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Opposition Coalition Rallies, Calls for Early Parliamentary Elections

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The United Opposition, a coalition of eleven political parties led by the United National Movement, held a protest rally in front of the Parliament building in Tbilisi on December 2, demanding early parliamentary elections and voiding of the Presidential runoff results.

The opposition coalition announced the rally on November 29, a day after its candidate Grigol Vashadze lost the presidential race to the ruling party-backed Salome Zurabishvili.

Vashadze opened his remarks by saying that the country “did not have elections on November 28; we had violence, blackmail, vote-buying, fake IDs, personal information leaks, criminals acting under the orders of the security services, violations of vote secrecy, carousels, and voiding of tens of thousands of ballot papers.”

“This was a criminal-terrorist operation against the people of Georgia… We do not recognize these elections and its results. Georgia does not have a president – it is the thievish dream (Editor’s note: play of words, implies Georgian Dream) and Bidzina Ivanishvili, who have the President,” he said, adding that the opposition will challenge the election results in court.

Vashadze then called for holding early parliamentary elections. “The Georgian Dream no longer enjoys the political mandate and public trust for ruling the country,” he stressed.

The politician also suggested changing the composition of election administration and filling the commissions with representatives of civil society groups, international experts and opposition parties. He said ministers and their deputies should be banned from campaigning.

Vashadze offered the ruling party to set up a working group consisting of at least five persons from each side. “Let’s sit down in a civilized, European, constitutional, legal manner under the monitoring of civil society organizations and find a way out of this political crisis,” he said, giving the authorities a deadline until December 16 for their response.

Vashadze also noted that opposition rallies will continue. “We will win through constitutional and legal means, we will not yield to provocations, because we are the winning side and we want to help this country out of a political swamp,” he added.

A number of coalition members addressed the rally, including ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili. A Labor Party representative spoke at the demonstration as well, joining the coalition’s demands. The European Georgia party did not join the Sunday rally, but one of its leaders Gigi Ugulava was present in his individual capacity.

Ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili addressed the protesters via Skype, saying that “the country is already facing a disaster because the institution of elections has been abolished.”

“We will fight in a peaceful and confident manner, but we will never tolerate injustice and will never step back… Our struggle will definitely end with full victory,” he said, pledging to remain “one among equals.” He also called on the supporters to rally behind Vashadze’s demands.

“As soon as you need me and call me, I will physically stand beside you. Georgia has a great future, I deeply believe in Georgia’s future; it is being born today, on this square,” he added.

Reactions from the ruling party

The Georgian Dream leaders have explained that they are not planning to accept the opposition coalition’s demands for early parliamentary elections.

Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze, who serves as the executive secretary of the ruling party, told reporters on November 3 that the demands were “comic and not serious.” He also stressed the UNM, “an anti-state force,” has failed to “destabilize the processes.”

“We have our own agenda – to develop Tbilisi, to develop the country, to prepare for the inauguration on December 16; our agenda is to prepare for parliamentary elections in 2020 and we call on everyone to focus on that,” Speaker Kobakhidze added.

Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, general secretary of the Georgian Dream party, commented on the issue as well, saying the United National Movement, “a destructive” political force, “tried to trigger unrest and confrontation,” but voters gave “adequate response” in the elections.

“Georgian people rejected violence, hate speech and evil,” he added.

Deputy Parliament Speaker Tamar Chugoshvili said the next legislative elections will be held in 2020, “as envisioned by the constitution.” She also underlined that the country is to move to fully proportional electoral system beginning from 2024 pursuant to recent constitutional changes. “I do not think it is possible to resume discussions on that,” Chugoshvili noted.

The Presidential runoff was held on November 28. The ruling party-backed candidate Salome Zurabishvili obtained 59.52% of the votes, while her challenger – Grigol Vashadze of the United Opposition finished with 40.48% of the votes. Vashadze did not accept the election results, citing mass election fraud.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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