Call for Saakashvili to resign rejected


ALLIES OF Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili have rejected calls for him to resign and have urged the opposition not to stoke tension following their surprise election victory.

The recently-founded Georgian Dream coalition led by Bidzina Ivanishvili, the country’s richest businessman, beat Mr Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM) in Monday’s parliamentary election, and the tycoon afterwards called on the president to step down.

Mr Saakashvili’s unexpected concession of defeat on behalf of the UNM drew praise from the EU and the US, but analysts warn that the transfer of power could still prove tense and troublesome in a state deeply polarised by a poisonous election campaign.

“I want to remind to Mr Ivanishvili and everyone that the presidential elections are planned for 2013,” said national security council secretary Giga Bokeria.

“What we are seeing is behaviour – I hope simply because of euphoria – as if a revolution is taking place instead of victory in democratic elections . . . If they plan to carry out some experiments and threaten the constitutional system, it is a very dangerous game,” he added.

The UNM’s outgoing chairman of parliament, David Bakradze, said he hoped Mr Ivanishvili’s comments would not lead to “crisis and confrontation”.

“Speaking about snap presidential polls shows disrespect to the Georgian people and violates the constitution,” he said.

Mr Ivanishvili toned down his rhetoric yesterday and said his earlier call for Mr Saakashvili’s resignation “was not a political demand”.

“In this connection, I reiterate that we do not raise any political ultimatums and, for the wellbeing of the country, we are ready for dialogue and the settlement of state issues with the Georgian president and other representatives of the present government in a working atmosphere.”

Mr Ivanishvili has appointed a team of senior Georgian Dream officials to conduct talks on the transition of power. Mr Saakashvili will be expected to nominate Mr Ivanishvili as prime minister, once he has reclaimed the Georgian citizenship that was stripped from him last year because he also holds a French passport.

When Mr Saakashvili steps down, the constitution will change and many of the president’s current powers will pass to the prime minister.