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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Saakashvili Gets Taste Of His Own Medicine

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Dining out in downtown Tbilisi has become a somewhat uncomfortable experience recently, at least for President Mikheil Saakashvili. The Georgian leader has been rudely interrupted twice while eating at restaurants in the capital over the past few weeks. His persecutors, a mob of rowdy students, have been harrying him as the opposition pumps itself up for mass demonstrations that they hope will force Saakashvili to resign.

"We think the president shouldn't be spending time in expensive restaurants while the country has so many problems," one student told me.

His protest group, called April 9 after the date on which the opposition rallies will begin, is one of several dissident youth factions that have emerged recently. They blame Saakashvili for all Georgia's problems -- for the disastrous war with Russia, for the huge refugee problem it created, for the loss of Georgian territory and for the economic crash that followed.

Another youth group has been busy pasting thousands of anti-Saakashvili posters all over Tbilisi. Many of them simply feature the name of the group -- Why? -- over a huge question mark. Others show Saakashvili with his arm around an American celebrity masseuse, or an unflattering shot of him surrounded by tragic images of last year's fighting, attempting to satirize him as a playboy and a warmonger.

The humor might be vicious, but it recalls the impudent antics of the youth movement Kmara, which campaigned against President Eduard Shevardnadze during the run-up to the Rose Revolution in 2003 that swept Saakashvili to power. Kmara, which had strong links to Saakashvili's inner circle, used to harass Shevardnadze when he made public appearances, blowing whistles and shouting offensive slogans, and put up posters showing Shevardnadze and his allies being flushed down a toilet together.

The opposition, often criticized in the past for its monotonously unimaginative protest tactics, appears now to have picked up some tricks from the Rose revolutionaries, who knew how to use the power of pop culture and political satire to enliven their rallies. The April 9 activists don't like being compared to the pro-Saakashvili campaigners of 2003, but their confrontational strategies illustrate how merciless the political struggle has become again as opposition supporters seek to oust yet another Georgian president by force of numbers on the streets of Tbilisi.

Matthew Collin, author of "The Time of the Rebels: Youth Resistance Movements and 21st-Century Revolutions," is a journalist in Tbilisi.