the ruling majority, as well as the opposition, both moderates and radicals, now it is time to stand together for protection of our country. I also want to tell those people who are on hunger strike, that I am very sorry that they are resorting to a form of political struggle which is not Christian," he said. Later on the same day the opposition denounced Saakashvili's remarks about 'non-Christian methods' as "immoral."
Saakashvili also said that he planned to announce the date of upcoming parliamentary elections "in next few days." The Parliament has already amended constitution and set elections for May; but it is up to the President to decide about the exact date.
"Upcoming parliamentary elections should be held democratically and those elections should also serve to further strengthening of our international position," Saakashvili said. "We should all think about our country's further strengthening and consolidation. This is decisive moment for our history and I believe that each Georgian should understand it."
Meanwhile, up to 60 opposition activists are continuing hunger strike outside the Parliament. March 16 marked the eighth day in a hunger strike for five politicians from the eight-party opposition coalition - three of whom are MPs. Others camped outside the Parliament have been refusing food for seven and for some six days.
Six lawmakers from the New Rights Party camped just outside Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze's office inside Parliament are on their seventh day (MP Irakli Iashvili, joined his six lawmakers from the New Rights Party on March 13).
The New Rights Party has further radicalized demands on March 14 after calling for resignation of Nino Burjanadze, accusing her of not following through on commitments undertaken during the negotiation process.
Burjanadze - because the opposition had refused to negotiate with President Saakashvili, describing him as "an illegitimate president" - was the key ruling party negotiator in recent talks with the opposition. Criticism of her intensified following the introduction of constitutional amendments on electing 75 majoritarian MPs, which was strongly opposed by the opposition. Burjanadze said that attacks on her were a pre-election maneuver. It is believed that Burjanadze will lead the National Movement's party-list of MP candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections.