Georgia leader quits in velvet coup


Artykuł pochodzi z pisma "Guardian"

Shevardnadze forced out in tense standoff

Nick Paton Walsh in Tbilisi
Monday November 24, 2003
The Guardian

Eduard Shevardnadze last night ended his 30-year domination of Georgia, stepping down as president after weeks of street protests, in what his opponents hailed as a velvet revolution.
The former Soviet foreign minister, lauded by the west for his role in ending the cold war but hated at home for a presidency that turned authoritarian and corrupt, looked exhausted after a weekend in which allies deserted him and opponents stormed parliament, driving him out.
"I have quit. I see that this [the political crisis] could not have ended bloodlessly and I would have had to exercise my power. I have never betrayed my people, and therefore I believe that, as president, I must resign," he said.
The 75-year-old, known as the grey fox for his wily political manoeuvring, was thought last night to be holed up in his Tbilisi residence as protesters celebrated his resignation. Some opponents expected him to leave the former Soviet republic altogether, with Germany a possible refuge.
"I am well accustomed to resignations," said Mr Shevardnadze, a former Soviet foreign minister who quit that post in 1990. "I have a lot to do and have enough to write about already. I feel happy to have the chance to do something as long as I live."
The opposition leader, Mikhail Saakashvili, said the speaker of the outgoing parliament, Nino Burdzhanadze, would take over as acting president. The constitution provides for her to remain president for 45 days pending elections.
"Now it is important that Shevardnadze and the police of Georgia and the armed forces, as well as the acting president, preserve stability and calm in the country," said Mr Saakashvili. He urged protesters to remove their barricades in Tbilisi.
Mr Shevardnadze's resignation ended a tense standoff that had threatened to turn violent on several occasions but that rarely lost a unifying sense of Georgians rising up to reclaim their poverty-stricken land.
After an intense meeting between Mr Shevardnadze, opposition leaders and the Russian foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, at Mr Shevardnadze's residence, a middle-aged soldier, Tamaz Gubashvili emerged to say: "He's gone." Protesters grabbed him and threw him in the air, cheering.
Mr Shevardnadze's resignation was confirmed 40 minutes later when Mr Saakashvili emerged to an ecstatic crowd.
"He said that he had thought about resigning before and did not want bloodshed. We asked him to resign, and he said yes," he said, adding that the ousted leader would stay in Georgia for now.
Mr Saakashvili later called Mr Shevardnadze "courageous" and called on Georgia to provide the former president with security guarantees.
Zurab Zhvania, another opposition leader, said Mr Shevardnadze had wanted to resign earlier but had been convinced by his inner circle who had "been urging him to hold on to power by violent means".
The United States and European Union reacted cautiously to the developments, urging Georgia's new leaders to maintain stability. The US secretary of state, Colin Powell, telephoned Ms Burdzhanadze "to offer our support", the state department said.
Tbilisi was alive late last night with street parties, cheering and fireworks, and cars full of Saakashvili supporters racing through the streets chanting "Misha, Misha" and "Free Georgia".
Widespread fraud in parliamentary elections three weeks ago sparked mass protests that ultimately led to Mr Shevardnadze's downfall.
Tension grew during the week, as the president repeatedly warned of civil war and his officials threatened to crack down on protesters. But Mr Shevardnadze was dealt a severe blow by his security chief, Tedo Dzhaparidze, who conceded the elections were fraudulent, in the first sign that the president's inner circle was fracturing.
On Saturday Mr Shevardnadze tried to convene parliament, but dozens of opposition activists burst into the room, fighting off security guards. The president was ushered out by his security and later declared that an "armed coup attempt" had taken place.
Yesterday the square before parliament filled with an estimated 30,000 protesters, deserting troops mingling with pensioners, students and MPs. Television carried repeated reports of national guard units, police, interior troops and presidential security deserting the president.
As dusk fell, Mr Saakashvili appeared before the crowd and said that if Mr Shevardnadze did not come and speak to them by 7pm, they would go to him at his residence.
An appeal from Mr Ivanov set the deadline back an hour. At 8pm news came of the resignation. Waiting at the gates with her two daughters, Maga Podskhvelia, 38, said: "Today we can have stability in Georgia because Shevardnadze has gone."
Mr Shevardnadze's old comrade in cold war arms, Mikhail Gorbachev, said: "Eduard is not a coward and probably understood [he had] to make this step so that Georgia did not break up. I think he was right."

bloodshed – przelew krwi
to cheer – wiwatować
coward – tchórz
coup – zamach stanu
to desert – opuszczać
to emerge – pojawiać się
fraudulent – oszukańczy
to fracture – uszkadzać
lauded – chwalony
hailed – okrzyknięty
to manoeuvre – manewrować
mingle – mieszać się
ousted – usunięty
pending – do czasu
poverty-stricken – dotknięty biedą
to reclaim - rekultywować
rising up – powstanie
spark – iskra
standoff – sytuacja patowa
to step down – zrezygnować, ustąpić
to urge – zalecać
ushered out – wyprowadzony
velvet – aksamit(ny)
wily – przebiegły, chytry


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