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The Week in Brief

Friday, January 18
Tens of thousands of opposition supporters rallied in central Tbilisi to protest the reelection of Mikheil Saakashvili in what they say was a rigged vote. A partisan Central Election Commission approved the final results of the January 5 presidential election by a vote of seven to six, giving Saakashvili an outright majority victory with 53.47 percent. Opposition leaders refuse to recognize Saakashvili as a legitimate president, and are promising a continuing campaign of protest.

The state-owned public television broadcaster is having its management overhauled to include political representation, the first significant compromise to come out of negotiations between the government and the opposition since the January 5 presidential election.

But the clock looks set to run out on those negotiations, held between the nine-party opposition coalition and acting president Nino Burjanadze. Opposition leaders downplayed the dialogue as “just talks,” and say they will not negotiate with Saakashvili after he takes office. The president-elect says he is ready to talk, and the ruling party has offered government posts to opposition leaders.

Authorities declared tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili a fugitive after a Tbilisi court sentenced him, in absentia, to pre-trial detention. Patarkatsishvili, who has been out of the country since the anti-government protests in November, is charged with conspiring to overthrow the state.

Acting president Nino Burjanadze pardoned jailed opposition leader Irakli Batiashvili, who supporters say was a political prisoner. He was facing a seven year sentence for lending “intellectual support” to a rebel warlord in a 2006 armed insurrection; the pardon was part of a broader amnesty program which released hundreds over the holidays.

Ex-defense minister Irakli Okruashvili claims, through his lawyer, to be on hunger strike in his Paris jail cell to protest the “falsification” of the presidential election. Okruashvili is in French custody awaiting a decision on extradition to Georgia, where the would-be opposition leader faces corruption charges.

Prominent Imedi TV journalist Giorgi Targamadze left his network to form a new political party. Once a leader of Adjaran dictator Aslan Abashidze’s Revival party, the erstwhile journalist joined an opposition protest outside the public broadcaster a day after announcing his plans. Targamadze says his party will hew to a “Christian Democratic ideology,” but saw no need to offer policy details.