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Tens Of Thousands March Against Government In Georgia

  • RFE/RL

Protesters carrying Georgian flags packed the central Freedom Square on March 21 before marching toward the seat of government.

Protesters carrying Georgian flags packed the central Freedom Square on March 21 before marching toward the seat of government.

Tens of thousands of people have rallied in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, demanding the government step down.

Protesters carrying Georgian flags packed the central Freedom Square on March 21 before marching toward the seat of government.

The demonstration was called by former President Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement (UNM).

Addressing the rally by video link, Saakashvili said, "We are united by our shared task to liberate Georgia from the government which destroys our country."

"We will get Georgia back on a right track,” he added. “We will win."

UNM lawmaker Giorgi Gabashvili said similar rallies will be held across Georgia in the coming days.

Gabashvili said the party will “start permanent rallies if needed.”

The UNM accuses the ruling Georgian Dream coalition government of mishandling the country's economy.

The fall of nearly 30 percent in Georgia's lari currency over the past year, rising inflation, and unemployment have hurt many Georgians.

The government is also accused of using the justice system to prosecute former officials.

Scores of former top Saakashvili officials have been arrested over the last two years for alleged wrongdoing.

Wanted by Tbilisi on fraud, organization of an assault, and abuse of office charges, Saakashvili lives in a self-imposed exile and has served as an adviser to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko since February.

He says the charges against him are politically motivated.

Billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili led the Georgian Dream coalition to victory over the long-dominant UNM in a 2012 parliamentary election and served as prime minister for a year before ceding the post to an ally, Irakli Garibashvili.

Ivanishvili is widely believed to continue to wield powerful influence from behind the scenes.

Based on reporting by AFP, Reuters, and civil.ge
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