Violent incident in the City Council of Kutaisi damages the pre-election environment
We, the signatory non-governmental organizations, condemn the physical assault on a member of the City Council of Kutaisi from the United National Movement (UNM), which took place on September 19. It is unfortunate that, despite a number of calls by our organizations, various violent acts still take place in the representative bodies of some municipalities.
As reported by various media outlets, members of the Georgian Dream, Amiran Kopaleishvili and Imeda Saghinadze, assaulted Gia Ukleba, a member of the City Council from the UNM. According to the media reports, the assault took place because Gia Ukleba had insulted Salome Zurabishvili, a presidential candidate supported by the Georgian Dream, on his Facebook page, which was followed by verbal confrontation and fistfight first in the session hall of the City Council and then in the corridor. According to the information released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the investigation has been launched under Article 126 (violence) of the Criminal Code.
This is not the first time that members of various municipal councils have assaulted each other physically. For example, in December 2014, members of the Georgian Dream and the UNM got into a confrontation in the session hall of the City Council of Kutaisi. Similar incidents have taken place on several occasions in the municipal councils of Ozurgeti, Zugdidi, Borjomi, Telavi, and other municipalities.
We believe that the violent acts by members of municipal councils pose a threat to the conduct of electoral processes in a calm and stable environment and cause serious damage to the reputation of representative bodies and institutions of local self-government.
In order to avoid similar incidents in the future, we call upon the investigative bodies to ensure effective investigation and punishment of the individuals involved in violence, in accordance with the requirements of the Georgian legislation. In addition, we request the Interagency Commission for Free and Fair Elections to develop a relevant recommendation and call on the ruling party, political subjects, presidential candidates, and their supporters to make maximum efforts towards conducting pre-election activities in a calm and stable environment and not to allow the encouragement of violent actions.
At the same time, it is important that members of the City Council of Kutaisi realize their role and official status, considering the significance of the activity of the representative body, and take effective measures for the prevention of similar violent acts in the future. In this regard, it is necessary that the City Council develop a Code of Ethics for members of the Council, which will determine the standards of the Council members’ behavior with their colleagues, the media, other institutions, and the public, as well as develop effective mechanisms to ensure the enforcement of this Code.
1. Transparency International Georgia
2. International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
2. Georgia’s Reforms Associates (GRASS)
5. UN Association of Georgia