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The Rose Revolution

Election poster featuring Michael Saakashvili 2003. Photo: Peter Nasmyth
Election poster featuring Michael Saakashvili 2003. Photo: © Jonathan Wheatley

Election day came and the western-trained Georgian civil society had arranged for two independent vote counts alongside the official electoral committee. They showed that Saakashvili was in the lead. The electoral committee didn't come up with the first official results until 4 days later and they were obviously manipulated.

The powder keg had received the spark it needed. The announcement was so blatantly rotten the smell rapidly spread across all Georgia, strongly promoted by the media.

[p. 302]

The election fraud united the opposition even more and now not only the young radicals but also the middle class supported the young firebrand Saakashvili. His calls for Shevardnaze's resignation grew louder. Mass demonstrations were held in front of the government building and the demonstrators were passing roses to the like the police: The Rose Revolution began.

Saakashvili toured the country "collecting numbers for a huge march on the capital to coincide with the final election results." The stage was set for the final act, but how would the police and the military react, or would they side with the opposition?

The final official election results announced that Shevardnaze had won. With this 100,000 people from all over Georgia converged on Tbilisi to gather in front of the parliament as Shevardnaze was about to give his opening speech.

As the huge crowd surged forward the police spontaneously withdrew their cordon and Saakashvili entered parliament by the rear door just as Shevardnaze began his speech opening the parliament. It would be his last as president… Thus for the third time in fifteen years the Georgian people had removed their own government, not by the ballot box, but by popular street protest… And Saakashvili? The 36-year-old former lawyer stood basking in the international spotlight; Prince Charming in a miraculous political fairy tale.

[p. 307]

With some irony Nasmyth quoted a friend, who after the demonstrations suddenly made the comment:

We were all standing there in Freedom Square shouting "Misha, Misha, Misha," and 'shevardnaze out!" Then one of us suddenly turned and said, 'do you think that in eight years we"ll be back here again shouting "Misha out!"?

[p. 308]

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