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One In Five Georgians Says President Should Resign


Georgian opposition supporters collect signatures for a petition asking for the resignation of President Mikheil Saakashvili near his office in central Tbilisi on January 4.

Georgian opposition supporters collect signatures for a petition asking for the resignation of President Mikheil Saakashvili near his office in central Tbilisi on January 4.

Some 835,000 Georgians have signed a petition launched by a local NGO to demand the resignation of President Mikheil Saakashvili. That is equal to almost 20 percent of the country's total population of 4.5 million. The organizers hope that by January 20 -- the fifth anniversary of Saakashvili's inauguration for his second term -- the number of signatories will exceed 1 million.

The NGO Unity and Human Rights began collecting signatures in support of Saakashvili's resignation in the wake of the October 1 parliamentary elections in which Saakashvili's United National Movement was defeated by the Georgian Dream (KO) coalition headed by wealthy businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili, who took the post of prime minister. By November 19, the NGO had collected "several dozen" signatures, and by the end of the month 60,000, including that of renowned film director Rezo Chkheidze. It also staged protest demonstrations in various cities to lend force to its demand.

Mikheil Andguladze, who heads Unity and Human Rights, told a press conference last month that Saakashvili's resignation was imperative given that "the political situation has reached a dead end." Andguladze pointed out that even though Saakashvili's presidential term expires in January 2013, the decision was made in line with constitutional amendments passed in 2011 to schedule the elections for his successor in October 2013. Last week, Andguladze told participants at a protest in front of the presidential residence in Tbilisi's Avlabar district that Saakashvili had violated his presidential oath and should therefore step down on January 20.

Regardless of the number of signatures Andguladze's NGO succeeds in collecting, the petition has no legal force. And according to parliament deputy speaker and Conservative Party Chairman Zviad Dzidziguri, the process of trying to impeach the president is so complicated that it could prove impossible to do so before the October election.

The Georgian Constitution makes provision for the impeachment of the president in the event that the Constitutional Court rules at the request of no fewer than one-third of parliament deputies that he has violated the constitution, or the Supreme Court rules that he is guilty of treason or some other serious crime.

Moreover, Ivanishvili told the Austrian daily "Die Presse" in November that he did not want impeachment proceedings begun against Saakashvili, as doing so would look like "political revenge."

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.

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