Shevardnadze faces toughest challenge

Eduard Shevardnadze is a veteran of Georgian politics and a colourful figure who was viewed as the saviour of his country in the early 1990s.

    Flag-waving protestors storm the Georgian parliament

    Shevardnadze's popularity, however, began to slide as he started losing touch with large sections of the population. His unwillingness to deal with corruption in his own party made him few friends.

    Shevardnadze joined the Communist party in 1946 and rose through the ranks to become Georgia's Communist party leader in 1972. He served as Soviet foreign minister from 1985 until 1990, during which time many political analysts credited him with transforming the Soviet country's foreign policy.

    Georgia under Shevardnadze's presidency has been seen as a pro-western and a broadly democratic state. Shevardnadze has been credited with laying the foundations of a genuine civil society.

    He took over as the head of Georgia in 1992, when Georgia was unstable and in an economic vacuum following the break up of the former Soviet Union. He has since been elected president in 1995 and was re-elected in 2000.

    Economic

    Shevardnadze has failed to get to grips with the country's  main problems: poverty, corruption and an electricity supply crisis. Georgia is reliant on Moscow for its electricity and power cuts occur on a regular basis.

    Eduard Shevardnadze

    1928: Born in Georgia

    1972-1985: Georgian Party boss

    1985-1991: Soviet foreign minister
    1992 onwards: Georgian head of state

     

    Georgia in its heyday was regarded as the fruit basket of the former Soviet Union, but now the economy and the majority of the five million population are at rock bottom.

    Unemployment rates are high and the economic future looks bleak. The World Bank estimates that half the population of Georgia is living on the poverty line and is dependent on state hand outs.

    Demonstration

    This is not the first time that protestors have taken to the streets to voice their anger against the way the president has
    been running the country.

    In 2001 demonstrators took to the streets of Tbilisi, following irregularities relating to Shevardnadze's re-election and his inability to deal with corruption in the government.

    It remains to be seen what impact today's storming of the parliament and mass demonstrations will have on the 75-year-old's political career. 

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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