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Lifting of Emergency Precondition for Dialogue – Opposition
/ 9 Nov.'07 / 14:59
Civil Georgia

Opposition leaders have refused to engage in direct talks with the authorities unless emergency rule is lifted and two TV stations are allowed back on air.

“We do not see any reason to start discussions on the election code in light of the continuing political terror in the country,” Tina Khidasheli of the opposition Republican Party said on November 9.

Two pro-opposition TV stations, Imedi and Kavkasia, remain closed, while other private television stations are banned from airing news coverage. Only the Georgian Public Broadcaster is entitled to provide news. The restriction does not apply to print or on-line media sources.

Despite the opposition's refusal to engage in dialogue, a meeting -without preconditions - between opposition figures and Nino Burjanadze, the parliamentary speaker, has been arranged in the headquarters of the Georgian Orthodox Church. No concrete results are expected from it, however, as it is seen largely as a gesture of good will and a mark of respect for the patriarch.

The proposed meeting follows an earlier one between opposition leaders and Ilia II. The patriarch has been acting as a mediator between the opposition and the authorities, in an attempt to facilitate dialogue between the sides. Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili was notable in his absence from the meeting. He has been charged with espionage and conspiracy to overthrow the government and his whereabouts remain unknown. Unconfirmed reports, however, suggest he has fled the country through breakaway South Ossetia for Russia.

Ilia II held a separate meeting with Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze earlier today.

“I hope today we will be able to begin – or to be more precise – resume constrictive dialogue [with the opposition],” she told reporters after the meeting.

“Both sides have shown a willingness to defuse the tension and we are actually moving forward in this manner,” Ilia II said after meeting with both the opposition and the parliamentary speaker. “The president has done his best to defuse the tension with yesterday’s announcement [on snap elections on January 5].”

The political crisis in Georgia showed the first signs of receding on November 8 after President Saakashvili called for early presidential polls on January 5. He also pledged to lift the state of emergency “in a few days.”

The following morning riot police and troops were withdrawn from the capital's main boulevard and adjoining streets - the focal point of the November 7 unrest.

Vice-Speaker of Parliament, Mikheil Machavariani, however, said on November 9 that Parliament would probably approve the presidential decree on the state of emergency throughout the country. There had been suggestions that Parliament would not need to confirm the president's decision, following his November 8 statement.

“It seems that we will approve this decision and the state of emergency will remain in force for another 15 days,” Machavariani told the GPB.

The state of emergency was imposed at approximately 11:30 pm local time on November 7, when the president signed the decree.

If approved by Parliament, emergency rule is set to last until late on November 22.

The president, however, is entitled by law to suspend the state of emergency earlier than defined by the original decree.

November 22, the day emergency rule is due to end, is also the day President Saakashvili is legally mandated to step down.

The president must, in accordance with the constitution, resign 45 days ahead of polling day, which he himself set for January 5.

Although it is the president’s perogative to call a snap presidential election, his decision must be approved by Parliament within 72 hours after the president resigns.

The deadline for registration of presidential candidates at the Central Election Commission (CEC) expires 40 days before polling day, and so by November 27 all contenders will be known.

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