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Standoff on Rustaveli

By M. Alkhazashvili
Monday, January 14
Opposition presidential candidates took around a quarter of a million votes in Tbilisi alone, and at least ten thousands of the voters braved cold and ice to protest what they are deeply convinced was a rigged election.

Unsurprisingly, far from defusing the political crisis of November, the snap presidential election has become another grievance for a significant minority of voters.

The government is at a loss; the opposition supporters who rallied yesterday, and many more who didn’t, are utterly sure that this election—like most in Georgian history—was fraudulent.

And their suspicions are not entirely ungrounded: the ruling party did everything it could get away with before the election, from intimidation to vote-buying. Georgians are now asked to believe that the ruling party’s commitment to democracy suddenly firmed up on Election Day.

Many don’t believe that, and nothing can convince them otherwise. That means the government is now faced with the unenviable task of assuring bitterly frustrated voters they can bring about change in ways other than street rallies. The president-elect’s overtures of greater inclusiveness in his cabinet is one good step, but it will take many more offers of compromise (or a dramatic turn for the worse in the weather) to clear the streets of aggrieved protestors.