Irakli Alasania, leader of Our Georgia-Free Democrats (OGFD) party, an ally of billionaire opposition politician Bidzina Ivanishvili, said he was expecting President Saakashvili would be told when he meets President Obama at the White House on January 30, that he should "emulate example of George Washington... instead of emulating Vladimir Putin" who stayed in power by becoming Prime Minister.
"This is very important meeting," Alasania said in a talk-show at Tbilisi-based Maestro TV on Monday evening, adding that the White House statement on upcoming Obama-Saakashvili meeting showed parliamentary elections in Georgia would be one of the key issues planned to be discussed at the upcoming talks.
"The international community, including Americans are telling Saakashvili unambiguously: 'We support the Georgian democracy, building of democratic institutions and not individual [politicians] - either Alasania, Saakashvili or Ivanishvili'. Next parliamentary elections are of crucial importance in this regard [building of democratic institutions] and if the process goes towards polarization and towards the street [protest rallies] because of Saakashvili's steps the international community will take relevant steps," Alasania said.
He said that international community was setting high bar for Georgia's upcoming parliamentary elections in terms of standards and there were signs that these elections would be "fairer and would be held in more competitive environment."
Alasania, however, also said that the authorities were still trying to intimidate voters, especially in the regions, by using "dirty methods"; he said his party's activist was arrested recently under the fabricated charges of illegally keeping arms.
OGFD activist in Lanchkhuti, western Georgia, was arrested on January 14 and released on bail on the same day. Four teachers from a school in Chorvila village of Sachkhere district, said on January 18, that they had been sacked because of supporting Ivanishvili, including through signing a petition for restoration of Georgian citizenship for Ivanishvili. Chorvila is Ivanishvili's native village. The Report of the Week, a program on Maestro TV, reported on Sunday, that about dozen of local residents, including a 17-year-old boy, were beaten and verbally insulted allegedly by the Interior Ministry employees when they started chanting pro-Ivanishvili slogans at a New Year's outdoor concert in Sachkhere.
Alasania said, that setting up of an effective inter-agency task force to address election-related violations would be important for reacting to and preventing of intimidation of voters and opposition activists. New election code, which went into effect this month, envisages setting up of such inter-agency task force at the National Security Council. According to the election code, such group has to be established by July 1, 2012.
Alasania also said that from the very first day of Ivanishvili's announcement about going into politics, the authorities had been trying "to push us into the street". "But it is our goal to get to the elections and not to allow the authorities to derail us" from this path, he added.
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