Head of state Eduard Shevardnadze’s irreconcilable opponent Jaba Ioseliani announced September 14 his withdrawal from the presidential race, charging that the state authorities were preventing him from campaigning. Two days earlier, Ioseliani’s political group Mkhedrioni (Knights), known for its underworld connections, had announced its withdrawal from and boycott of the parliamentary election, scheduled like the presidential one for November 5. The authorities have arrested at least one hundred members of the Mkhedrioni and of their paramilitary affiliate, the Rescue Corps, after finding some of them in the possession of weapons and other illegal goods. Because of their legal immunity, Ioseliani and several other Mkhedrioni parliamentary deputies found with weapons caches remain at liberty. Mkhedrioni and the Rescue Corps played a major part in the Georgia’s turmoil of recent years. Shevardnadze’s Civic Union seems set for victory in the parliamentary elections. His candidacy for president of Georgia has meanwhile been endorsed by parliament chairman Vahtang Goguadze’s left-of-center "Cooperation" electoral bloc, which supports Georgian-Russian rapprochement and regaining Abkhazia through Russian arbitration; by former parliament chairman Akaki Asatiani’s pro-western Traditionalists’ Union, which favors direct talks with the Abkhaz and South Ossetians; and by the smaller Socialist and Green parties. Two rival communist parties remain in opposition to Shevardnadze. He now seeks to establish reliable control over the State Security Service, whose potentially disloyal leadership he sacked in the wake of the August 29 assassination attempt against him. (16).
Standardizing Customs Procedures.