Revolution in Georgia almost claims rector

December 5, 2003

The "Revolution of Roses" that toppled Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze came close to claiming another victim - the rector of Tbilisi State University.

Roin Metreveli resigned in the wake of protests by the radical student movement Kmara (Enough). But, following demonstrations in his favour by other students and faculty members, he decided 24 hours later to stay on.

Kmara was founded in April this year by students protesting against alleged corruption in the university. It claimed the rector had been improperly elected and was a tool of Mr Shevardnadze. At one point it tried to launch a lawsuit seeking his removal. As the movement grew, it attacked the regime itself.

In June, 5,000 members of Kmara went on a demonstration calling for the resignation of the president and the central electoral commission, and the introduction of an electoral law before November's parliamentary elections.

When Mr Shevardnadze resigned, the Kmara students demonstrated outside the interior ministry until minister Koba Narchemashvili resigned too.

It then accused the rector of being part of the discredited regime.

Eventually the rector resigned and the dean of the journalism faculty, Nugzar Popkhadze, resigned in solidarity.

But faculty members and non- Kmara students began a counter demonstration calling for the rector to stay.

The university's academic council also declared in his favour. Eventually, Mikhail Saakashvili, leader of the (anti-Shevardnadze) National Movement met protesters and assured them that the independence of Georgian universities would be respected.

Rector Metreveli finally agreed to stay in office - and called on the demonstrators to go home.

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