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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 November, 2003, 17:44 GMT
Georgia 'revolution' inspires neighbours
By Ivan Khokhotva
BBC Monitoring

As Georgia celebrates the ousting of president Eduard Shevardnadze, opposition parties in neighbouring countries with deeply-entrenched ruling elites are looking to Tbilisi as a possible model of political change.

Flag over Georgian crowd
Georgians are proud that their 'revolution' was peaceful

Many opposition leaders say the veteran Georgian leader's downfall, triggered by massive street protests over alleged vote-rigging, could provide an object lesson for the authorities in their own countries.

In a region plagued by election fraud, there is now a precedent of a government coming badly unstuck after resorting to dirty tricks, and of a peaceful protest campaign achieving its ends.

In Azerbaijan, which is still reeling from the violent aftermath of a presidential election condemned by observers as deeply flawed, the opposition People's Front has celebrated a "victory for democracy" in Georgia.

Former presidential candidate Isa Qambar, who says the Azeri government has robbed him of his victory, described the outcome of Georgia's opposition protests as a "breakthrough in conducting democratic elections in the region".

Psychological impact

In neighbouring Armenia, which has had its fair share of election scandals, the opposition Justice bloc welcomed "a victory for the Georgian people".

We express solidarity with Georgia's democratic forces and wish them courage and perseverance in defending their rights
Free Belarus opposition alliance

"The latest events in Georgia will have a psychological impact on Armenia, and the authorities headed by the illegitimate president must draw conclusions," the bloc's leader Stepan Demirchyan said.

The sentiment is echoed in Belarus, where the beleaguered opposition threatened to resort to the "Georgian scenario" unless President Alexander Lukashenko, shunned by the West after disbanding parliament in 1996, changes his ways.

"We express solidarity with Georgia's democratic forces and wish them courage and perseverance in defending their rights," the Free Belarus opposition alliance said in an address to their Georgian counterparts.

"Your determination and adherence to the principles of democracy sets the pattern for Belarusian democratic forces."

Inspiration

In Moldova, the opposition press seized on the Georgian events as a hopeful sign of change in the region.

The Georgian leader's forced resignation should serve as a warning for Moldova's Communist President Vladimir Voronin, according to the newspaper Flux.

The same scenario is possible in Ukraine if the authorities provoke things like the Georgian ones did
Oleksandr Moroz - Ukrainian Socialist leader

In most Central Asian republics reaction to the Georgian "velvet revolution" in the media has been confined to bland statements by government officials.

But in Kyrgyzstan, a prominent politician and human rights activist, Topchubek Turgunaliev, said the Georgian opposition's victory was "an inspiration for Kyrgyzstan's democrats".

Fellow opposition politician Emil Aliev spoke of the "political maturity" of the Georgian people and praised President Shevardnadze's decision to step down voluntarily to avoid bloodshed.

Georgian lesson

And in Ukraine, where international observers say elections routinely fall short of democratic standards, the opposition urged the government to heed the "Georgian lesson".

The Georgian scenario was possible in Ukraine "if the authorities provoke things like the Georgian ones did," Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz said.

"The events in Georgia have proven that if the authorities ignore the constitution, the laws and a democratic voting procedure, the situation deteriorates," said Viktor Yushchenko, a frontrunner in next year's presidential election race.

His campaign has already been marred by dubious government tactics and a virtual media blockade.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.





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