Two men were shot and wounded when a majoritarian MP candidate in the town of Gori, ex-defense minister Irakli Okruashvili, was holding an outdoor campaign meeting with voters on Sunday, less than a week before the October 8 parliamentary elections.
The Interior Ministry said the police were investigating the shooting incident in Gori.
About couple of hours after the incident, Okruashvili told journalists in Gori that he was meeting voters in one of the neighborhoods of the town, when a man approached a small rally and “tried to mess up the situation.”
Okruashvili said that “scuffle” erupted during which the man fired several shots from his gun “in direction of me and my security guard.”
“One of the members of my security guard and one activist of our [campaign team] have been wounded,” Okruashvili said and added that several dozen of people witness the incident.
Okruashvili also identified the assailant by name and said that the person has a criminal record.
The Interior Ministry said without elaborating details that the suspected attacker’s identity was known.
He said that persons with criminal background have become “very active in electoral processes” recently in Gori and blamed a relative of ruling GDDG party’s campaign chief Kakha Kaladze of being behind mobilizing such groups for electoral purposes.
Responding to Okruashvili’s allegations against Kaladze, GDDG’s executive secretary and MP candidate Irakli Kobakhidze told Tbilisi-based TV Pirveli: “This incident had no political motive whatsoever. As far as we know there was a verbal confrontation, which was followed with the shooting incident and Okruashvili now tries to claim political motives behind it.”
Okruashvili, who was the defense minister in 2004-2006, is one of the 13 candidates running for a majoritarian MP seat from Gori’s single-mandate constituency.
Leader of Free Democrats opposition party, Irakli Alasania, who was the defense minister in 2012-2014, is also running for majoritarian MP in Gori. GDDG ruling party’s MP candidate in Gori is Ioseb Makrakhidze, a co-owner and chief executive of Gori-based asphalt manufacturing and road construction company Ibolia.
Violent Incident in Zugdidi Municipality
In a separate development, also related to election campaign, three activists of the ruling GDDG party were hospitalized after being physically assaulted in the village of Didinedzi in the Zugdidi municipality of Samegrelo region.
The incident occurred between opposition UNM supporters and activists from the GDDG youth wing late on Saturday evening when the latter were distributing campaign material.
Three people, including a young woman, required hospitalization – two of them suffered concussion, according to a doctor.
GDDG and UNM have condemned the violence, but accused each other of provoking the incident.
Several civil society groups, among them election monitoring organizations, International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy and Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, said in a joint statement on Sunday that such violent incidents pose threat to free and fair pre-election environment.
“We urge the investigative authorities to investigate the incident promptly, fairly and objectively, and take adequate legal measures for ensuring peaceful and safe electoral environment,” reads the statement. “We also urge political parties and their representatives to act very responsibly during the election period and refrain from any confrontation and violence, or from making statements that may provoke violence and confrontation.”