Georgia: several thousand demonstrators demand new elections

Photo of author

By admin

Thousands of opposition supporters demonstrated in the Georgian capital Tbilisi on Sunday to demand the organization of new parliamentary elections, the day after the contested victory of the ruling party.

According to the estimates of the Electoral Commission, after the counting of the ballots of almost all the constituencies, the Georgian Dream, the formation led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, narrowly won with 48% of the vote, against 45.6% for opposition parties.

Protesters, waving red and white Georgian flags, gathered in Tbilisi’s main square at the appeal of ex-president in exile Mikheil Saakashvili, 52, leader of the United National Movement (MNU) party.

“All the opposition groups have decided together not to be part of the new Parliament,” Nika Melia, one of the figures of the MNU, told the crowd, calling for a new demonstration next Sunday.

Other opponents denounced electoral fraud to the applause of the demonstrators who mostly wore protective masks against the coronavirus.

Georgia: several thousand demonstrators demand new elections

“We will not let the Georgian Dream steal our votes,” Tornike Meladze, a 54-year-old accountant, determined to demonstrate “until new elections are announced” told AFP.

The proportional vote must renew 120 of the 150 seats in the assembly in this Caucasian country of about four million inhabitants.

The Georgian Dream “won the elections for the third time in a row,” said Mr Ivanishvili, a 64-year-old former prime minister, welcoming the victory of a “great team”.

For his part, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said on Twitter that it was “another important step” in strengthening democracy.

Speaking from Ukraine where he works for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mikheïl Saakachvili urged his supporters to “mass mobilize to defend the votes”.

This year, his formation had succeeded in bringing together several opposition groups to confront the Georgian Dream of Mr. Ivanishvili, in power since 2012.

“Setback for democracy”

Georgia is a rare example of pluralism among the former USSR republics, but is regularly rocked by anti-government protests and accusations of electoral fraud.

Georgia: several thousand demonstrators demand new elections

In a statement, international observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly said the election had respected “fundamental freedoms”, but was “far from ‘to be irreproachable’.

Local observers were harsher: the local branch of the NGO Transparency International described the vote as a “step back for democracy in Georgia”, while the Georgian group GYLA noted “serious violations”.

The NGO ISFED, based in Tbilisi, maintains that in some constituencies the number of votes obtained by the ruling party exceeds the number of votes cast.

According to the Electoral Commission, the turnout was around 56% despite the coronavirus epidemic, against 51% during the 2016 legislative elections.

Given that 30 deputies’ mandates have to be appointed in single-member ballots with a possible second round, the final constitution of the new parliament may not be known until the end of November.

Mr. Saakashvili has enjoyed an incredible political career in Ukraine in recent years. In 2013, he had to flee the country after his second presidential term, fearing that he would be arrested on charges of abuse of power.

In eight years in power, the Georgian Dream party has seen its popularity crumble against a backdrop of economic stagnation and accusations of attacks on democracy. Its leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili, is accused of exerting pressure on his opponents and promoting corruption.

Fearing a wave of instability, Georgian expert Gela Vasadze believes that “the Georgian Dream will in any case have a very unstable majority in the new Parliament”.

Internationally, the two camps say they support Georgia’s rapprochement with the European Union and NATO, an ambition which is very poorly perceived in Moscow.

By August 2008, tensions had escalated into a lightning war between Georgia and Russia. After this five-day conflict lost by Tbilisi, the Kremlin recognized the independence of two secessionist republics, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Leave a Comment