Although the Citizens' Union attracted a number of talented young reformers, including Mikhail Saakashvili, Zurab Zhvania and Nino Burjanadze, it eventually fell victim to Georgia's endemic corruption and Shevardnadze's increasing use of electoral manipulation. In September 2001, Saakashvili resigned from Shevardnadze's government and party on the grounds that corruption had penetrated to the very centre of the Georgian government and that Shevardnadze lacked the will to deal with it. The controversy eventually led to the Citizens' Union splitting into three opposing factions, with alleged corruption among senior party members at the centre of the dispute. In June 2002, Zurab Zhvania left the Citizens' Union to set up his own party. Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze also left the Citizens' Union to join forces with Zhvania and, eventually, with Saakashvili as well. By June 2003, five opposition parties had established a United National Movement to provide a focus for opposition to the Citizens' Union.
The Citizens' Union was at the centre of the political crisis of November 2003, when parliamentary elections held on November 2 produced results that were widely regarded as rigged. On November 23, massive popular demonstrations forced Shevardnadze to resign. The election results were subsequently annulled and fresh elections were scheduled for 2004.