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Former Georgian Opposition Leader Launches Presidential Campaign

National Movement Chairman Mikhail Saakashvili, who spearheaded the demonstrations in Tbilisi that culminated in the 23 November forced resignation of President Eduard Shevardnadze, kicked off his campaign for the 4 January presidential ballot on 4 December, Caucasus Press and Russian agencies reported.

Saakashvili, who is widely regarded as the favorite among the 15 presidential hopefuls, said his main rivals are "time and people who want Georgia to explode," according to Interfax on 4 December.

He said the interim leadership will take every possible measure to prevent destabilization. Minister of State Zurab Zhvania, who will manage Saakashvili's election campaign, said on 4 December that "our goal is not so much Saakashvili's victory as democratic and fair elections," ITAR-TASS reported.

Zhvania said that government ministers and regional administrators will be prevented from interfering in the ballot.

(RFE/RL 05.xii.03)

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