Five opposition activists assaulted in a week as Georgia’s Javakheti region turns into political hotspot
The pre-election atmosphere in Javakheti remains tense. Over the past week, five members of the opposition have ended up in hospital with bruises and injuries sustained from batons.
The name of one person has appeared in all the cases: Georgian Dream MP Enzel Mkoyan.
The first round of presidential elections was held in Georgia on 28 October. No candidate managed to receive 51 per cent of the vote, and thus the country will head to a runoff, likely on 2 December. However, the exact date has not been announced by the Georgian Central Election Commission as yet.
Government-supported presidential candidate Salome Zourabichvili and the leader of the United Opposition Grigol Vashadze received an almost equal amount of votes: 38.4 per cent and 37.73 per cent respectively.
Unidentified individuals attacked local resident Remik Poghosyan – a supporter of the opposition – who ended up in hospital yesterday with a concussion and other injuries.
The attack on Poghosyan took place after he was interviewed by TV channel Rustavi-2, in which he spoke about the business and corruption deals of Enzel Mkoyan, the local majoritarian MP of the Georgian parliament.
In an interview with Rustavi-2, Poghosyan said that Enzel Mkoyan controls the entire region and almost all businesses in the area: he even artificially regulates potato prices, causing many local farmers to suffer losses. Poghosyan was beaten up with batons less than two days after the Rustavi-2 broadcast.
Three different versions
There are three version of what happened in the area:
1. The head of the United National Movement headquarters in Akhalkalaki, Ashot Raisyan, says that Georgian Dream activists assaulted Pogosyan and that Enzel Mkoyan was implicated in the affair.
2. Mkoyan denies the assault took place. Georgian Dream representatives claim that Pogosyan was injured in a fight in Chandura village during a football match between local teams, and that politics have nothing to do with it. Nairi Iritsyan, the head of Salome Zourabichvili’s election headquarters in Akhalkalaki, says that the incident was blown out of proportion by Rustavi-2.
3. The victim, Pogosyan, told the police officers who came to interrogate him that he was injured while chopping firewood at home.
“During the investigation, it turned out that he was chopping wood, slipped, fell, hit his head and was injured,” a Samkhretis Caribche news correspondent was told at the Interior Ministry.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has launched an investigation.
Javakheti – a pre-election period hotspot
This is not the first case in which an opposition activist has been assaulted in Javakheti during the pre-election period.
On 30 October, four members of the electoral headquarters of Grigol Vashadze, a candidate from the united opposition movement Strength in Unity, were also beaten with truncheons in Akhalkalaki. All four have sustained serious injuries and still remain in hospital.
Both incidents are connected with the same name – Enzel Mkoyan. The opposition says the attacks were organised by him.
On 2 November the prosecutor’s office charged five individuals with group assault. Three of them are relatives of Mkoyan. The detainees were released by a court decision on bail of three thousand lari [a little more than $1,000].
Who is Enzel Mkoyan
Mkoyan is a member of the ruling Georgian Dream party and a majoritarian MP in the Georgian parliament, representing Ninotsminda and Akhalkalaki.
Mkoyan holds a record for being a member of Georgia’s parliament for 19 years. Throughout his tenure, he has always been a member of the ruling party, serving as their support base in the Javakheti region.
During Saakashvili’s reign, he was in the United National Movement. In all the elections of the past 19 years, he has been able to ensure a high percentage of votes for the ruling party he serves at the time.
He moved over to the Georgian Dream party as soon as Ivanishvili came to power, and now defends the interests of Georgian Dream in the region.
The Javakheti region, where 90 per cent of the population is made up of Armenians who speak little Georgian, is traditionally politically passive.
The majority of the votes in the area for all elections goes to the ruling party. This is Mkoyan’s personal merit – who for four years has “regulated” affairs in the region.
So far, no government has refused to accept Mkoyan into its ranks, understanding his influence in the region. Georgian Dream, which is in an unenviable position before the second round of presidential elections given that its candidate Zourabichvili lost in almost all major cities, has done the same.
Regions inhabited by ethnic minorities (Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli where Azerbaijanis live) are the most important pillar for the Georgian Dream party. It is in these regions that the pro-government candidate won the most votes in the first round. After the assaults, the opposition has demanded that Mkoyan’s MP status be rescinded. However, the demand was refused. Moreover, Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze has expressed his confidence in Mkoyan “on behalf of the whole Georgian Dream party”, and called him “a worthy member [of the party]”.