TBILISI, DFWatch–In a speech Friday, President Mikheil Saakashvili accused the Georgian government of being ‘partly friendly towards Russia’.
He was speaking at a rally of his party, the United National Movement, in Tbilisi in order to show off popular support following a poor showing in several opinion polls and one week ahead of by-elections to fill three vacant seats in parliament, and a presidential election looming in October.
The party said the purpose of the rally was to defend the country’s pro-European course, and that its foe, the Georgian Dream coalition, which has a majority of seats in parliament and is in government, tends to compromise Saakashvili’s Western-oriented policy and befriend the Kremlin at the expense of its aspirations to join the EU and NATO.
Saakashvili, who some didn’t expect to attend the rally, addressed a crowd of about ten thousand gathered in front of the old parliament building on Rustaveli Avenue. In his speech he said the new government plans to create a puppet opposition out of the party of Nino Burjanadze, whom he dubbed as ‘’Kremlin’s Friend.“
„We heard statements that new government wants to have Nino Burjanadze in opposition, who is a friend of Putin, so that people had to chose among worse and worst; to chose between Kremlin’s friend [Burjanadze], or the partly Kremlin’s friend [Georgian Dream coalition],“ the president said.
Burjanadze was a close ally of Saakashvili during the bloodless coup in 2003 known as the Rose Revolution and remained as speaker of parliament until 2008, when she broke with the UNM and launched a new party named Democratic Movement. She was strongly criticized for her visit to Russia in March 2010, one and a half year after the disastrous war between Georgia and Russia, to meet with President Vladimir Putin.
The main topic of discussions in the wake of the rally was the number attendants, which varies from “a few thousand“, according to Georgian Dream supporters, to “tens of thousands“, as stated by the UNM during and after the rallly.
Kakha Lomaia, former chair of Georgia’s National Security Council in 2008 and later ambassador to the UN, posted on his Facebook page that “there were 30 000 participants on Rustaveli Ave.“
Koba Davitashvili, a member of parliament from Georgian Dream and a critic of Saakashvili, said that there were about 7 000 people at the rally. “I’m telling the maximum,“ Davitashvili said.
Davit Bakradze and Giorgi Vashadze, members of parliament from the UNM, said in their speeches that there were tens of thousands of people.
“Today I’m happy as I see tens of thousands of people here. I see the same people who were standing here in 2008 to defend the country’s independence,“ addressed Bakradze, former Speaker of Parliament, to people gathered on Rustaveli av.