Parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition, together with civic activists, staged another large-scale protest in central Tbilisi in the evening of November 25. Protesters are demanding that the next elections are held through so called “German Model”, a step closer to the proportional model that the ruling Georgian Dream ditched almost two weeks ago.
Protesters gathered at the First Republic Square in downtown Tbilisi at 7pm, and marched towards the Georgian Parliament through Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi’s main thoroughfare.
The Police did not allow protesters to erect tents on Rustaveli Avenue or to bring firewood for heating in front of the Parliament building. Yet, around 10pm opposition and civic activists managed to erect tents on the side streets of the Parliament.
A skeleton team of demonstrators and some leaders are staying overnight in sub-zero temperatures, vowing to block the ruling Georgian Dream party MPs from entering the Parliament to attend the plenary session of November 26. According to multiple reports, the police are preventing them from bringing in firewood for improvised stoves, quoting the law that prohibits bringing in hazardous or flammable materials. The Public Defender has issued a statement saying the article of the law has to be understood in conjunction with the protesters’ actions, and the in the current conditions, preventing the protesters from using firewood limits their right to free assembly and expression.
Kakha Kaladze, the Secretary General of the ruling Georgian Dream–Democratic Georgia (GDDG) party, announced after the parliamentary majority’s meeting earlier on November 25 that GDDG “has closed the discussion” on amending the electoral system by the 2020 parliamentary elections.
Importantly, he added that the ruling party “treats with understanding” the proposal voiced by its majoritarian MPs to hold the parliamentary elections through fully majoritarian system. This comes as dramatic change, since the Constitution – backed by the GD – envisages transfer to the fully proportional system starting 2024 polls. The opposition was demanding the proportional polls to take place already in 2020.
Georgians have been out in the streets again since November 14, as the ruling party backtracked on its key promise to Tbilisi Protests of June 2019 on transition to fully proportional electoral system from 2020, instead of 2024. Three fourths of sitting lawmakers’ support (113 of 150) was needed for the amendment to pass. While all of 44 MPs of opposition parties supported the bill, Georgian Dream’s three lawmakers voted against the amendment and 37 abstained, making the bill fall short of the quorum with 12 votes.
A week ago, the government used riot police to liberate Parliament entrances from protesters, tents and barricades. Following a large scale rally of November 17, opposition and civic activists blocked Parliament entrances, that lasted until next day’s afternoon, when riot police removed the protesters and barricades from outside the legislative building entrances, using water cannons and tear gas.
37 persons were detained on charges of hooliganism and disobedience to police during dispersal in the evening of November 18. After highly controversial hearings, the Tbilisi City Court has sentenced 10 people to administrative detention, also imposed a GEL 1,000 fine on one person and gave a verbal warning to another. The court still has consider the cases of the remaining 25 persons.