- PM condemns planned rally as an attempt by “destructive forces” to “hamper” development.
Commenting on a protest rally planned in Tbilisi center for late Saturday afternoon by opposition United National Movement (UNM) party to demand government’s resignation, Georgia’s ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili said that struggle is moving into “a decisive phase.”
“I am sure that today’s rally will be held peacefully; our society will express its firm position in its usual civilized and honorable way with full compliance of the law,” Saakashvili, who formally remains chairman of UNM party, wrote on his Facebook page. “One thing is clear – we are moving into a decisive phase of struggle.”
UNM, which has been campaigning actively in the lead up of the rally, including in the regions and also through TV ads, was initially planning to hold the main demonstration outside the Parliament building, but said on Friday that it decided to change the venue to Freedom Square, few hundred meters from the Parliament building, citing that it expects turnout at the rally to be larger than initially thought.
In his separate remarks Saakashvili said that it would not be just UNM’s rally. “I think everyone in Georgia understands, regardless of party affiliation, that our country is not on the right track,” Saakashvili told journalists in Brussels where he attended EPP summit on March 19.
“This [rally] is much broader than just about party interests. These are not election [campaign] rallies; this is much broader struggle for saving of the country and for getting the country back on the right track,” Saakashvili said.
Commenting on UNM’s planned rally, ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili told journalists on March 20: “What does this government harm you? Why should it resign?” He also said that unlike the previous government, the current one provides its opponents with the right to demonstrate and express their views, including “their lies”, freely.
Traffic on Freedom Square, Rose Revolution Square and Rustaveli Avenue, as well as on the streets adjacent to this latter will be closed on Saturday, according to the Interior Ministry, whose officials met with senior UNM representatives on March 19 over the planned rally.
PM Irakli Garibashvili condemned UNM’s planned rally and said that it was an attempt by “destructive forces” to “hamper” Georgia’s development. He made the remarks on March 21 in a speech in Marneuli, where he congratulated locals on Nowruz festivities.
“Today several thousand people are gathering in Tbilisi by force and money; they cry for past; they cry for evil; cry for non-development. We have gathered today to celebrate love, to prove respect and love to each other, to think about tomorrow, about future. This is Georgia of future rather than the one when some destructive forces try to artificially hamper the development of our country,” Garibashvili said.
“But we will not allow any force to hamper the development of country in any form. We believe in better future, we believe in strong Georgia and strong region,” the PM added.