GD, UNM Trade Accusations of Campaign Violence

The United National Movement, former ruling party, voiced its concerns over the September 27 acts of violence in southern Bolnisi Municipality and Tbilisi’s Gldani district during the election campaign and blamed the ruling Georgian Dream party for the incidents. The GD, in turn, has been pointing accusatory fingers at the United National Movement, its arch-nemesis.

The largest clash reportedly involving dozens of people with part of them ending up in the hospital, took place in a Chaikhana (a tea-house) in Nakhiduri, an ethnic Azeri-settled village in the Bolnisi municipality of the southern Kvemo Kartli region.

Kakha Okriashvili, now running as a majoritarian candidate from the UNM-led bloc for southern Bolnisi, Dmanisi, Tetritskaro and Tsalka municipalities, who has repeatedly switched his party allegiances in the past, claimed that a “gang led by Gocha Meshveliani” physically assaulted UNM local head Arif Usupov while the latter was enjoying his drink in Chaikhana alone.

Gocha Meshveliani, a Bolnisi Sakrebulo (city assembly) member, denied the accusations, noting that the GD activists were the actual victims of the assault “with stones and truncheons.”

Gogi Meshveliani, GD Majoritarian MP for Bolnisi and reportedly the brother of Gocha Meshveliani, accused Arif Usupov of provoking the incident with the aim to threaten and intimidate GD activists, noting that similar reports are emerging from other villages as well.

In a press conference on September 28, devoted to the Bolnisi incident, MP Mamuka Mdinaradze, Parliamentary Vice-Speaker from the GD Party, slammed the UNM for continued provocations leading to the violent incident. Mdinaradze offered the GD’s account of events, claiming that the main escalation of the physical confrontation happened near the GD office, and their activists were the ones who were hospitalized with grave injuries after they were attacked with stones, truncheons, and table feet.

The police have opened criminal investigations into the Nakhiduri incident under Article 126 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, involving group violence.

Gldani Incident

In a separate incident, Nika Melia, a joint opposition candidate for the Gldani constituency, reported another violent act on the same day, saying that several stones were thrown at his campaign rally in the Gldanula settlement. According to Melia, stones allegedly came from the rooftop of a nearby building, and the assault may have ended fatally, had a stone hit any of the dozens of gathered people, who have also witnessed the incident.

Melia reckoned that the assault was caused by the fact that “they are worrying in the GD main office that they are losing.”

The Ministry of Interior is leading an investigation into the incident under Article 126 of the Criminal Code, involving violence.

Commenting on the Gldani incident, GD MP Mamuka Mdinaradze said that he was not precisely aware of what happened and the fact had to be investigated, reiterating his calls on citizens and GD supporters to avoid responding to provocations.

Central Election Commission Chairperson Tamar Zhvania also commented today on the incidents and urged the political parties to call their supporters to refrain from the violence. Zhvania said the violent incidents are in breach of the standards set by the Code of Conduct of Political Parties for October 31 parliamentary elections, signed by both, the ruling and opposition parties.

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