Georgian opposition demands Saakashvili resign
Georgia's opposition, in a rare show of unity, issued a joint declaration.
Georgia's opposition, in a rare show of unity, issued a joint declaration on Thursday accusing President Mikheil Saakashvili of leading the country to "catastrophe" and demanding his resignation.
Saakashvili's opponents are trying to build on the political fallout from his military defeat to Russia in last year's war, but analysts say they lack clear direction or strong leadership.
The leaders of around a dozen opposition parties put their signatures to a declaration calling on Saakashvili to quit and hold free and fair elections for president and parliament.
"Mikheil Saakashvili and his team, in their five years in power, have led the country to catastrophe," it read.
"It is the patriotic duty of every Georgian citizen to do their best in the shortest period possible to change this government by all constitutional means."
Presidential and parliamentary elections in the former Soviet republic are due in 2013. Saakashvili has ruled out early polls, brushing off opposition accusations he walked into a war Georgia could not possibly win.
Russia and Georgia fought a five-day conflict in August when Russian troops repelled a Georgian assault on the breakaway pro-Russian region of South Ossetia, which had thrown off Tbilisi's rule in the early 1990s.
Russia recognised South Ossetia and Georgia's second breakaway region of Abkhazia as independent states. Russia has thousands of troops stationed in both regions.
Around 20,000 Georgian villagers remain displaced. Some are afraid to return to South Ossetia, others have no home to go to after they were razed by militias.
Economic growth slowed dramatically after the war just as the global financial crisis was about to take hold.
Saakashvili says he acted to defend Georgian villages in South Ossetia from separatist and Russian aggression. Opponents say he walked into a trap.
The conflict renewed criticism of Saakashvili's record on democracy since coming to power on the back of the peaceful "Rose Revolution" of 2003.
Critics accuse him of stifling the media and concentrating power on his handpicked inner circle.
"We are united in one goal -- salvation of our country, and salvation is possible only if President Saakashvili resigns and calls snap elections," said Salome Zurabishvili, leader of Georgia's Way.
Saakashvili has promised greater freedom for the media and to cede some powers from the presidency, but analysts say he will have to follow through with both political and economic reforms if he is to ride out the downturn without social unrest.
Reuters Last Mod: 30 Ocak 2009, 13:03