|Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in downtown Tbilisi in unusually for the capital frosty weather on January 13. Photo: InterPressNews|
Thousands of protesters dispersed peacefully on January 13, but vowed to resume rallies to challenge official election results giving Mikheil Saakashvili an outright victory in the first round.
The protest rally, held on Rose Square (formerly Republic Square), was led by the nine-party opposition coalition, backing Levan Gachechiladze’s presidential bid. Before wrapping up the rally, demonstrators marched on Rustaveli Avenue towards the Freedom Square. Opposition leaders said protests would resume on January 15.
The opposition coalition’s anger over official election results giving victory to Mikheil Saakashvili, was also echoed across the other opposition parties.
Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of New Rights Party, who also ran for the presidency, told protesters that Saakashvili would be illegitimate president and the run-off was needed. Politicians from the Labor Party were also at the rally, although the party leader Shalva Natelashvili, who also ran in the elections, was not present. Giorgi Maisashvili, who was an underdog presidential candidate, was also there.
“We demand the second round of elections; we want criminal charges to be brought against CEC chairman, Levan Tarkhnishvili; we want courts to serve interests of people and we want the Georgian Public Broadcaster to be returned to the people,” Levan Gachechiladze, a presidential candidate, who according to official results came second in polls after Mikheil Saakashvili, told protesters. He also called on the international community not to recognize election results. “Do not make the Georgian people to hate you because of your support to Saakashvili,” Gachechiladze said.
MP Gia Tortladze of the Movement for United Georgia, part of the coalition, presented Levan Gachechiladze at the protest rally as “de facto new president of Georgia.”
Gachechiladze told supporters that the protest rallies would continue, including outside the court buildings and the Georgian Public Broadcaster, accusing the latter of not giving sufficient airtime to the opposition leaders. The next protest rally is planned for January 15 outside the Georgian Public Broadcaster.
“Saakashvili will never be able to become legitimate president of this country,” MP Kakha Kukava of the Conservative Party told protesters. “We will defend our votes and will not let him to be inaugurated as the president. We will fight to the end.”
Saakashvili’s inauguration, according to governmental officials, will be held either on January 20 or January 21.