Opposition protests across Georgia over failed electoral reform begin in Kutaisi
After negotiations between the Georgian authorities and the opposition failed to produce results in the raging electoral reform debate in the country earlier this week, opposition leaders have decided to expand the geography of protests and involve the regions as well.
A rally is scheduled for December 6 in Kutaisi, Georgia’s third largest city in the west of the country.
The demand of the Kutaisi rally will be the same as in Tbilisi: the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for autumn 2020, should be held under a new, fully proportional system.
As a compromise, the opposition also proposes holding elections on the so-called ‘German model.’
The decision to organize rallies in the regions was made by 30 opposition parties at a joint meeting on December 1.
The rally in Kutaisi will begin at 14:00.
Prior to this, the opposition and activists are planning a march towards the building of the regional administration.
According to the leader of the European Georgia party, David Bakradze, the rallies will continue until “until the authorities take into account the demand of the opposition and the entire public.”
“In Kutaisi, the protest will be peaceful and everywhere in the regions there will be peaceful protests, as it has been so far. The Georgian Dream and Ivanishvili must realize that the political crisis will end not when they withdraw the special forces, but when we try to find a way out of the political impasse …”
Also, the opposition’s plans still include demonstrations by the parliament in Tbilisi and by the buildings of other state institutions.
“The authorities should understand that the public will not stop. Neither special forces nor [youth wing members] will help them. The only way out is a political compromise”, Bakradze said.
The protests in Georgia began on November 14 after the authorities failed the electoral reform and thereby failed to fulfill the promise that the party leader, oligarch and informal ruler of Georgia Bidzina Ivanishvili publicly made during the summer protests in Tbilisi – to amend the constitution and switch to a fully proportional (party) election system.
Despite many days of large-scale street rallies, the authorities said they were not going to make the concessions after all and planned to hold parliamentary elections in 2020 according to the old, mixed (proportional and majority) system.
After some time, the opposition proposed a compromise – the so-called “German model”.
In this case, the election system will remain partially the same as it is now, but the principle of distribution of mandates will become different. In the opinion of the opposition, this system is much more fair to all political forces in the country.
However, the authorities stated that this model is incompatible with the Georgian constitution. The meeting of the authorities with the opposition, initiated by foreign diplomats, ended without result.
Since November 14, police special forces have twice dispersed demonstrators near the parliament building using a water cannon.
Once, the police even built an iron fence around the parliament building to protect the legislature from picketers.
Picketing of offices of various government agencies continues in Tbilisi and other cities of Georgia.
Counter-rallies are a relatively new phenomenon for Georgia – where opposition protests take place, representatives of pro-government “youth movements” appear and physically confront the protesters.
Most in society are convinced that these groups are led by the government. It was repeatedly noted that the children of officials of the ruling Georgian Dream party are actively participating in the contracts.