|Opposition Discards Saakashvili's Truce Offer|
|July 21, 2009|
Despite the offer of an olive branch from Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgian opposition leaders say that they will continue with a mass rally during US Vice President Joe Biden's July 22 visit to Tbilisi.
In a July 20 speech to parliament, Saakashvili proposed early direct elections for Tbilisi's mayor, a new Central Election Commission, National Security Council meetings with party representation, and joint opposition-government trips to Georgia's economically sidelined regions.
A revamped Georgian Public Broadcasting board of directors with equal government and opposition representation and a board of advisors was also proposed. Opposition parliamentarians countered that the speech contained nothing new. Opposition leaders who do not hold seats in parliament -- the bulk of the country's opposition movement -- echoed that point of view.
"These political sops are not going to help the political crisis. Saakashvili needs to resign," Eka Beselia, a leader of the Movement for United Georgia, told Rustavi-2 television on July 21. Conservative Party leader Zviad Dzidziguri claimed that the offers were "a PR prop that was pulled out specifically for US Vice President Joe Biden's visit." In his speech, Saakashvili also told his opponents that it is time to move on from "old methods" of political fighting.
The "only way" to respond to the Russian troop presence in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is by "deepening democracy," he said. "Power transition will take place through elections and not through coups, weapons, foreign money and cages," Saakashvili said. "Cages" is a reference to the prison-cell-shaped tents pitched by opposition groups on Tbilisi's central Rustaveli Avenue to protest Saakashvili's policies.
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