The ruling Georgian Dream party has decided to expel Tbilisi City Council (Sakrebulo) member Erekle Kukhianidze from the majority, amid public protest against the latter’s controversial remarks about Georgian doctor Vazha Gaprindashvili who remains in occupied Tskhinvali custody for a month.
Chair of the Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia Beka Davituliani told media early on December 18 that Kukhianidze will also be dismissed as the Head of Environment Protection Commission of Tbilisi Sakrebulo. Davituliani also stated that the Sakrebulo majority does not have a right to terminate mandate to its member, and that the mandate can be suspended only after the Sakrebulo member’s personal request.
On December 13, Kukhianidze wrote an offensive post on his personal Facebook page, accusing doctor Vazha Gaprindashvili, who was illegally detained by Russia-backed Tskhinvali authorities in mid-November, as well as the doctor’s family of staging provocation against the Georgian government.
In Kukhianidze’s words: “When you know that there is an occupier, who will arrest you…[but] you still go [there anyway], and when you know that your country lacks the effective tool to resist the occupier but then the family [of yours] confronts the government and accuses it of ineptitude, cynicism and inhumanity, this is either idiocy or provocation.”
Kukhianidze’s Facebook post has triggered protest among civic activists and opposition. On December 16, opposition gathered outside the Sakrebulo building, demanding from Kukhianidze to quit his mandate. Elene Khoshtaria of the European Georgia removed the sign from Kukhianidze’s cabinet, saying there is no place for him at Sakrebulo.
The ruling party members distanced themselves from Kukhianidze’s opinion. Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani noted, however, that the Sakrebulo member’s statement is in line with freedom of expression.
Later the same day, Kukhianidze made his first televised explanation at TV Pirveli, where he apologized to Gaprindashvili’s family and blamed emotions for his insulting words about them. Noting that the release of Gaprindashvili is important, he said “we [should] manage to change this grave situation in the country together.”
The following day, on December 17, civic activists and opposition again gathered outside of the Sakrebulo building. The protesters entered city legislative building and attempted to occupy Kukhianidze’s cabinet by placing tent in it. The security officials removed some of the protesters from the area, while others stayed in the building demanding Kukhianidze’s mandate suspension.
Four people, including the members of European Georgia, have been detained for petty hooliganism during the clash between the protesters and police.
Following the incident, on December 17, Sakrebulo chair Giorgi Tkemaladze offered protesting opposition politicians – Khatia Dekanoidze of United National Movement and Elene Khoshtaria of European Georgia – to discuss this issue, however, the meeting proved unsuccessful as the ruling party did not then promise any actions against Kukhianidze.
Later, however, Tkemaladze told TV Pirveli that Kukhianidze’s statement is “unacceptable” for the ruling party, and that the majority would make a decision concerning him at its nearest session.
Opposition vowed in the evening of December 17 to keep protests until the majority would meet their demands. Later on December 17, the opposition announced that they would impose moratorium on Sakrebulo protest as the teen, 15, who attempted suicide allegedly following psychological abuse by the police, succumbed to his injuries.
Ruling team is represented by three factions in Tbilisi’s 50-member Sakrebulo. The largest Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia faction has 31 members after expelling Kukhianidze, while Georgian Dream – Conservatives and Georgian Dream – Industrialists factions have three lawmakers each.