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Opposition to picket ‘illegitimate’ parliament on Sunday

By Temur Kiguradze
Friday, June 6
The eight-party United Opposition bloc says they will not recognize the new parliament, and called on supporters to gather in the center of the capital on June 8 to picket its inaugural session.

Yesterday the Central Election Commission released its final results of the May parliamentary elections, giving the ruling National Movement 119 out of 150 seats, well beyond a constitutional majority.

The United Opposition say the results are fraudulent.

“Georgia took on an illegitimate president, Mikheil Saakashvili, after [the presidential election], and Georgia took on an illegitimate parliament after [the parliamentary election],” said leading United Opposition member Zviad Dzidziguri.

“One thing is certain—the 700 000 people who by the [government’s] count voted for the opposition will not recognize this parliament or this president.”

The United Opposition’s Davit Gamkrelidze said the Central Election Commission members who signed off on the final result would be “punished” as criminals.

At question now is how the opposition will continue its campaign to unseat the government. They have promised a series of protests to demand repeat elections.

Gamkrelidze, a leading member of the coalition, said their picket of the new parliament will start 10 p.m. on June 8 and last throughout the night to “meet those illegal lawmakers at the entrance of the parliament next morning.”

By law parliament must convene by June 10. An exact date has not been announced, but the opposition say they expect lawmakers to meet on June 9.

Amid the uncertainty, Georgian print media are brimming with rumors the session may be delayed through legal tricks or even held outside Tbilisi.

The nature of the picket is as unclear as parliament’s start date.

The opposition has toned down its rhetoric recently, promising a “corridor of shame” to taunt arriving MPs-elect as parliament convenes—a significant downshift from earlier threats to block the entrance and even storm the building.

In apparent preparation for the rally, the government has installed metal bars in the first-floor windows of the parliament building.

Speaking to the Messenger yesterday, opposition member Manana Nachkebia said the protest would be peaceful and lawful, but suggested the “corridor of shame” would “create serious obstacles for the illegally-elected MPs [trying] to enter parliament.”

The opposition alleged widespread fraud and intimidation during the parliamentary campaign and vote. International observers noted problems, but said there was an improvement over January’s presidential election.

Outside the government’s dominating share in the new parliament, the United Opposition won 17 seats and the Christian Democrats and Labor each picked up six seats. The moderate Republicans came away with just two seats.

[Following the election, the Messenger was alone in correctly reporting the number of seats each party won.]

The Christian Democrats said last night they would take their seats in parliament; the other parties, with varying degrees of certitude, say they will not.

Only Shalva Natelashvili’s Labor and the United Opposition has committed to the picket.

The Republicans spoke out against the picket this week, saying it will provide a pretext for a government crackdown.