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Shevardnadze rues broken promises

By CNN's Rosemary Church

Time ran out for Shevardnadze.
Time ran out for Shevardnadze.

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Opposition leader Nino Burdzhanadze talks to CNN's Ryan Chilcote after she and fellow protesters took over parliament.
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Shevardnadze declares state of emergency.
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(CNN) -- Claims that Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze rigged the November 2 parlimentary elections were the last straw for the opposition but the seeds of discontent were sewn long beforehand.

However, corruption and declining living standards since the fall of communism have marked much of his 10 years in power.

When he replaced ousted President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Shevardnadze was expected to bring the country's 4.5 million people a better life.

Instead, according to the watchdog group Transparency International, corruption is endemic, ranking Georgia among the 10 most corrupt countries in the world.

Unemployment is estimated at close to 20 percent with more than half of the employed earning below the poverty line. Georgians blame their president for continual outages of electricity.

Renewed hope for the future came with Shevardnadze's promise of free and democratic elections in November.

But the day after the vote, hopes faded when the election commission's first figures showed Shevardnadze's party in the lead. The opposition cried fraud and the protests began -- around the clock for more than a week.

Bad news came again on November 6 when officials announced a two-week delay in releasing final results.

Shevardnadze tried to work things out with the opposition, but the talks failed and up to 20,000 protesters converged on the capital city to demand his resignation.

But on Thursday, the election commission validated the balloting keeping Shevardnadze's supporters in power.

The United States charged massive fraud while Russia agreed the election was marred, and called for the "mistakes to be corrected".

Shevardnadze acknowledged the problems, saying "about 8 percent to 10 percent of the ballots were invalid," but that it should be dealt with in the courts.

Thousands of provincial opposition supporters then started marching towards the capital. Their battle was bolstered by Georgia's security chief when he declared the elections fraudulent and demanded a new vote.

But Shevardnadze refused to step down, and convened the newly elected parliament. To many Georgians it reflected just one more broken promise.


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