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By AFP with Euronews • Updated: 04/07/2022 - 16:07
Demonstrators carry a giant EU flag during an anti-government rally near the Georgian Parliament in Tbilisi. - Copyright AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov
Thousands of protesters rallied in Georgia's capital Tbilisi on Sunday, calling for the government to resign due its failure to get European Union candidate status for the Caucasus country.
More than 35,000 people gathered in front of the Georgian parliament, blocking traffic and waving European flags.
Several opposition parties and pro-EU organisations had called on citizens to pressure the ruling Georgian Dream party over the weekend.
Protests have also targeted the founder of the party, oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili, who holds no official political position but seemingly maintains control over the government.
"We demand that Ivanishvili relinquish executive power and transfer it, respecting the Constitution, to a government of national unity," organisers said in a Facebook post.
A new government must "carry out the reforms demanded by the EU, which will automatically give us the status of a candidate for EU membership," the post added.
Georgia had applied for candidacy status alongside Ukraine and Moldova just days after Russia's invasion on 24 February.
EU leaders said last month that they were "ready to grant candidate status" to Georgia but only after significant reforms had been carried out to the judiciary, electoral system and press freedoms.
"The future of Georgia is in the EU," said European Council President Charles Michel.
The announcement was hailed as "historic" by Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili.
"We are ready to work with determination over the coming months to obtain candidate status," she wrote on Twitter.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has added that his government is “mobilised” to meet EU requirements on time “so that we get candidate status as soon as possible”.