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Georgia marks four years since "rose revolution"

TBILISI, November 23 (RIA Novosti) - Georgia is marking the fourth anniversary of the "rose revolution" that deposed ex-Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze from presidency and brought to power the pro-Western Mikheil Saakashvili.

In 2003, massive public protests against allegedly rigged parliamentary elections in the former Soviet republic forced then-president Shevardnadze to resign.

The date also marks Giorgoba or St. George's Day, one of the most celebrated saints in the predominantly Orthodox Georgia.

Saakashvili has invited the presidents of Poland and Lithuania, Lech Kaczynski and Valdas Adamkus, to the anniversary celebrations. In the evening, a rock concert will be held in the capital, Tbilisi. The British band Smokie, popular all over the former Soviet Union, has been invited to perform for the occasion.

However, despite the pleasant memories and musical delights that the day may bring, four years after the "rose revolution" propelled him to power, Saakashvili faces many of the same problems that ultimately toppled his predecessor.

Earlier this month, six days of protests rocked this Caucasus country of five million as demonstrators demanded Saakashvili's resignation, accusing him of corruption, authoritarianism, and failed economic reforms.

Saakashvili, obviously having learnt from Shevardnadze's mistakes in dealing with mass demonstrations, subsequently sent in riot police to put down the protestors. Many were injured in clashes as police used rubber bullets and tear gas to dispel the crowd.

The Georgian president then declared a state of emergency on November 7, also shutting down an opposition-sponsored TV station.

However, under mounting pressure to lift emergency rule, the U.S.-educated leader set early presidential elections for January 5 and decided to hold a referendum on the date for new parliamentary elections. The state of emergency was lifted on November 16.

In the next few days, Saakashvili is expected to formally stand down from his post before the election campaign gets underway. The incumbent president will face at least six other candidates as he bids to hang onto power.

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