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New Rights begin hunger strike inside parliament

By Eter Tsotniashvili
Tuesday, March 11
A group of moderate opposition MPs began a hunger strike outside the parliamentary speaker’s office yesterday, demanding that the government make the changes set out in a joint opposition memorandum in January.

“On behalf of the New Rights party, we declare a hunger strike…with the demand to satisfy the issues [put forth in the January 29] memorandum, which will be a guarantee of free and fair elections,” New Rights MP Pikria Chikhradze said. “Unfortunately, we have no other way to influence such reckless authorities.”

Six New Rights MPs, including party leader Davit Gamkrelidze, are taking part in the hunger strike. The position is an unusual one for the moderate New Rights, which have sit out previous opposition hunger strikes and only belatedly lent its backing to street protests following the January 5 presidential election.

The lawmakers turned down the offer of an appointment with Speaker of Parliament Nino Burjanadze.

“[The authorities] know perfectly well what we are demanding, and we are waiting for them to fulfill those demands. We have nothing to discuss with Burjanadze,” Chikhradze stated.

New Rights MP Manana Nachkebia says the lawmakers requested a meeting with the speaker to inform her of their plan to go on hunger strike.

“As [Burjanadze] didn’t even have five minutes to listen to us, we began [the hunger strike] and we are not going to meet her for negotiations,” she told Mze TV.

Burjanadze told journalists the New Rights are trying to “break down an open door.”

“I really can’t see any reason for the [hunger strike]. I’ve said many times that we are ready for dialogue,” she stated.

Speaking with the Messenger, Nachkebia emphasized that this is the first time the New Rights have embarked on a hunger strike.

“We were always ready to hold dialogue with the authorities and Burjanadze, but now the government’s behavior is irresponsible. [In past negotiations we] agreed on almost all issues [in the opposition’s joint memorandum], but suddenly they changed everything and forgot their promises,” she said.

Nachkebia said they want the government to meet all of the memorandum’s 17 demands, which include the resignation of the interior minister and a fully proportional representation system for parliamentary elections.

As the six New Rights MPs began their hunger strike inside parliament yesterday, other opposition leaders entered the second day of a hunger strike outside the parliament building.

The eight-party opposition coalition began hunger strikes on March 9 demanding a repeat of the January 5 presidential elections, free and fair parliamentary elections and the release of all ‘political prisoners.’