Georgian opposition calls for new rally, gov’t threatens criminal charges
Leaders of the united opposition in Georgia have called on their supporters to gather at 6 pm on November 9 on Rustaveli Avenue in downtown Tbilisi to continue their protest against what they say were rigged parliamentary elections (held on October 31, 2020).
On the eve, on November 8, a large-scale rally was held in Tbilisi, which ended late in the evening with two dispersals using water cannons and tear gas.
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Several people were injured and hospitalized, including journalists from TV Pirveli and Formula.
The authorities have accused opposition leaders of organizing the riots and are promising to open criminal cases against several of them.
Position of the Georgian authorities
Irakli Kobakhidze, executive secretary of the ruling Georgian Dream party, held a briefing late in the evening on November 8, at which, in fact, he accused Nika Melia, one of the leaders of the opposition United National Movement (created by ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili).
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“It was Melia who led the attempt to storm parliament on June 20 in 2019. A criminal case continues in that incident. And this time he and his associates were again the initiators of the storming [of the Central Election
Kobakhidze said that “the time will soon come in Georgia when politicians will be involved in politics, criminals will be imprisoned in accordance with the law” and called on everyone “to refrain from illegal actions.”
What the opposition says
Nika Melia, for his part, said about the leader of the ruling party, the oligarch and the shadow ruler of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili, that he is “a liar, a forger and even a criminal.”
Speaking to reporters after the dispersal of a rally in Tbilisi late in the evening on November 8, Melia said that “we all want our children to live in a free Georgia, without oppression and violence, therefore [for the rally on November 9] the entire people should gather, and not only the opposition”.
Statement by the Public Defender of Georgia
Public Defender of Georgia Nino Lomjaria was at the scene of the events at the CEC building in Tbilisi on the evening of November 8.
She accused the government of breaking up the rally without warning, in violation of international standards.
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She also stated that the police used disproportionate force in a situation where there was no “very large, aggressive and armed mass of people.”
“Using water cannons in such a situation in cold weather can be equated with abuse,” said Lomjaria.
She called on the government and the opposition to start negotiations.
Sharp rise in coronavirus infections in Georgia and curfew
The number of daily coronavirus cases in Georgia continues to grow. Up to three thousand new cases are detected every day and the health care system cannot fully control the situation. On social media, many write that they cannot get medical help even by phone.
Since November 9, a curfew has been introduced in Tbilisi and six other large cities – it is forbidden to go out from 22:00 to 05:00.
Parliamentary elections in Georgia on October 31, 2020
According to the official results of the parliamentary elections in Georgia on October 31, the Georgian Dream party remained in power for the third time. The resulting absolute advantage allows the party to independently appoint members of the government.
But for the first time since Georgian Dream came to power in 2012, the opposition won a significant percentage of the vote.
- Ruling Georgian Dream party – 48.24%
- National Movement – United Opposition – 27.15%
- European Georgia – 3.79%
- Alliance of Patriots – 3.14%
- Lelo – 3.16%
- Agmashenebeli Strategy – 3.15%
- Girchi – 2.89%
- Citizens – Aleko Elisashvili – 1.33%
The opposition says the authorities falsified the election results. All seven opposition parties that won parliamentary seats have refused to take up their mandates in parliament and are pushing for new parliamentary elections.
- U.S. Embassy in Georgia: electoral irregularities not enough to invalidate results
- Opposition holding rally in Tbilisi demanding repeat parliamentary elections. Photo
The opposition says a small percentage of votes were fixed or stolen from opposition parties, and which had they not been given to the ruling party, would not give the ruling party the opportunity to independently form a government.
The opposition presented several summaries from polling stations with errors in numbers. For example, there are summaries in which the Georgian Dream received more votes than the average number of voters.
The opposition and non-governmental organizations also report numerous cases of bribery and intimidation of voters. This was also stated by the Public Defender of Georgia.
However, international observers do not support such a harshly critical assessment of the elections.