ANOTHER day, another state of emergency, this time in Georgia which shook itself loose from the lingering Soviet Union embrace with the so-called “rose revolution” in 2003. Mikhail Saakashvili led that revolution and became president of Georgia, pledging economic and political reforms that would move the country closer to the United States and Western Europe. Yet this week crowds similar in size to those which marched for the revolution only four years ago have been marching again under the banner “Georgia without a president”, the slogan of a ten-party coalition opposed to Mr Saakashvili's alleged dictatorial style, tolerance of corruption and failure to improve standards of living for ordinary Georgians.

Moscow looks on and, tongue doubtless in cheek, urges Georgia to “respect human rights and resolve its internal political issues constitutionally”. The extent of Russia's remaining influence in Georgia is difficult to determine, although it backs two of the country's provinces which separated in the early 1990s. Yesterday Mr Saakashvili announced that he was bringing forward the date of the next election early January. This should answer many of the protesters' grievances provided, of course, that the elections prove to be “free and fair”. He should also call off the state of emergency, release those arrested, and free the media from the controls imposed on it. Whether these measures were an over-reaction to the street protests is difficult to say but , clearly, they should be removed at the earliest opportunity.


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