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  Wednesday, November 20, 2019
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Some 12 hunger strikers protesting against the January 5 Georgian presidential
Some 12 hunger strikers protesting against the January 5 Georgian presidential elections outside the country's parliament have been hospitalized, a spokesman for the opposition said on Monday.

Up to 70 people are on hunger strike, some of them entering their ninth day, in protest at changes to election legislation which were adopted by parliament last week prior to parliamentary polls on May 11.

The changes will see an increase to the number of lawmakers elected from single-member constituencies to 75 from 50, while the rest will be elected on party lists. In addition, the parliamentary term will be extended, seats will be reduced by 85 from the current 235, and the election threshold will be lowered from 7% to 5%.

The hunger strikers have refused all government attempts to resume talks until their demands, including new presidential elections, are met.

The protesters are also demanding the resignation of Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burdzhanadze and the release of all persons detained during November opposition rallies in Tbilisi.

Georgian authorities have condemned the hunger strike but said they were still willing to resume dialogue.

About 3,000 opposition supporters held a rally in the Georgian capital on Sunday. They are calling for a rerun of the country's presidential elections, in which pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili was reelected with 53 % of the vote.

The opposition also plans to hold a mass rally on March 19 in front of the U.S. Embassy on Wednesday, when Saakashvili is due to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington. The demonstration is set to show the U.S. "the will of the Georgian people and that its fate will be determined through fair elections."

In November, Saakashvili was forced to step down after opposition protests in the capital turned violent and police brutally dispersed protesters demanding his resignation as president, a post he had occupied since early 2004, following the 2003 bloodless 'Rose' revolution that saw Eduard Shevardnadze removed from power.

A united opposition leader, Zviad Dzidziguri, said referring to calls for dialogue between the authorities and hunger strikers: "Dialogue could be conducted with the enemy, but this enemy should be worthy and know the price of its word. But these are liars who lie 20 times every five minutes."


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