by Molly Corso and Elizabeth Owen 4/10/09
Hours after Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili rejected the opposition’s ultimatum to step down, opposition leaders threatened to seize systematic control of the country using civil disobedience.
Opposition leaders announced a blockade of streets in front of parliament, the presidential residence and the Georgian Public Broadcasting headquarters every day between 3 pm and 9 pm in Tbilisi.
Levan Gachechiladze, the former presidential candidate, told EurasiaNet that the opposition plans to extend these blockades throughout the capital and, eventually, to the rest of the country until Saakashvili resigns. At an afternoon briefing, National Security Council Secretary Eka Tkeshelashvili told reporters that the government "will not obstruct" protestors from closing the three roads, two of which are major thoroughfares.
"We will have to see for tomorrow how the situation develops," Tkeshalashvili said, noting that the government’s official policy is to allow people to demonstrate. "We are counting on the wisdom of our public as well." Uniformed police in the Georgian capital remain minimal, but alert.
Roughly 90 minutes into the blockade’s 6pm start on April 10, police had partly closed access to one of the blockaded roads, outside of Georgian Public Broadcasting. Yelling slogans, opposition supporters on foot and in cars were loosely grouped on the road outside the TV station, but did not extend much beyond the building.
Meeting with foreign journalists in his office, the Georgian president showed no sign of disquietude at the protests or the opposition’s demands. "I’ve been facing these ultimatums every other month for the past five years," Saakashvili said, calling the demonstrations a "normal part of the Georgian political scenery."
But while neither government nor opposition shows signs of acceding to the other side’s demands, Saakashvili and one opposition leader both are repeating calls for dialogue.
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