Thursday, November 8, 2007

Georgia to hold early elections

Georgia to hold early elections

Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili says a presidential election will be brought forward to January, after a week of anti-government protests.
Polls were originally scheduled for autumn next year but the opposition had demanded the date be brought forward.

Mr Saakashvili also said a state of emergency imposed on Wednesday, after riot police broke up street protests, would soon be lifted.

The UN, Nato and Russia have criticised Georgia's imposition of an emergency.

After tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons were used against thousands of protesters, Mr Saakashvili imposed a 15-day period of special measures, which included a ban on public rallies and curbs on the media.

Riot police flooded the capital Tbilisi on Thursday to enforce the decree.

Nato's chief said such moves were "not in line with Euro-Atlantic values".

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, said in a statement that she was "particularly worried over reports of disproportionate use of force".

Russia also announced the expulsion of three Georgian envoys after Mr Saakashvili accused Moscow's agents of inciting the latest opposition rallies.


In a national address on Thursday, Mr Saakashvili said the state of emergency would be lifted in the coming days "because the situation in Georgia is quickly stabilising".

He described the early elections as a vote of confidence in his presidency. He said he wanted to know he had the full support of the Georgian people in order "to cope with any external threat, to manage any pressure and to do away with an attempt to annex Georgia's territory".

The president also proposed holding a referendum, simultaneously with the presidential vote, on whether to bring parliamentary elections forward from late 2008 to the spring.

Moving the presidential election requires the approval of parliament, where Mr Saakashvili's supporters hold a majority.


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