Speeches & Statements

President Saakashvili addresses nation during state of emergency, proposes snap presidential election for 5 January 2008

Dear friends, I decided to address you today with an important message and the assessment of the current events.

What happened yesterday [7 November] was not our choice. I would like to stress that this was the only appropriate answer to the plot against Georgia and Georgian democracy, an attempt to undermine constitutional order. These were steps taken against democratic order in Georgia.

I want all of us to realize that it was not the incumbent authorities that we protected yesterday, but Georgia's democracy, society, and statehood.

I would like all of us to realize that this was the first case when it was not the government and the state that addressed people for protection and brought people out to a rally to shield the government, but it was the government that took all appropriate steps to ensure that people be protected from an attempt to organize unrest and undermine constitutional order.

What happened in Tbilisi yesterday, was very much like what happened in Vilnius in 1991 - a putsch organized by foreign forces there in Vilnius, what happened in Georgia at various stages, and what happened in Estonia just a few months ago.

I would like everyone to realize that lifting your hand against public order and power-wielding bodies is violence. There is only one entity that has a monopoly of using force, of course, within the framework of law, and this only entity is the state, which should avoid using force, in particular, excessive force, to the extent possible, but which is obliged to protect its own citizens and order when it is forced to do this.

I would like everyone to realize that what was happening was not isolated local unrest, but the enactment of a scenario that had been prepared for many months and years with obvious participation of foreign elements - we have all documents to prove this and we have shown some of them to the public - and I would like everyone to realize that the Georgian flag is a red-white five-cross flag and the state has protected and will protect itself with all available means from those who wave other flags and those who are trying to replace the Georgian authorities and change order in Georgia under other flags.

At the same time, I want to tell you and repeat once more that what happened yesterday and the steps that the state is taking are not being taken to protect the authorities. I would like everyone to understand that we are protecting Georgia and public order. Our posts or chairs or any privileges presented by these posts and chairs are not worth anything. We do not indeed have any other concern but protecting Georgia and order in it.

I would also like to say that, of course, these events have achieved the goal that we wanted to avert: to cast a shadow on Georgia and its progress, our international positions, and Georgia's further development and we have, of course, incurred certain damage from this viewpoint. This is precisely the damage that all of us wanted to avert most.

I would also like to say that we were pushed towards holding the [parliamentary] election in spring [2008], when this is absolutely inadmissible. There was talk about parliamentary election although parliamentary and presidential elections have been scheduled for next autumn.

This is why I have proposed and decided to hold the next presidential election in Georgia on 5 January 2008. Let us move it forward, let us hold it now without delaying it too much, because I, as this country's leader, need an unequivocal mandate to cope with all foreign threats and all kinds of pressure on Georgia, with attempts to annex Georgian territories, and with perfidious plans for the appropriation of Georgian territories, which I am absolutely sure exist, with plans that are being implemented and are aimed at destabilizing and shattering Georgia, shattering trust in Georgia, with making the Georgian people renounce freedom once and for all, and with returning us to the year 1921- to the period of Georgia's annexation and enslavement, and the demise of Georgian democracy.

This is why I, as this country's president, have decided to propose submitting my mandate for your judgment and receive from you absolutely concrete support for continuing the building process and, what is most important, being able to duly protect and strengthen this country and show the entire world that the Georgian people are united, that they want a future, and that the Georgian people will definitely have a future despite all kinds of tricks and attempts at destabilization.

On that day, I was watching various [TV] stations and heard one radical political representative talking at a rally about a biblical teaching, if what mostly happened there can be described as talk. He said: ask and you shall receive, knock and the door shall be opened. So, my dear people: did you not demand early election? And you received even earlier election. Did you knock on the door of democracy? The door of democracy is open. It is open, because, as president and citizen of this country, I guarantee that this door of democracy will never be closed in Georgia.

However, this election will be held according to our schedule, not according to our ill-wishers' schedule, which means that it will give us a head start before the Russian [presidential] election that is to be held on 7 March. It will be held precisely according to the vision which I have presented to you and which some other political entities and their representatives, unfortunately and sometimes shamefully, have failed to understand. This time too, we resort to this, because we are protecting not the government, but our country, and we are proceeding from our country's ultimate interests.

If we speak about compromises, my compromise to the opposition is that I am giving it a chance to become a genuine popular choice if they deserve this, just like in conditions of any democratic order.

Until anyone starts discussing which eccentric, authoritative or, what is more, dictatorial ruler the Georgian president resembles, I would like to remind you that I am the president of Georgia who is reducing his own first presidential term on his own free will, and I am resorting to what is unprecedented in our region and in most world countries. I really do not know a lot of precedents like this.

I am doing this in order to once again stress that months and years mean nothing when the matter concerns our most important, our most vital interest: to ensure that the world is constantly a witness to and a participant in Georgia's being a strong democratic country which has an exact vision of how its future should be firm and how there should be precise guarantees for this firm future. I want to emphasize once again that I am deciding by [means of amending] the constitution to reduce my presidential term for the second time so that the people can demonstrate their will once again and achieve victory once again. I know the value of democracy, but I also know how we should fight the enormous machine of lies which has been turned on against Georgia. Protecting democracy and protecting the truth are not only not mutually exclusive, they are absolutely component parts of one another. I do not want us to be a country where there are some kinds of restrictions on democracy, where states of emergency are declared because there is a real danger of coup d'etat and unrest, where restrictions are imposed on the mass media because the mass media issues direct calls for the overthrow of the government in a violent situation. I want us to be a people that is clenched together as a single fist, determined and full of confidence that we will achieve victory and I want to be the leader of this people. I want to be the one chosen by this people, but this is up to you to decide.

And I want to tell you that this will be the most democratic, freest and most transparent election given that we have held six free elections over the last four years that I have been Georgia's president. Right now I call on international organizations and international institutions to send as many observers as possible. In the coming few days the state of emergency in Georgia will be annulled because the situation has been stabilized very quickly thanks to the very energetic actions of our law-enforcement agencies. Our institutions are functioning anyway and all restrictions on the activities of various political groups will of course be lifted upon the cancellation of the state of emergency.

At the same time, so that no questions remain regarding the parliamentary election - the date of the presidential election is my prerogative, but as for the date of the parliamentary election, given that we believe that the election should not be held in parallel with the Russian election, I want us to hold a plebiscite in parallel with the presidential election so that the Georgian people can themselves answer the question as to when they want the president to call the [parliamentary] election: in spring or in autumn of next year. Let us not leave this for any of the noisy political groups [to decide]. You decide this, the true masters of this country, the Georgian people, Georgian society. In the course of the past months, ever since the factory of lies and disorder began operation in full swing, Georgia confronted two major challenges. These were a test of determination and endurance and a test of democracy. I want to tell you that we, as a Georgian state, withstood the test of determination excellently and achieved impressive results. The Georgian society withstood the test of determination; the Georgian political elite, which demonstrated surprising consolidation, withstood the test of determination. In the course of the past four years we have managed to preserve the parliamentary majority. We have maintained firm ties between the parliament speaker [Nino Burjanadze] and the president, have we not? This happens in very few countries. This means that strength is unity and that we are all well aware of it, both society and the absolute majority of the ruling political team. This is Georgia's uniqueness and is an unmistakable sign of its maturity, democracy and openness, as well as of our precise understanding. Now we need to completely pass the second test of democracy. And I will ensure that we pass this test. Georgia's strength is that we pass all the tests with flying colours. To the surprise of many people, we respond honourably to all the challenges and we have always emerged from all the crises, ones even worse than this, real crises. And we will always do so and emerge even stronger. Thank you very much. May god protect us!

Translated by BBC Monitoring

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of the President of Georgia

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