Antagonism evident as Georgia's parliament holds first post-election meeting
Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili addresses a newly elected parliament during it's first session in Kutaisi, some 250 km west of Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012. (AP / Shakh Aivazov)
Published Sunday, October 21, 2012 11:50AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, October 21, 2012 3:02PM EDT
KUTAISI -- The newly elected parliament of Georgia on Sunday held its first session since an opposition coalition defeated President Mikhail Saakashvili's party, which had dominated all branches of government for nearly nine years.
By winning the Oct. 1 parliamentary election, the Georgian Dream coalition gained the power to install its billionaire leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili, as prime minister and form the government. Now that the new parliament has convened, this was expected to take place within days.
Saakashvili, however, remains president for another year.
In addressing Sunday's session, Saakashvili said the election was proof that the former Soviet republic had become a "normal European democracy," and he said his party was ready to work with Georgian Dream.
"We are not enemies, we are political rivals," Saakashvili said. "Now is not the time for hatred. Now is the time for action and co-operation."
In a sign of the antagonism between the two sides, however, Georgian Dream parliament members refused to stand when Saakashvili entered the hall.
Ivanishvili said the refusal to stand shows that the wounds from the contentious election campaign have not healed.
"But there will not be revenge and persecution of political opponents," the future prime minister told journalists. "We will avoid any kind of confrontation, we will do everything for co-operation."
Georgian Dream holds 85 of the 150 seats in parliament. The remaining 65 are held by Saakashvili's United National Movement.
The parliament was moved from Tbilisi, the capital, to Kutaisi, Georgia's second city, and Sunday's session was the first in the new building.