Thousands of demonstrators rallied in the ex-Soviet state of Georgia calling for President Mikhail Saakashvili to resign.
Opposition leader, and former world chess champion, Nona Gaprindashvili told protestors:
“This is the beginning of decisive fight for liberation of Georgia from Saakashvili.”
She said the protests will last for five days.
Earlier this month, Erosi Kitsmarishvili, co-founder of the opposition Georgian Party said:
“We believe that Russia has seized our territories, but by supporting Saakashvili, the U.S. administration is seizing our freedom, our sovereign right of free choice in our internal political affairs.”
“If someone wants to know what the people think, let them go and meet people… and ask them what they think about the U.S. administration’s support of the Saakashvili regime.”
“We are a sovereign state and we demand that not a single country should be interfering in our internal political affairs.”
Mikhail Saakashvili came to power in 2004 after weeks of popular protests that ousted a Soviet-era leader.
His government implemented badly needed, and mostly successful, democratic and economic reforms. However, like many other ex-Soviet nations, corruption reared its ugly head. In 2007, Saakashvili’s Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili was charged with extortion, money laundering, and abuse of office.
In November of 2007, 50,000-100,000 people staged a peaceful rally in Georgia’s capital city, Tbilisi, calling for Saakashvili’s resignation. The pro-Western Saakashvili administration deployed riot squads to crush the demonstrators.
On the 8th of August 2008, Georgia launched a large-scale military offensive against South Ossetia, in an attempt to reconquer the territory from de-facto Russian rule.
Igor Khokhlov from the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, commented on this wekend’s protests on RT.com:
“Saakashvili’s basic mistake was that he was trying to hold on to power as much as he could, using any means. He understood that he was increasingly unpopular within his own country and started to make problems for his neighbors, for instance for Russia, which was a major setback for Saakashvili that resulted in a war.”
“What Saakashvili has been doing for the last seven years is cracking down on any opposition and actually he managed to alienate not only the political parties, but most of the country’s population. When you look at the situation in the region, you have to understand that the most highly valued commodity there is stability, not even freedom. Of course, Georgians look around at their neighbors –Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, – and see those countries developing without major crises, developing relations with their neighbors. But Saakashvili has managed to alienate even most of his ex-allies both in his country and abroad.”