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Georgian deputies to set date for fresh election
( 2003-11-25 13:37) (Agencies)

Georgian deputies were to meet on Tuesday to set a date for an early presidential election after the ouster of veteran head of state Eduard Shevardnadze in a "people power" revolution.

Acting President Nino Burdzhanadze called a special session of the outgoing assembly to set an election date, which under the constitution must be held within 45 days of Shevardnadze's resignation on Sunday.

Burdzhanadze declared invalid the November 2 parliamentary polls which the opposition charged were rigging by Shevardnadze supporters. International monitors also said the polls were seriously flawed.

Nino Burdzhanadze, speaker of the outgoing parliament who will act as a head of state until new polls, speaks during the Security Council meeting in Tbilisi, Nov.24, 2003.   [Reuters]
The allegations triggered three weeks of mass street protests that brought down the curtain on Shevardnadze's 11-year rule, a period marked by rising poverty, chronic corruption and separatist rebellions.

Fresh parliamentary polls could be called for the same day as the presidential election.

Burdzhanadze, a 39-year-old lawyer, on Monday asserted her authority as Georgia's acting leader by summoning military, state security and police chiefs for a briefing on the security situation in the volatile Caucasus state.

Boosted by an expression of support from the United States, she also called on a senior economics minister to quit and late on Monday Shevardnadze loyalist Koba Narchemashvili said he was resigning as interior minister at the request of the new leaders.


Burdzhanadze's fellow opposition leader Mikhail Saakashvili, who led the mass protests which forced the former president to resign, signaled anxiety over security in a country riven by separatist strife.

"The campaign of civil disobedience is over," he declared at a news conference, adding: "Order must be restored in the country and I want police to stop any movements of armed people or groups."

Saakashvili, a U.S.-educated lawyer tipped as a probable candidate to replace Shevardnadze, hinted that he would stand for the presidency but urged his National Movement party against taking to the streets until fresh elections were held.

Despite the explosion of popular joy on the streets of Tbilisi at the change of leadership, the country's new rulers were under no illusions about the size of the task facing them.

Burdzhanadze said Georgia faced a "budgetary catastrophe" and urged foreign envoys to help her impoverished country tackle its economic woes.

A senior economic adviser close to the interim president said as a first step Tbilisi would ask the United States for $5 million to fund fresh elections.

A tired looking Shevardnadze told Reuters in an interview he had preferred to resign rather than use force to attempt to disperse the tens of thousands demonstrating against his rule.

Once the darling of the West for his role in ending the Cold War while Soviet foreign minister, Shevardnadze said he understood it was time to go when his son called him from Paris to advise him to step down.

"Yesterday (Sunday), instead of resigning I could have ordered my defense minister and interior minister to use force and disperse the demonstrations, but that would not have been true to myself," he said.

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