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Georgian Patriarch Calls For Unity, Pre-Term Elections

Georgian Patriarch Ilia II

Georgian Patriarch Ilia II

Georgian Patriarch Ilia II, who on May 26 appealed to the Georgian opposition to reconsider their demand for President Mikheil Saakashvili's resignation, issued a written statement on May 28 calling on the Georgian authorities to undertake "real steps" to defuse tensions.

He said in light of the "explosive" situation, it is imperative that the authorities should either schedule pre-term elections or embark on a dialogue with the opposition.

But majority parliamentarian Givi Targamadze responded on May 28 by reaffirming that the authorities are willing only to hold pre-term local elections in the spring of 2010, rather than in the fall of that year.

He argued that it is imperative to create a "reliable environment" for elections which, he continued, will be possible only as a result of "very intensive dialogue" between the two hostile camps.

A second majority parliamentarian, Giorgi Gabashvili, similarly said that the authorities do not rule out discussing with the radical opposition the possibility of pre-term elections, but such discussions are contingent on the "cessation of radical confrontation and rallies," Caucasus Press reported.

Meanwhile, several hundred opposition supporters picketed the Tbilisi mayor's office for two hours on May 28 to demonstrate their annoyance with city Mayor Gigi Ugulava.

Some opposition supporters believe Ugulava pressured the patriarch to call on them to drop their demand that Saakashvili step down, while others are convinced that powerful Interior Ministry Vano Merabishvili dictated the text of Ilia's May 26 sermon, according to the daily "Rezonansi" on May 28.

A third majority parliamentarian, Petre Tsiskarishvili, vehemently denied that the patriarch was subjected to pressure. "He is not a person to be pressured. He is our spiritual leader and said what he thought it was right to say," Tsiskarishvili affirmed.

Tsiskarishvili also declared that the Georgian authorities would not use force against the protesters. But late on the evening of May 28 there was a violent clash outside the parliament building between police and opposition supporters in which five police officers and 10 protesters were injured.

Each side blames the other for the violence, the first since up to 60 people were injured in a clash on May 6 between police and protesters outside the main police headquarters in Tbilisi.

Police have detained two persons in connection with the incident and are searching for three more suspects.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.