Georgian opposition demands snap elections after PM announces unexpected resignation
Following the unexpected resignation of Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia earlier today, the chairman of the opposition United National Movement Nika Melia said the opposition intends to return to the negotiating table with the authorities.
Melia says the opposition is ready to discuss the issue of holding snap elections.
“Only early elections will lead the country out of the crisis, which will help to restore order in all areas, starting with justice,” Melia said.
The reaction of the authorities
Prime Minister Gakharia said that the main reason for his decision to resign was a disagreement with the ruling party on the arrest of opposition leader Nika Melia.
MPs from the ruling party voted to strip him of parliamentary immunity, and then a court issued a warrant for his arrest.
Soon after Gakharia’s resignation, the Ministry of Internal Affairs issued a statement that the execution of the court’s decision to detain Melia was “temporarily postponed.”
After that, the head of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Irakli Kobakhidze, along with other leaders of the majority, at a special briefing said that the reason for the prime minister’s resignation was a disagreement about “whether the state should show its face like this or not.”
“Giorgi Gakharia had a different position on this than the other team members. But we could not hear any arguments in support of his position,” Kobakhidze said.
Kobakhidze called on Melia to abide by the law, “otherwise the government will enforce the law and arrest him.”
According to him, the formation of the government will begin and be completed as soon as possible, provided by law.
The Georgian Dream political council is expected to meet tomorrow and nominate a new candidate for the post of prime minister.
Yesterday, February 17, the Tbilisi City Court issued a warrant for the arrest of the chairman of the United National Movement, Nika Melia, who is accused of organizing mass riots in the June 2019 protests case.
The trial lasted almost six hours. Melia’s lawyers tried unsuccessfully to have the case dropped.
The prosecutor’s office accuses Melia of organizing riots on June 20-21, 2019, when a protest against the presence of Russian State Duma deputy Gavrilov in the Georgian parliament resulted in clashes between demonstrators and the police, as well as calls for the storming of parliament.
On June 26, 2019, the previous parliament stripped Nika Melia of his parliamentary immunity.
The next day, the court imposed a measure of restraint on him in the form of bail in the amount of 30 thousand lari [about $ 9 thousand] and introduced additional restrictive measures, including wearing an electronic bracelet.
This case became relevant again after Nika Melia demonstratively removed and threw away the bracelet as a ‘symbol of injustice’ at a large-scale opposition rally on November 1, 2020 against rigging parliamentary elections.
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On November 3, 2020, Tbilisi City Court increased the amount of bail for Melia – up to 70,000 lari, that is, added an additional 40 thousand lari [about $12 thousand].
Melia refused to post bail because, according to him, “both the court and the prosecutor’s office of the country are in the pocket (of the leader of the ruling party, Bidzina) Ivanishvili.”
On October 31, 2020, Nika Melia was re-elected as an MP, so the new parliament had to decide again to suspend his immunity on February 16.
After the October elections, Melia himself renounced the deputy’s mandate and, as a result, immunity, but the parliament refused to agree to strip him and 50 other opposition MPs of their status.
On December 25, 2020, Nika Melia was elected chairman of the main opposition party, the United National Movement. The post of party chairman was vacated after the resignation of Grigol Vashadze.