Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Tbilisi Awaits Scheduled Showdown
The Georgian capital is in a state of nervous tension, waiting and wondering what will happen tomorrow - April 9 - the day upon which the furious and embittered opposition has declared it will start the process of ousting President Mikheil Saakashvili through sheer force of numbers on the streets. Opposition supporters will start rallying outside parliament at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and their leaders say they won't leave until Saakashvili is gone too - however long it takes.
But today, the government has been insisting that there will be no attempt to stop them rallying, unless they cause violence. However many people take to the streets, wherever they rally and however long they stay there, they will not be dispersed by force, insisted deputy interior minister Eka Zguladze. The authorities have given "a clear order" to each and every policeman to show restraint, Zguladze said.
"We see ourselves as a European democracy, and we are going to behave like one," she declared. All police officers in Tbilisi are on alert, and 3,000 police including riot squads have been mobilised "in case there is a need to intervene", according to the deputy minister - although she said that wasn't likely to happen.
Georgian prime minister Nika Gilauri stressed at a separate press conference today that any political violence would damage the whole country, not just the government. "The only thing that will be brought by unrest is loss of confidence, loss of economic growth and loss of jobs," he said.
However, the opposition appears to have no intention of backing down; at least, not yet.