The Increasing Number of Political Clashes Takes Dangerous Forms for the Country - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

The Increasing Number of Political Clashes Takes Dangerous Forms for the Country

06 December, 2019


During the last period, activists and supporters of the Georgian Dream have been opposing protests of civil activist groups and opposition political parties in Tbilisi and other cities across the country. In some cases, even physical violence has been observed. Although police were at the scenes of the confrontation in all cases, at times there was an impression that they did not or could not completely calm down the situation. Supporters of the ruling party, including employees of various budgetary organizations, committed a number of misdemeanors, but police have not responded adequately and did not detained them, including those who openly assaulted people.

The confrontation creates a risk of an extreme escalation of political processes. This threat is further exacerbated by the mobilization of the Georgian Dream supporters and civil servants, as well as insufficient preventive measures of the police.

Mobilization of supporters of political parties in various regions continues. Transparency International Georgia calls on political parties to act pursuant to the law during protests and refrain from aggressive counter-rallies. We also call on the Ministry of Internal Affairs to ensure the safety of protesters and bring all offenders to justice.

Below the details of the recent political clashes can be found:

November 22 - Zugdidi, Batumi, Kutaisi

Merab Kvaraia, a majoritarian MP of Zugdidi, mobilized his supporters in Zugdidi. Among them, there were former and current members of the City Assembly from the Georgian Dream and the staff of municipal N(N)LE[1]s, who did not allow opposition activists to enter the bureau of Kvaraia. A bureau official told Live Press that supporters of the majoritarian MP gathered at their own discretion.

The same happened on November 22 at the bureau of Dimitri Mkheidze, a majoritarian MP of Kutaisi. The Kutaisi Post reported that employees of municipal legal entities had been waiting for opposition activists since morning.

In parallel to the protest of the opposition, athletes gathered at the entrance of the Batumi City Assembly. Mukhran Vakhtangadze, a former wrestler and now the Georgian Dream majoritarian MP of Batumi, said that he gathered his supporter athletes to stop so-called Padlock Protest organized by opposition.

November 28 - Gori, Batumi

On November 28, Aleko Elisashvili, a leader of the Civil Movement, held a rally in Gori with his supporters as part of the campaign of denouncing majoritarian MPs. Earlier, the chairperson and members of Gori City Assembly from the Georgian Dream faction, as well as employees of the municipal N(N)LE Culture and Tourism of Gori arrived at the same place. According to Radio Mosaic, 12 employees of the abovementioned N(N)LE officially requested a day off. However, those who were dismissed from their duties arrived at Elisashvili's rally on the bus belonging to their employer.

In parallel to Gori events, the member of the National Movement faction of Batumi City Assembly boycotted the political process and refused to participate in the Assembly sittings (except the sitting on 2020 municipal budget that will be held in December) until the government makes a positive decision on proportional elections.

Along with the aforementioned briefing of the faction, supporters of the ruling party gathered at the entrance to the City Assembly. The opposition claimed that municipal employees and athletes were among them. One of them, a representative of the Adjara Arm Wrestling Regional Federation, Gocha Shavadze told the Adjara Public Broadcaster that they were going to attend an Assembly meeting to discuss sports-related issues. However, Transparency International Georgia found out that out of 14 issues given in the sitting agenda none of them was related with sports programs and sports infrastructure.

November 29 - Kutaisi

On November 29, an attempt by the United Opposition to put a padlock on the office of the Georgian Dream in Kutaisi resulted in a verbal and physical confrontation, and later members and supporters of the ruling party threw eggs and brooms at the United National Movement office. The Kutaisi Post identified public officials, civil servants and employees of N(N)LEs among the rally participants.

December 1 - Kutaisi

On December 1, supporters of the ruling party tried to break into the opposition party office in Kutaisi. Before that, they marched under the slogan "Demishization[2] Begins in Kutaisi". The investigation into the intrusion and damage to the building have not yet been launched.

December 2 - Tbilisi, Mtskheta

On December 2, the Georgian Dream party instructed students’ self-governance bodies from various universities in the country to commission their students. According to the telephone messages received by the students, the purpose of the planned meeting at Orbeliani Square in Tbilisi was to attend a celebration of Georgia's presidency of the Council of Europe.

Alongside the concert, protest rallies of civil movements “It Is a Shame” and “Be Brave” were organized near the office of the Georgian Dream. Although the former parliament speaker Irakli Kobakhidze said the students gathering was not intended to be a counter rally, a group of aggressive youth approached the aforementioned civil movements’ protest site.

According to the footage released by the media and civil activists, the police, mobilized at the party's office, not only failed to prevent the aggressive group of young protesters to enter the site of protesting civil activists, but it did not organize a cordon to avoid physical clashes. As a result of the confrontation, 5 activists of the civil movement “It Is a Shame” were hospitalized with various body injuries. The police did not detain anyone involved in violence and organized a cordon only after the confrontation.

There was also noise and clashes in Mtskheta at the bureau of the majoritarian MP Dimitri Khundadze. Representatives of the civil movement “Be Brave” organized the protest rally. According to media reports, activists were confronted by the employees of Khundadze’s bureau and City Hall. Local public officials also engaged in physical confrontation, but police detained only 7 members of the civil movement. In addition, two members of the same movement were hospitalized. On December 3, the Ministry of Internal Affairs reported about the arrest of one of the supporters of the Georgian Dream for hooliganism and disobedience at a rally.

December 3 - Zugdidi

On December 3, the Georgian Dream supporters held a rally in front of the United National Movement office in Zugdidi. The main part of the demonstration was staffed by municipal legal entities. Joni Jikia, a member of Zugdidi City Assembly and representatives of the Zugdidi Mayor - Edem Kekutia, Irakli Tordia and Zaza Khubua - also participated in the rally.

The protesters threw eggs, brooms, crutches and barrels to the National Movement office, injuring one policeman and breaking the office windows.

Representatives of the United National Movement said they had informed police of the planned rally in advance, but law enforcement officers arrived at the scene about half an hour after the rally started.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs has launched an investigation into the smashing of the windows of the National Movement office in Zugdidi under Article 187 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, which implies damage or destruction of the property.

[1] Nonprofit noncommercial legal entity

[2] Referring to Mikheil (Misha) Saakashvili