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Georgia's president stepped down on Saturday as he braced himself
Georgia's president stepped down on Saturday as he braced himself for early elections expected to take place January 5 following mass street protests earlier this month.

"From tomorrow [November 25], I am beginning an election campaign. During 40 days, Parliament Speaker Nino Burdzhanadze will be acting president," Mikheil Saakashvili told a government session.

On November 23, Georgia marked the fourth anniversary of the "rose revolution" that deposed former president and ex-Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze and brought the U.S.-educated Saakashvili to power.

Political opponents claim that Saakashvili has since then become too authoritarian, and the opposition has said it wants to change the political setup to shift power away from the president, giving parliament a stronger role.

Although now less popular both at home and abroad, with Western countries criticizing his handling of the political crisis, Saakashvili is believed to have a strong chance of securing reelection.

A total of eight people have announced plans to run on January 5, including the opposition's single candidate, former businessman Levan Gachechiladze, and billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili, who was at the center of recent unrest which saw hundreds injured in clashes between protesters and police, and emergency rule briefly imposed.


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