- Title: GEORGIA: Opposition splinters over choice of candidate for a snap election
- Date: 13th November 2007
- Summary: (W5) TBILISI, GEORGIA (NOVEMBER 12, 2007) (REUTERS) GROUP OF OPPOSITION LEADERS WALK OUT TO MEET JOURNALISTS AFTER TALKS WITH GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVES (SOUNDBITE) (Georgian) KAKHA KUKAVA, PARLIAMENT MEMBER AND OPPOSITION LEADER FROM CONSERVATIVE PARTY, SAYING: "We think that the government still does not adequately estimate the present crises in the country. When we started the dialogue we wanted to find together the compromise, and to find together the way out of the crises. We still want to do this, we still try to overcome the crises, but unfortunately we cannot see that the government wants to do the same thing." CAMERAMAN
- Embargoed: 28th November 2007 12:00
- Location: Georgia
- Country: Georgia
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAC8K9VNHQ54HBGW4Y7FV6MSMJN
- Story Text: Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili's prospects of beating off a challenge to his leadership rose on Monday (November 12) when the opposition splintered over its choice of candidate for a snap election.
A coalition of opposition parties which forced U.S. ally Saakashvili to call the presidential election after a series of protests in the capital picked 43-year-old wine producer Levan Gachechiladze as its candidate.
But the Labour party, a key member of the coalition until now, broke ranks and said it would put forward its leader to challenge Saakashvili, while media magnate Badri Patarkatsishvili has said he too will run.
"We think that the government still does not adequately estimate the present crises in the country. When we started the dialogue we wanted to find together the compromise, and to find together the way out of the crises . We still want to do this, we still try to overcome the crises, but unfortunately we cannot see that the government wants to do the same thing," Kakha Kukava, the Parliament Member and opposition leader from the Conservative party told reporters.
Salome Zurabishvili, another leader of opposition and former foreign minister made it clear that main opposition demands are still the problem and the issues have not been solved so far.
"We discussed what are the necessary conditions to change the political environment and to make it suitable to democratic elections. The lifting of the state of emergency, media freedom, political repression should end," said Zurabishvili.
The representative of the ruling party Maia Nadiradze, was stressing the achievements of the negotiations.
"The most successful are the negotiation on the Electoral Code which was the primary and the most important demand of them (opposition) and I think that it is the most important thing. As our goal and I hope the goal of opposition is to hold democratic elections and the elections is the best form for people to express their wish and to show who they support," Nadiradze told reporters.
The coalition, which forced Saakashvili to call the election after a series of protests in the capital, put forward 43-year-old wine producer Levan Gachechiladze as its candidate, but it is obvious that the splits in the opposition camp weakened its chances of victory, as the Labour Party, one of Georgia's biggest opposition groups, is no longer in the coalition. It might field its own candidate.
Saakashvili imposed a state of emergency -- which bans independent media and meetings -- after the street protests last week. He said Russia had been manipulating the opposition to try to stir unrest. Moscow denied any involvement.
The crackdown, which included police using teargas on protesters and raiding a television station, has severely dented the image Saakashvili has cultivated as a champion of democracy since a bloodless revolution in 2003 swept him to power.
Earlier, Saakashvili visited a Tbilisi school and told teachers that Russian President Vladimir Putin had threatened to partition Georgia like the Mediterranean island Cyprus.
"Now I want to tell you that I have never told before. Last year, during the Minsk Summit, (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin told me, very specifically, that that Russia would organise a new Cyprus in (breakaway autonomous republic) Abkhasia," the president said, in remarks aired later on the state broadcaster.
Russia had harmed Georgia, "but the real partition of Georgia didn't take place and won't happen," he added.
"Yesterday and today (Russia's) Moscow Mayor (Yuri) Lizhkov said, and he usually vocalises the Russia's official policy, that Russia should recognise independence of Abkhasia," said the President.
"I want to tell everybody, that nobody should try and use pre-election period to organise provocations. Everyone should remember that whatever period is here, elections or constitutional changes, Georgia will always have a very effective and motivated government to respond to any kind of provocation," he said
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