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Georgia’s Local Elections 2021 Live Blog: For Georgia Says Shots Fired at Empty Car of Their Tsageri Candidate

Georgia is heading to polls on October 2 to elect local self-government bodies for a four-year term. Recent surveys show public mood is somber ahead of the election and that ruling Georgian Dream, its arch-rival UNM and ex-PM Gakharia’s For Georgia parties enjoying the highest popular support. Much of the opposition frames the election as a “referendum” over holding snap parliamentary elections in 2022, as the EU-brokered April 19 agreement envisages snap polls the next year if GD fails to garner 43% of votes on October 2. The GD abandoned the deal in July, citing UNM’s refusal to join it, and now rules out holding any snap elections, while UNM signed the accord on September 2, after it perceived the GD’s rejection of EU loan as open rejection of pro-western foreign policy. 

Saturday, September 25

12:50 UTC+4 — Reports: Shots Fired at Empty Car of For Georgia’s Tsageri Mayoral Candidate

Natia Mezvrishvili of ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia party told reporters their mayoral candidate in Tsageri, Beso Bendeliani had found out in the morning that gunshots were fired at his empty car parked outside his house. Mezvrishvili laid responsibility on the Georgian Dream, accusing governing party chair Irakli Kobakhidze, Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze and PM Irakli Garibashvili of “justifying violence” and “encouraging hate speech.” Media quoted Interior Ministry as saying that the investigation has been launched into the case under Article 187 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, involving damage or destruction of one’s property. Mezvrishvili also alleged today that their candidate Salome Gongadze, running for Lagodekhi Sakrebulo in eastern Kakheti region, found her car tires cut. Civil.ge is trying to reach out to the GD party for comment.

Friday, September 24

17:00 UTC+4 — Dolidze Ready to Assist Gakharia in Lawsuit on Drug Use Allegations

Anna Dolidze, the leader of For People party and Tbilisi mayoral hopeful, said she is ready to provide legal support to her mayoral rival Giorgi Gakharia of For Georgia party to launch a lawsuit about the allegations of drug use by Georgian Dream chair Irakli Kobakhidze. She also called on the Prosecutor’s Office to interrogate MP Kobakhidze, arguing his claims indicate he hid the information about Gakharia’s alleged drug abuse from the law enforcement.

14:51 UTC+4 — Khoshtaria Accuses GD of Organizing Attack Against EU Embassy

Elene Khoshtaria of Droa party accused the Georgian Dream of organizing an “attack and blockade” against the EU Embassy. The Sakrebulo Chair candidate, backed by the United National Movement and others, said that half an hour after the altercation between UNM’s Melia and GD’s Kobakhidze outside the EU Embassy (MORE) the governing party brought its “muscle” in front of the building. She argued the safety of EU envoy Carl Hartzell could not be ensured hours after the incident “despite the Ambassador’s communication with the GD.”

Thursday, September 23

21:30 UTC+4 — Gakharia on Melia, Kobakhidze Altercation 

Ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia slammed  Nika Melia of UNM and GD Chair Irakli Kbakhidze, saying “one irresponsible politician was deceived into provocation by another irresponsible politician.” He said MP Kobakhidze has the duty to the country to be patient, but he “succumbed to this provocation and we got the circus.”

20:21 UTC+4 — PM Denounces Violence, Threats 

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has denounced violence and threats “coming from any person, group or a party.” As the October 2 local elections draw nearer “we can see emotions are running higher,” said PM Garibashvili. He highlighted that Georgian people “deserve” an election campaign that will confirm “that our nation is loyal to the idea of democracy.” PM Garibashvili called on all sides, “especially the radical opposition,” to refrain from provocations. The statement comes after attacks on a United National Movement supporter in Rustavi city, as well as stabbing of two UNM supporters in Gantiadi village of Dmanisi municipality.   

15:54 UTC+4 — Kobakhidze, Melia in Heated Exchange

Georgian Dream chair Irakli Kobakhidze and United National Movement leader Nika Melia traded insulting remarks outside the EU Embassy in Tbilisi, in a heated exchange that began after the opposition leader confronted his rival over the Dmanisi municipality stabbingsMORE.

11:00 UTC+4 — ISFED Releases Second Monitoring Report

The watchdog said in its second interim pre-election monitoring report that the “nature of violations observed” in the run-up to the October 2 local polls is becoming worse, pointing to the recent attacks against opposition supporters. MORE.

Wednesday, September 22

23:00 UTC+4 — Ex-Envoy to EU Says Georgia Still Governed by Soviet Methods, Loses Friends

Former long serving Georgian envoy to the EU, Natalie Sabanadze, who now works as an advisor to ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia, spoke to Formula TV about the alleged spying on foreign diplomats, as well as the EU summoning her successor over the alleged surveillance. Sabanadze said “it is very hard to see that even today, thirty years since the collapse of the USSR, the Georgian state is governed by Soviet methods. The Soviet Union was an oppressive state, using brute force over its citizens by intruding into their private space, by surveillance, accusing them of being enemies of people, planting narcotics… This style of governance has not been demolished in Georgia.” “We are losing friends,” former Ambassador went on, adding that “a big crack” has appeared in Georgia’s relations with the West. 

10:00 UTC+4 — Dekanoidze Says Georgian March Disrupted Opposition Campaign Event

United National Movement Kutaisi mayoral candidate Khatia Dekanoidze said she and Zurab Japaridze of Girchi – More Freedom were verbally harrased by ultranationalist group Georgian March during a campaign event in Kutaisi. Dekanoidze claimed that the State Security Service of Georgia had tasked Georgian March with disrupting the campaign event.

Tuesday, September 21

23:25 UTC+4 — Gakharia Asks Kaladze Over GD’s Allegations Over Drug Addiction, Saakashvili Ties 

Ex-PM Gakharia asked his former party colleague Kakha Kaladze, whether he shares Georgian Dream allegations about Gakharia being narcotics addict, “traitor” and having ties with ex-President Saakashvili. Kaladze said “nobody accused Giorgi Gakharia of being a drug addict.” [GD Chair Kobakhidze referred to Gakharia as “some cokehead” editor’s note]. Kaladze said he did not like Gakharia’s decision in February about resignation, but refused to go into details. “I always try my best to be reserved when the question arises regarding Giorgi Gakharia,” Kaladze went on, adding that “In the first place, I am a man, then a politician.”

23:18 UTC+4 — Debates: Gakharia Accused of “Selling” Namakhvani Lands to Turkey 

Giorgi Kutateladze of Sakartvelo (Georgia) party asked ex-PM Gakharia a “heartbroken” question about the solution for Namakhvani HPP project, claiming “Turkish red flag is flying in a picturesque Rioni River ravine,” and that “Mr Gakharia and his team handed over these lands to Turkey.” In response, Gakharia called “handover of lands to Turkey” an ordinary lie, noting the lands are on lease and that he served as Interior Minister, not as PM, when the terms with the investor were agreed. Gakharia cautiously advocated for building the HPP, however, noting the country needs hydro energy. “We need energy for these people” protesting in Rioni Valley, he said. 

23:01 UTC+4 — Kaladze Speaks of Green Spaces, Faster Public Transport

Building up on Bibilashvili’s question, Kaladze spoke of green and recreation spaces created during his tenure, kindergartens, and renewed public transport (pledging to completely renew microbuses by the end of the year). He said public transport should be “fastest and most comfortable” and that bus lanes should be added where possible to ensure faster transit. Bibilashvili replied that Kaladze spoke of “parallel Tbilisi.” 

23:00 UTC+4 — What is the Difference Between Kaladze and Gakharia? Bibilashvili Wonders, Sparks Joy

Journalist gave a minute to Ana Bibilashvili to voice question to one of her opponents. Lelo’s candidate said she has question to GD, and that Kaladze and Gakharia could themselves choose who answers, because the two represent the same Georgian Dream force that “betrayed the people.” Gakharia remarked that “there is no difference between you two, you both call me a traitor.” Bibilashvili finally chose Kaladze as respondent, who replied: “Giorgi [Gakharia] is thinner than me,” and  dismissing the question as “unserious.” 

22:52 UTC+4 — Dolidze Says People Tired of Polarization

Ana Dolidze said “voters are tired of polarization,” tired that during pre-election campaign the ruling party does not talk about its accomplishments, but rather about UNM. And this is done on purpose, as the governing party, in fact, does not have anything to tell people about courts, poverty, education, agriculture, Dolidze noted. Where were my colleagues when I fought against the UNM, for free courts, for environment – against Namakhvani HPP, for cheaper medicines, for women’s rights? Dolidze appealed to the viewers. 

22:50 UTC+4 — Kaladze Slams “Destructive” Melia, UNM, Calls for Ending Polarization

Accusing Melia and UNM of having “destruction” as their handwriting, Kaladze said “it would certainly not please me if Melia runs away when he loses elections on October 2. On the contrary, we should end polarization and people with all of the different political views should be able to live in this country, without any problems. This country and the city belongs to all.”

22:42 UTC+4 — Gakharia Says GD, UNM Start to Resemble Each Other

Gakharia said he is participating in these elections for citizens to have “right to elect,” noting there is a shrinking space for political forces, as the two biggest parties – GD and UNM – start to rapidly resemble each other. Ex-PM also asserted his party is trying to bring fresh, young faces to politics.

22:35 UTC+4 — Tbilisi Debate: Labor Candidate Says Kaladze Part of Elite Unable to Feel Tbilisites

Labor Party candidate Mikheil Kumsishvili said Tbilisi Mayor today is not living the life ordinary Tbilisites live. 40 thousand socially vulnerable are fed with food worth of Gel 1.18, while 30 thousand disabled people cannot leave their homes due to the lack of adapted city infrastructure. Kaladze cannot feel these problems, he is part of the elite, Kumsishvili said. 

22:00 UTC+4 — 16 Tbilisi Candidates Live on Debate

The Georgian Public Broadcaster is hosting the first ever TV debate between 16 Tbilisi Mayoral hopefuls. In their one minute introduction, some of the key candidates focused on:

Tamar Kekenadze of the Third Force said the Georgian Dream government brought Georgia to collapse during the past 9 years and destroyed the country’s future. She focused on ending polarization of GD and its arch-rival UNM. Kekenadze named jobs, raising average salary and helping small and medium businesses as top issues. 

Nika Melia of the UNM, the largest opposition party and backed by three other opposition party of European Georgia, Girchi More Freedom and Droa, said the debate format does not help having a real debate. He said GD Secretary General and Tbilisi Mayoral candidate, incumbent Kakha Kaladze and his GD colleagues are “immoral,” “corrupted,” and putting aggression against political opponents; Noting that Kaladze is “endlessly corrupted” and directing and saving criminals, with whom he cannot imaging sharing the stage, Melia quit the debate. 

Giorgi Lomia of the Kremlin-friendly Alliance of Patriots regretted unfair election environment and slammed GD over stripping AoP of having representatives at election commissions.

Ana Bibilashvili of Lelo for Georgia alluded to GD and UNM forgetting real needs of people, and addressing to divisive campaign. “I am the only candidate whose profession is the city and its needs,” said Bibilashvili, architect by profession.

Labor Party candidate Mikheil Kumsishvili said the public is tired of seeing the same political figures, who cannot change anything. Kumsishvili, 28, accentuated anti-elitist discourse. “We should definitely end the rule of elites,” he said, also promising to strengthen the middle class. 

Arinze Richard Ogbunuju,  Nigerian-born candidate focused on Georgia’s traditions and the country being “a phenomenon in the Caucasus”  

Ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia also said this is not a real debate, hinting at lage number of candidates present at the stage. Electing Tbilisi Mayor will mark the beginning of change throughout the country, he said, adding that there is a lack of fair and free pre-election environment. He said the UNM and GD are dragging the country to the past. 

Lawyer Zaza Khatiashvili of Free Georgia said GD founder “Bidzina Ivanishvili’s regime” has dragged the country into the swamp of corruption and criticized the judiciary. I want to return smile on the face of Tbilisites, he said, also noting that he aims at protecting the interests of ordinary Tbilisites from the current city hall authorities.

Kakha Kaladze, GD incumbent stressed he has vision for the city, and listed his 6-point-plan, including urban, environment, transport, healthcare, education, culture, sports and youth and infrastructure policies. 

Ana Dolidze, For People leader thanked the broadcaster for enabling “1,8 million women voters” to listen to all candidates, including women hopefuls. Citing Vazha-Pshavela, revered writer, Dolidze said Georgia is the country of Aluda Ketelauri’s values, and that candidates shall respect their opponents. Stressing that she was born and raised in the capital city, Dolidze said she has seen better Tbilisi, andthat  she also witnessed narcotics addiction overwhelming the city and claiming lives in 90s. She said she is seeing Tbilisi without identity, that could change with her election.

Giorgi Gachechiladze of the Green Party  – credited his party of having roots in anti-Soviet national-liberation movement and of giving rise to ecological policy in the country. Gachechiladze also alleged and recalled Saakashvili-era attempts to destroy his party. 

19:00 UTC+4 — GD Chair Condemns Dmanisi Stabbings, Says UNM Encourages Violence

Responding to the incident in Gantiadi village of Dmanisi Municipality, where allegedly local GD majoritarian candidate’s son stabbed two opposition supporters earlier today, Georgian Dream chair Irakli Kobakhidze told reporters that “a perpetrator must be punished. There is no justification for the grave action that we have seen in Dmanisi… It does not matter who commits such action, member of which party…” Asked to comment on allegations that the ruling party encourages violence against the opposition, MP Kobakhidze pointed accusatory fingers at the United National Movement, noting that the UNM is the very force “encouraging violence.” 

17:10 UTC+4 — 40 Families Receive Houses with Batumi City Hall Program

Head of Adjara Government, Tornike Rizhvadze and Acting Mayor of Batumi Lela Surmanidze provided apartments to 40 families under the Batumi City Hall’s GEL 4.7 million (USD 1.5 million) affordable housing project. The families were selected by the company that carries out the project, while the apartments were assigned by lottery.

17:00 UTC+4 — MP Okriashvili Says Two Persons Stabbed in Dmanisi Brawl

Kakha Okriashvili, member of the United National Movement-led bloc Strength in Unity, claimed that 20 to 30 Georgian Dream supporters descended on a meeting with the UNM’s local mayoral candidate Giorgi Tatuashvili in Village Gantiadi near Dmanisi town. He also alleged that the son of Georgian Dream’s local majoritarian candidate Davit Dautashvili stabbed two of their supporters. The footage aired by Mtavari Arkhi TV shows a brawl supposedly between GD and UNM activists. Interior Ministry has not yet commented on the development.

12:00 UTC+4 — UNM Says Supporter Assaulted in Rustavi

United National Movement Rustavi mayoral candidate Davit Kirkitadze said a man was fired a few days ago from a publicly-funded agency under Rustavi City Hall, threatened and subsequently assaulted outside his house yesterday for supporting the opposition party. “This is the handwriting of the Georgian Dream,” Kirkitadze said. Georgian Dream’s Rustavi mayoral hopeful Nino Latsabidze denied the accusation as “absurd.”

Monday, September 20

18:50 UTC+4 — Melia Warns Growing Influence of Criminal World

At a campaign event to present Batu Kutelia, Droa’s majoritarian candidate in Vake district, also backed by UNM, European Georgia and Girchi More Freedom parties, the four parties’ joint candidate for Tbilisi Mayor, Nika Melia allaged close ties between thieves and the ruling Georgian Dream party. “What I have seen in Gldani [district] the last year during five months, was unimaginable. One ‘thief in law’ rules Mukhiani [neighborhood], the second one rules Gldani, while the third one holds sway over Avchala [neighborhood],” said Melia, who fought for Gldani majoritarian in 2020 parliamentary elections. He went on that “We have no right not to win… [If we lose on October 2], it will be impossible for any force to win any future election, even locals, without a deal and close [links] with the criminal world… I feel their influence is growing… If I had right to informally conduct a search and go down at Barnovi Street [in Vake], to stop every tenth vehicle randomly, firearms will be found from car cabins, car boots, and jeans [pants].” 

18:00 UTC+4 — Georgian Dream Launches Podcast

The Georgian Dream party has launched an English-language podcast hosted by MP Tamar Taliashvili, Deputy Chair of the parliamentary Education and Science Commmittee. In the first episode, she hosted party chair Irakli Kobakhidze, discussing the nearing October 2 local elections and the draft constitutional amendments, among others.

15:50 UTC+4 — Lelo Mayoral Candidate Says Tbilisi ‘Losing’ Dighomi Forest Park

Lelo party Tbilisi mayoral hopeful said residents of the capital city are losing Dighomi Forest Park while the country is “involved in political strife.” Bibilashvili highlighted that part of the 75-hectare park has been privatized, with a permit for constructing a four-story trade center on a 12,000 square meter plot already approved. “This private property is protected under the Constitution of Georgia… But when the interests of the city and the private property intersect, the City Hall should have a stance,” Bibilashvili noted.

15:45 UTC+4 — CEC Advisory Group Disbanded after Members Quit

The Advisory Group of the Central Election Commission tasked to ensure organizational, legal, and technical support of elections and referenda was disbanded after seven of its members quit the group. Letters of resignation were submitted to CEC on September 16-17 soon after Civil Election Commission, a recently established election watchdog co-founded by Shame Movement, published information on alleged financial ties between CEC and some of the organizations involved in the advisory group. According to Giorgi Santuriani, the head of the legal department at CEC, the Election Code mandates the advisory group to be composed of at least nine and a maximum of fifteen members; the resignations lowed the number [from 12 to 5] beyond the legally required threshold. The Advisory Group had been staffed without two of the key election watchdogs in August, Transparency International and International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, both of which refused to join. 

Sunday, September 19

19:40 UTC+4 ISFED, Khoshtaria Appeal CEC over “Bloody” Billboards

International Society for Fair Elections (ISFED) and Elene Khoshtaria of the Droa party have lodged separate appeals over billboards that showed some prominent opposition leaders and media personalities on a bloodsoaked background. Both argued the “bloody” billboards violated Article 41 (6) of the Election Code that stipulates printed campaign materials shall specify the names and addresses of organizations that manufactured and ordered them, as well as information of circulation, sequence number, and date of issue.

16:00 UTC+4 — GYLA Head Denies Kobakhidze’s Accusations

Nika Simonishvili, Head of Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, slammed as “nonsense” Georgian Dream Chair Irakli Kobakhide’s claim that the watchdog’s appeal to the Constitutional Court over majoritarian district boundaries of the self-government elections aimed to obstruct the upcoming polls. Simonishvili pointed out the Court ruling on the matter will not be out either before the Election Day or shortly after. He asserted the complaint is only aimed at ensuring the votes of the citizens all have equal weight.

15:30 UTC+4 — GD Chair Implies GYLA Appeal Promotes ‘Revolutionary Scenario’

Ruling Georgian Dream party chair Irakli Kobakhidze accused the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association of attempting to obstruct the local elections two weeks ahead of the polling day with an “absurd” constitutional appeal. MP Kobakhidze compared the complaint, which argues that current boundaries of majoritarian districts are unconstitutional, to a 2016 appeal by the United National Movement. He said it is “concerning” that a CSO is doing something previously “attempted” by the UNM to promote a “revolutionary scenario.”

Saturday, September 18

17:50 UTC+4 — Gakharia Says GD Turns Natsi-like

Responding to accusations by Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili yesterday over then Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s “eye-gauging” handling of June 20, 2019 anti-occupation rally dispersal, ex-PM Gakharia said “I know already that today [Georgian] Dream is not Georgian, Dream has become Natsi-like [derogatory term for the UNM  editor’s note].”

13:00 UTC+4 — New Billboards Targetting UNM, Gakharia, Journalists Stir Controversy

Now-traditional anti-UNM posters pre-election billboards, this time including image of ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia too, as well as TV Pirveli’s Nodar Meladze and Director General of Mtavari Arkhi TV, Nika Gvaramia, have appeared around Tbilisi overnight. MP Tamar Kordzaia of UNM-led coalition slammed the GD government, saying “these banners are made to show that [Tbilisi] turned into the city full of hate and death, not life” – alluding to GD’s election slogan. Georgian Dream leaders denied they are behind the campaign. GD chair Irakli Kobakhidze said however that putting up banners is protected under the right to freedom of expression. “This is, apparently, gift by grateful people to that opposition that distingusihed itself with addressing most cruel methods during nine years,” he said. GD’s Tbilisi Mayoral candidate, incumbent Mayor Kahka Kaladze said he does not like the billboards, yet addressed government-critical TV reporters: „You don’t like the [posters], do you? The same way I don’t like that campaign that your party is implementing with using your TV stations.” Rustavi 2 TV talked to businessman Mikheil Gabriadze, who assumed responsibility on the billboards, saying “I am apolitical in general, but people, youths should remember that they [UNM] should not come to power again.”

‘No to natsis [derogatory term for UNM], no to evil, no to treason,” reads the banner against UNM and ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia. The latter had been dubbed “traitor” by GD leaders. The billboard shows: the first line, left to right – GD-turned-UNM MP Gubaz Sanikidze, UNM’s Nika Melia, ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili and Gakharia. On the second line, left to right – TV Pirveli journalist Nodar Meladze, European Georgia’s Giga Bokeria, Mtavari Arkhi TV director general Nika Gvaramia and Girchi-More Freedom party’s Zurab Japaridze. Gakharia’s image is printed with dark circles under his eye, alluding to recent GD accusations against him over cocaine use. Screengrab from Rustavi 2 TV video.

10:00 UTC+4 Watchdog Appeals Majoritarian Districts Boundaries

Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) launched a lawsuit in the Constitutional Court demanding recognition of current boundaries of majoritarian districts established for the local self-government elections as unconstitutional. The lawsuit stipulates that, currently, a constituent’s vote in a small district has more influence on the outcome of an election than a voter’s ballot in large districts. “The number of registered voters in Saburtalo is 134,582, and in Mtatsminda – 53,884. As the number of voters living in Saburtalo is 2.5 times higher than their number in Mtatsminda, the weight of a single vote in the Saburtalo district is 2.5 times less prominent than the weight of a vote in Mtatsminda,” GYLA explained.

Friday, September 17

23:46 UTC+4 — Gakharia Says Tests Negative on Drugs

Former PM Giorgi Gakharia, who recently faced cocaine addiction accusations from his former Georgian Dream colleagues, published the results of the urine and blood drug screening in Vienna’s Rudolfinerhaus Clinic, showing negative on narcotics consumption. Ex-Prime Minister also said hair follicle drug test results are also coming from the same hospital.

22:15 UTC+4 — Garibashvili Says GD Political Vegetarians, UNM Cannibals

“[People like] Megis Kardava, [Bacho] Akhalaia, Vano Merabishvili, [Giga] Bokeria, all of these Goebbelses, and sadists, led by [Mikheil] Saakashvili, this mafia banda – like someone said – these political cannibals, are disliking our vegetarian menu. We are political vegetarians compared to them,” PM Irakli Garibashvili told Rustavi 2 TV, comparing the Georgian Dream to its arch-rival, the United National Movement party.

16:40 UTC+4 — Girchi – More Freedom Members Released from Custody

Two Girchi – More Liberty members, Nika Mosiashvili and Boris Kurua, temporarily detained after smashing their own Škoda Octavia – the preferred vehicle of law enforcement agencies – in protest over alleged State Security Service wiretappings, were released from custody on parole.

16:40 UTC+4 Mezvrishvili Accuses Police of Distracting from Campaign

Deputy Chair of Gakharia’s For Georgia party Natia Mezvrishvili tweeted today that the police is distracting her amid an active pre-election campaign. “I was summoned to police in Kazbegi, 150km away from Tbilisi, on 4 cases of political persecution, in a procedure unforeseen by legislation,” she wrote, underlining that the police overlooks “the systemic nature of over 100 cases [of persecution].”

14:30 UTC+4 Cocaine Accusations Against Gakharia “Russian Handwriting,” Says Saakashvili

Ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili of the United National Movement has called Georgian Dream’s accusations against Tbilisi mayoral hopeful Giorgi Gakharia over his alleged drug abuse “a typical Russian handwriting.” “They have been saying the exact same thing for years about me,” he added.

11:44 UTC+4 420 IDP Families Receive Apartments in Tskaltubo

The Government of Georgia has provided apartments in Tskaltubo town to 420 IDP families, that had lived in Tskaltubo sanatoriums for years. “The Government decided to allocate GEL 37 million (USD 12 million) to build the new residential complex,” PM Irakli Garibashvili said. In 2020, some 140 families were also resettled. 

Thursday, September 16

22:18 UTC+4 MP Kobakhidze Hints Gakharia a “Cokehead”

“Better if we speak about some other topic, rather than waste 15 minutes on some cokehead,” said ruling Georgian Dream chair Irakli Kobakhidze referring to former Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia in an interview with the Georgian Public Broadcaster. “As far as we know, this is a recent problem for him,” added Kobakhidze when pressured by the journalist if he had suspected Gakharia abused drugs when he was in the GD government.

20:25 UTC+4 Initial Tbilisi Mayoral Candidate Backed Out after Pressure, Gakharia Says

Tbilisi mayoral hopeful Giorgi Gakharia, leader of For Georgia party, said their “well-respected,” “much better” mayoral candidate was pressured not to enter the race for the capital in October 2 local polls – a “red line” that, according to Gakharia, prompted his run for the post instead.

16:06 UTC+4 — PM Says Saakashvili a Drug User, Hints Gakharia Might Be Too

“We have seen several drug-addicted leaders, such as Saakashvili, who is still an active narcotics user,” said Prime Minister Garibashvili today. He also claimed his predecessor, Tbilisi Mayoral candidate Giorgi Gakharia is “probably scared” to take in Georgia the drug test called for by incumbent Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, also running for re-election.

13:50 UTC+4 —  Mtavari Arkhi Camerman Discharged from Hospital 

Mtavari TV Camerman, that was reportedly assaulted at GD’s regional office, suffering pelvic and hip fractures, was discharged from a hospital this morning. He was transferred to Tbilisi for medical examination from Kareli, a small town in Shida Kartli, following the incident.

13:00 UTC+4 — Interior Minister Meets EU, Member State Ambassadors

Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri discussed the October 2 local polls on a virtual meeting with EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell and envoys of the 27-member-bloc member states, the Interior Ministry reported on September 16. MORE

Wednesday, September 15

22:30 UTC+4 — UNM Rustavi Mayoral Candidate’s Initiatives

Rustavi city mayoral hopeful Davit Kirkitadze of the United National Movement unveiled several initiatives to implement if he wins the race. The largest opposition party candidate said he aims to distribute state-owned land surrounding the city to up to the families of Rustavi. He also pledged to give legal ownership to current tenants of illegally constructed residences, as well as car garages.

21:45 UTC+4 — GD’s Mdinaradze Says Cameraman Tripped and Fell

Georgian Dream MP Mamuka Mdinaradze denied Mtavari Arkhi TV reports, arguing instead cameraman Ablotia tripped on the railing of a staircase connecting to the balcony and “fell over.” According to MP Mdinaradze, the cameraman did not fall two stories either. He also denied that people at the GD office attacked the TV crew, and dubbed Mtavari Arkhi’s version of the story a “dirty speculation.”

The Interior Ministry has not yet released a statement on the incident.

21:00 UTC+4 — Additional Details on the Incident

Mtavari Arkhi TV reporter Beka Korshia said that he and cameraman Levan Ablotia were attacked by four or five persons who drove them out of the office to its balcony. He said he was hit during the scuffle as well. Mtavari Arkhi Director Nika Gvaramia said Ablotia is not in a severe condition but has suffered a broken hip. Other possible injuries not identified yet due to insufficient technical means at the regional hospital, according to Gvaramia.

19:30 UTC+4 — Mtavari Arkhi Crew Reportedly Assaulted at GD Regional Office

Mtavari Arkhi TV reporter Beka Korshia said the channel’s operator “was thrown” two stories out of the Georgian Dream’s office in Kareli town. Korshia said a scuffle erupted at the office after the crew arrived seeking a comment from GD’s Kareli mayoral candidate Zaza Guliashvili. According to the reporter, the cameraman was transferred to a hospital and is injured but conscious. Mtavari Arkhi TV has not yet disclosed the name of the cameraman, or additional details on the development.

19:00 UTC+4 — Shame Movement Denies MP Kobakhidze’s Accusation

Shame Movement slammed MP Irakli Kobakhidze’s accusation as a “lie,” noting the movement has never had such a discussion with the United National Movement. “Unlike the Georgian Dream, we know the price of human life,” the Shame Movement added.

17:00 UTC+4 — MP Kobakhidze Claims UNM Mulling over Murder 

Citing supposedly leaked insider information from the United National Movement, Georgian Dream chair MP Irakli Kobakhidze claimed the party members had said “hiring a killer and taking out one of their own would cost 1/10” of what they are spending on their “party and party[-owned]  televisions.” According to the GD chair, one of the members of the Shame movement was asked “to test this idea in several chats.” MP Kobakhidze claimed “the radical opposition” are discussing carrying out grave provocations “more and more actively.”  

13:00 UTC+4 — CEC Received List of Potential Voters

Public Service Development Agency handed over the list of 3,540,609 potential voters to Central Election Commission. The deadline for the CEC to release final/corrected data on the total number of voters and their breakdown by electoral districts is September 27. MORE

Tuesday, September 14

23:20 UTC+4 — Saakashvili Meets MEPs

Ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili of the United National Movement has held a meeting with MEPs, including Marina Kaljurand (S&D, Estonia), Sven Mikser (S&D, Estonia), Andrius Kubilius (EPP, Lithuania), Michael Gahler (EPP, Germany) and Petras Auštrevičius (Renew Europe, Lithuania). MEP Kaljurand tweeted  that she urged Saakashvili to refrain from “provocations and use his political capital to help to depolarize pre-election situation in Georgia and respect OSCE/ODIHR decision after Georgia’s local elections on October 2.”

15:50 UTC+4 — Labor Party Mayoral Candidate Pledges Improving Agrarian Markets

Labor party mayoral candidate Mikheil Kumsishvili met with traders at one of the open-air agricultural markets in Tbilisi. Kumsishvili pledged to improve the infrastructure of all Tbilisi markets, making them comfortable, clean and tidy, where “the interests of both: traders and buyers will be protected.”

14:35 UTC+4 — ISFED Presents First Interim Report on Pre-Election Social Media

ISFED, a key election watchdog, presented its first report on pre-election social media, analyzing 1,126 public posts during August 2-22. Watchdog identified pages attempting to discredit the ruling Georgian Dream party, as well as the opposition. ISFED’s monitors also found that 52 civil servants had publish 118 possible election agitation posts during working hours. MORE.

12:44 UTC+4 — PM Proposes Import Substitution

“[Government] seeks to gradually develop local production and replace imported goods,” said PM Irakli Garibashvili on a campaign rally introducing GD’s Vakhtang Maisuradze as a candidate for upcoming mayoral elections in Kaspi, a small town in central Georgia. “It requires very consistent, accurate work and stability,” he added.

12:40 UTC+4 — GD Accuses Critical Channels of Spreading Disinformation 

Ruling Georgian Dream MP Shalva Papuashvili accused three government-critical TV networks – Mtavari Arkhi, TV Pirveli and Formula TV – of undertaking “deliberate disinformation and hate campaigns” against the Government and its officials. “Attempts to discredit the Prime Minister and GD’s Tbilisi mayoral candidate are especially relevant, these persons are targets of hate speech,” he said. MP Papuashvili, also the party’s PR secretary, presented the findings of media monitoring conducted by the GD’s internal communications team between 1-12 September. The monitoring report claims that the government-critical outlets are spreading disinformation, use hate-speech, and air manipulated content in their news broadcasts and talk-shows. 

Monday, September 13

22:00 UTC+4 — UNM’s Kutaisi Candidate Proposes Green Spaces

United National Movement party’s Kutaisi mayoral hopeful Khatia Dekanoidze pledged to repurpose the area surrounding the former Parliament building by developing a green area with parks, gardens and children’s playgrounds.

20:26 UTC+4 Samkharauli National Forensics Bureau responds to Gakharia

Samkharauli National Forensics Bureau slammed former PM, Tbilisi Mayoral hopeful Giorgi Gakharia’s refusal to take his drug test at the Bureau. Citing a “provocation,” Gakharia had said he would take a hair follicle test abroad. The Bureau said that such statements are “highly damaging to an independent state institution and are intended to discredit the Bureau and its staff”. It also added that the hair follicle drug test is “least informing.

18:30 UTC+4 — Gakharia Says Will Take Drug Test, Albeit Abroad

Former PM, For Georgia party’s mayoral hopeful Giorgi Gakharia, has taken up a recent call by incumbent Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze on Tbilisi mayoral race candidates to pass a drug test, saying he will get tested at a laboratory in Europe with “the most reliable” hair follicle drug test and publish results in 2 weeks. Gakharia claimed to have “unmistakable information from the Samkharauli [National] Forensics Bureau about a provocation being prepared” by Georgian Dream party leaders had he taken the test locally.

17:10 UTC+4 — European Parliament Observation Delegation to Include 7 MEPs

European Parliament’s observation delegation for the October 2 local elections in Georgia will include seven MEPs as well as administrative staff, Grigol Gegelia of Lelo for Georgia party said today.

14:16 UTC+4 PM Vows GEL 10 Mln to Complete Abastumani Observatory Rehabilitation

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili vowed the government would allocate GEL 10 million (USD 3 million) to finish the rehabilitation of the Abastumani Astrophysical Observatory during his campaign trip to Abastumani town on September 12. The money would be spent on upgrading the Observatory’s main telescope and digital museum, according to the Infrastructure Minister Irakli Karseladze who accompanied the PM. Government administration’s press service reported that in total GEL 315 (USD 100) million has been allotted for infrastructure repairs in Abastumani, a small town in southern Georgia known for its climactic spas.

Sunday, September 12

15:00 UTC+4  Communications Regulator Says Imedi TV Violated Election Code

The Georgian National Communications Commission, the state regulator, said Imedi TV violated the Election Code by refusing to air an election ad of the opposition European Georgia party. Imedi TV had argued the ad contained “hate speech” but the regulator said it found the video in compliance with relevant legislation. The GNCC said it has drawn up a report on an administrative violation against Imedi TV and sent it to the court for consideration.

Friday, September 10

13:20 UTC +4 — ISFED Appeals Alleged Vote-Buying

International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, key election watchdog, said it has lodged a complaint over vote-buying after a supporters’ Facebook page for Georgian Dream’s Tsalenjikha Municipality mayoral candidate Goga Gulordava posted photos showing party activists handing out food to citizens. Watchdog addressed the Interagency Commission for Free and Fair Elections, established under the Justice Ministry, with the appeal.

12:20 UTC+4 — GD Unveils Public Opinion Poll Results

According to a new public opinion poll, commissioned by the Georgian Dream,  “if the local self-government elections were held tomorrow” Tbilisi electorate would vote for:

  • Georgian Dream – 48.6%;
  • The United National Movement – 27.1%;
  • Ex-PM Gakharia’s For Georgia – 5.8%;
  • Girchi – More Freedom – 3.4%;
  • Citizens – Alexander (Aleko) Elisashvili – 2.6%;
  • The Alliance of Patriots – 2.4%;
  • Third Force – Strategy Aghmashenebeli – 2.3%;
  • Lelo – 2.3%;
  • Labor Party – 1.2%;
  • Girchi – New Political Center – 1.1%;
  • European Georgia – 1.1%
  • Others  – 2.1%;

As for the Tbilisi mayoral candidates, according to the poll, GD’s Kaladze will be heading for reelection in the first rounf. Asked who they vote for if the elections were held tomorrow, Tbilisi electorate said:

  • Kakha Kaladze, GD – 56.1%;
  • Nika Melia, UNM – 28.3%;
  • Giorgi Gakharia, For Georgia – 6.2%;
  • Ana Dolidze, For People – 2.2%
  • Ana Bibilashvili, Lelo – 1.9%
  • Giorgi Lomia, the Alliance of Patriots – 1.3%
  • Tamar Kekenadze, Third Force – Strategy Aghmashenebeli – 0.9%
  • Mikheil Kumsishvili, Labor Party – 0.7%;
  • Others – 2.4%

Senior Georgian Dream lawmaker Mamuka Mdinaradze said the fieldwork was carried out by the party’s own public opinion pollsters in Tbilisi during September 4-8. Out of 2,975 interviewees, 83.8% named their favorites. MP Mdinaradze said the results were weighted, and the margin of error stands at plus, minus 3%. The senior lawmaker did not specify if the interviews were conducted face-to-face or on the phone.

Thursday, September 9

23:13 UTC+4 — European Parliament to Send Observers

MEP Marina Kaljurand said the European Parliament had decided to send an election observation delegation to monitor October 2 local elections.

20:30 UTC+4 — GD’s Kobakhidze Slams Formula Poll as “Dreams”

GD Chair Irakli Kobakhidze slammed the Formula TV-commissioned poll as “dreams” of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili of the United National Movement, and Davit Kezerashvili, UNM-era Defense Minister and the majority shareholder of Formula TV. “It is in their interest that the UNM and Gakharia [For Georgia party] somehow manage to gather a number of votes that will allow them to stir up the country.”

22:23 UTC+4 — Melia Talks Drug Tests

Nika Melia, the UNM candidate for Tbilisi Mayor, said that Kaladze’s call on Tbilisi Mayoral candidates to take drug screening has “a political subtext.” “There is something going on. It seems like there are some drug relations to be sorted out between Mr. Kaladze and Mr. Gakharia. Hopefully, they will figure this out,” he said. Noting that he could take the drug test himself, Melia added that none of the candidates are obliged by law to go through with it.

20:20 UTC+4 — New Polls Show GD (33%), UNM (25%), For Georgia (10%), Labor (6%) Top Parties

According to a new public opinion poll, commissioned by Formula TV, if October 2 local elections were held today, the Georgian public would vote for:

  • Georgian Dream – 33%;
  • The United National Movement – 25%;
  • Ex-PM Gakharia’s For Georgia – 10%;
  • Labor Party – 6%;
  • Girchi – More Freedom – 4%;
  • Lelo – 3%;
  • For People – Ana Dolidze – 3%;
  • The Alliance of Patriots – 3%;
  • Third Force – Strategy Aghmashenebeli – 2%;
  • European Georgia – 2%;
  • Girchi – New Political Center – 2%;
  • ERI – of Levan Vasadze, Russia-friendly businessman – 2%;
  • Droa! – Elene Khoshtaria – 1%;
  • Citizens – Alexander (Aleko) Elisashvili – 1%;
  • Others  – 2%;

The poll was commissioned by Formula TV, government-critical TV channel and fieldwork was carried out by the Edison Research during August 13 – September 5, via 1,500 nationwide face-to-face interviews. An average margin of error, Formula TV said, stands at plus, minus 3%.

18:40 UTC+4 — Lelo’s Tbilisi Mayoral Candidates Lists Priorities

Tbilisi Mayoral candidate Ana Bibilashvili, along with Lelo for Georgia leaders Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri japaridze, unveiled nine key steps of the party’s election program for the Georgian capital titled “Tbilisi Marshall Plan.”

  • “City in a city” – Bibilashvili presented the concept of “five cities” – developing Tbilisi’s different locations into hotspots for following five industries: museums and festivals; medical; business and finance; education and innovation; cinema.
  • “Caring and Fair Tbilisi” –  Bibilishvili outlined as a priority overcoming child poverty and providing care to the elderly.
  • “Safe and Clean Tbilisi” – Lelo leaders vowed that Tbilisi must become city clean of waste, with illuminated and safe streets.
  • “Green Tbilisi” – Bibilashvili highlighted the importance of developing major green spaces.
  • “Business Tbilisi” – Lelo party candidate stressed the importance of attracting foreign investments and creating sustainable Business Environment in the capital.
  • “Connected Tbilisi” – Bibilashvili and Khazaradze stressed the importance of establishing a logistics hub in the vicinity of the Tbilisi International Airport.
  • “Healthy and educated generation Tbilisi” – Lelo leaders said they aim to build swimming pools for all districts, sports facilities for all public school and provide high-quality food for kindergartens.
  • “Host Tbilisi” – Bibilashvili pledged to make Tbilisi tourist center of the region and provide grants for small and medium businesses working in the field.
  • “Old Tbilisi” – She pledged to preserve the appearance of Old Tbilisi and impose strict regulations on new constructions near cultural monuments.

15:00 UTC+4 — Lelo Party Speaks of Pressure on its Candidates

Lelo for Georgia MP Badri Japaridze accused the ruling Georgian Dream party of pressuring Lelo candidates to drop out of the election races. MP Japaridze said cases of pressure and threats are more prominent in the regions, including in Akhalkalaki, Akhaltsikhe and Aspindze towns of Georgia’s southern Samtskhe-Javakheti region, as well as in Dedoplistskaro town of eastern Kakheti Region. The Lelo leader party said in Akhaltsikhe four persons withdrew from the party’s proportional list. MP Japaridze also claimed that Lelo majoritarian candidate in Vani was threatened with his wife being refused funding for an surgery unless he ceased active campaigning.

14:30 UTC+4 — NDI Pre-Election Delegation on Challenges Ahead of Local Polls

NDI’s pre-election delegation, led by NDI Board Chair Madeleine Albright, listed several key ongoing challenges ahead of the local polls, including “notably absent” organization and participation in debates, as well as Georgian interlocutors’ concerns on possible selective enforcement of electoral regulations and abuses of state resources and prosecutorial authorities. According to the statement, following the July 5 homophobic violence, there were also elevated concerns about the ability of civil society and media to operate freely and the harassment of opposition party members and candidates. According to the statement, the upcoming polls “provide an opportunity for Georgia’s political leaders” to demonstrate commitment to a democratic path, following concerns raised by the Georgian public and the international community on the issue.

11:50 UTC+4 — 15 Election Observers Opposition-Affiliated, GD MP Says

Ruling Georgian Dream party MP Givi Mikanadze accused 15 of 62 local election observers of being affiliated with the opposition – 12 of being linked with the United National Movement and 3 with the European Georgia. MP Mikanadze noted that “similar organizations” often aim to create a “perception that the election process is going on with violations.”

Wednesday, September 8

23:10 UTC +4 — Mayoral Candidate Richard Ogbunuju Talks Goals

Richard Ogbunuju said the aim of his mayoral bid is that every person has work and the ability to meet their family’s needs. “I have been together with you through many difficult times, and I can understand your woes,” said Nigerian-born Ogbunuju, who has lived in Georgia since the 1990s.

22:30 UTC +4 — Opposition MP Says European Georgia Leader ‘Political Toxicosis’

Law and Justice leader, MP Tamar Charkviani accused European Georgia chair Giga Bokeria of representing “political toxicosis,” arguing Bokeria has in the past harmed the unity of Georgian opposition. “Not only disbanding others… his own party also fell on his head,” MP Charkviani told Rustavi 2 anchor. MP Charkviani and Bokeria have both endorsed Nika Melia as the opposition candidate for Tbilisi Mayor. MORE and MORE 

19:00 UTC+4 — Garibashvili, NDI’s Madelaine Albright Meet Online

PM Irakli Garibashvili met online with Madelaine Albright, the National Democratic Institute chair and NDI delegation to discuss upcoming elections. According to the Georgian Government’s press service, PM Garibashvili pledged the Government will ensure peaceful and transparent environment for the local polls. NDI started earlier in September high-level meetings ahead of October 2 elections, “aiming to demonstrate support for Georgia’s democratic development and European and Euro-Atlantic integration and reinforce the international community’s expectation for adherence by all to the principles of genuine democratic elections and political processes.”

PM Irakli garibashvili meets NDI delegation. September 8, 2021. Photo: the Georgian Government’s Press Service

15:53 UTC+4 — Lawmaker Slams ‘Urine War’

MP Gubaz Sanikidze of the UNM-led Strength in Unity bloc criticized Kaladze’s call on Tbilisi Mayoral candidates to take drug screening. “In Georgia there is a urine war going on,” Sanikidze told TV Pirveli anchor, adding that Georgian politics sank to the level of checking one another’s urine.

15:10 UTC +4 – European Georgia Talks “Politically Motivated” Court Case

European Georgia chair Giga Bokeria said the party’s Zugdidi majoritarian candidate Batu Shellia has been called to court over a “fabricated” case. Bokeria stated that Shelia was initially charged in April 2020 but “the case was so absurd it had been shelved since.” The European Georgia leader did not specify the details on the case, however.

15:05 UTC+4 — Labor Party Names Tbilisi Sakrebulo Majoritarian Candidates, Proportional List

Labor leader Shalva Natelashvili announces party’s proportional-party list of 11 people to run for Tbilisi CIty Assembly (Sakrebulo). 10 of these candidates will also run as majoritarians in all of the single mandate constituencies of the Georgian capital. As per recent electoral changes, the 50-member Tbilisi Sakrebulo will be composed of 40 deputies elected through proportional vote and 10 lawmekers elected as majoritarians, instead of previous 25/25 composition. MORE

13:20 UTC+4 – CSO Activist Suspects GD May Use Compromising Materials on Gakharia

Giorgi Mshvenieradze, former head of the Georgian Democracy Initiative, local CSO, suspects the governing Georgian Dream party of having compromising material on former PM Giorgi Gakharia, about possible drug use, which could be published a few days prior to the election. The Georgian lawyer shared his suspicions in a Facebook post addressing a recent call by Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze on Tbilisi mayorial race candidates to pass a drug test, an initiative also backed by Georgian Dream Chair Irakli Kobakhidze.

Tuesday, September 7

22:45 UTC+4 — Ex-UNM Chair Vashadze not Born to be Politician, Saakashvili Says

Asked to comment on relations with Grigol Vashadze, former UNM chair and Foreign Minister under UNM government, ex-President Saakashvili told TV Pirveli: “I consider him being a truly brilliant diplomat, he would make a good president, as the main function of president is to represent Georgia in foreign relations, but he is not really born to be a politician.”

22:40 UTC+4 — Saakashvili Recalls Worsening Relations with Kaladze

Asked to recall how his ways parted with Tbilisi Mayor Kaladze, Saakashvili said Kaladze’s relations with the UNM government worsened after failing the commitment to invest in the Arsenali mountain of Tbilisi and asked the UNM authorities to be given the territory practically for free without any obligations (Kaladze was doing this business with ex-PM Nogaideli, Saakashvili remarked). After having his offer rejected, Kaladze fled to the camp of Bidzina Ivanishvili, “which gave him pennies from which he made lots of money,” Saakashvili asserted. Before that business issue, Kaladze has always been sycophant, he was bowing me, sometimes he played football with me, gave me ride with his lamborghini in Batumi, noted ex-President.

22:35 UTC+4 — Ex-President Says Gakharia Looks More Civilized than GD ‘Pithecanthropi’

In a TV Pirveli interview, Kyiv-based wanted ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, who earlier pledged to arrive in Georgia for October 2 elections, said “from a purely human [perspective] Gakharia looks more civilized, than pithecanthropi of all sorts he was with (meaning GD members) that are now running around.” But  Saakashvili accused ex-PM of badly handling June 20, 2019 events, destroying Georgian economy, and playing Russian game. Ex-President said there are two sources of money in Georgia – “Ivanishvili, and and I think, he [Gakharia] is not playing Ivanishvili, or Russia.” “I observe that Gakharia says nothing about Russia… Not talking anything about Russia and having money – I see causal relationship here.”

20:00 UTC +4 – Parliament Waives COVID-Related Penalties

Parliament waived about  GEL 80 million (USD 25 million) worth of accrued unpaid fines for violating COVID-19 related curbs. PM Irakli Garibashvili unveiled the initiative in June aiming to “relieve” the economic toll the pandemic took on Georgian citizens. The Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), a local CSO, had raised suspicions the proposal was “conditioned” by the upcoming 2021 local polls. MORE

18:50 UTC +4 – For Georgia’s Khashuri Mayoral Candidate Says His Life Being Threatened

Zviad Tefnadze, Khashuri mayoral candidate of ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia party, said his life is being threatened, leveling the accusations against the ruling Georgian Dream. Tefnadze stated that he is also being threatened with arson of his personal and company-owned cars and real estate, and that he has also received threats targeted against his family.

16:30 UTC +4 – Tbilisi Mayoral Candidate Anna Dolidze Unveils Priorities

Tbilisi mayoral candidate Anna Dolidze of the For People party unveiled 6 priorities of her election program, “City for the People.”

  • “Rich City” – The mayoral candidate pledged to follow through with large-scale projects that have been tabled over the years to transform Tbilisi into a modern city, with modern transportation hubs.
  • “Clean air” – Dolidze said Tbilisi has become a “city of concrete ghettos.” To improve air quality, she vowed to introduce a  target rate of green spaces per capita in the city. 
  • “Governance for the people” – She stressed the importance of allowing Tbilisi residents to determine key budgetary priorities, and the introduction of digital procedures for submitting feedback and complaints to the City Hall.
  • “Infrastructure for the people” – Dolidze vowed to improve sidewalks, sewerage, and drainage systems.
  • Launching “Tbilisi Cares” program – Dolidze said the program would through increased funding and improved services meet the needs Tbilisi locals with disabilities, especially children.
  • “Safe City” – The mayoral hopeful stressed the need to enhance road safety, including by the City Hall actively working to identify and eliminate the road accident “black spots.” She also promised to strengthen incentives of Tbilisi residents to shelter stray animals.

13:50 UTC+4 – Khazaradze Slams Saakashvili’s Statement on Return to Georgia

MP Mamuka Khazaradze of Lelo for Georgia party said Saakashvili’s statement about returning to Georgia “serves the interests of Ivanishvili and GD, but prevents the victory of the united opposition front.”

Monday, September 6

23:00 UTC+4 — Gakharia Makes Tense Rustavi 2 TV Appearance

Rustavi 2 TV’s hour-and-half long interview with Giorgi Gakharia – anchored by Davit Kakulia in The Night Courrier program – went amid nerve-racking atmosphere, with the former Prime Minister suggesting the anchor pushed the governing party line, the latter lambasting Gakharia of being used to interfering in TV editorial policies and both accusing one another of lies and memory issues. The exchanges about the alleged corruption cases during Gakharia’s tenure led to ex-PM suggesting the anchor was citing phrases taken out of context, “acting just like” Giga Bokeria European Georgia leader. The alleged planting of arms into Mtavari Arkhi TV shareholder Giorgi Rurua’s car in 2019, when Gakharia served as PM, also contributed to the tense environment during the interview, further exacerbated by remarks over Gakharia and UNM leaders happening to stay in the same hotel in Washington DC in June. In this context, the anchor slammed Gakharia’s party colleague, MP Ana Buchukuri over groundlessly accusing Rustavi 2 – that broke the story over the two party leaders staying in the same building – of lies. Asked whether such groundless accusation was a problem, Gakharia responded: “Yes, this is a problem. This is not a problem for those people you are trying to defend now, and whose logic you are following.”

G.G.: Your narrative reminds me that of a certain party, are you holding consultations with them?

D.K.: Mr. Giorgi, you should not be asking me this question on consultations… Your party representatives, including you, at certain meetings are first denying and then confirming the same thing;

Continuing the argument over the Washington hotel episode:

G.G.: Time will come, when in this TV broadcast some other journalist will be giving me [different] questions…

D.K.: Does this mean when you come to power you will do [your best] I am not longer a journalist here?

G.G.: No, time will come when the government will have less influence on media

D.K.: You, Giorgi Gakharia, apparently, are used to defining TV programming as you were while being in the gov’t.

Gakharia then went on accusing Rustavi 2 TV of not covering his party presentations in live broadcast, while covering those of the UNM. The journalist defended the TV saying livestreams are for qualified political subjects, that Gakharia’s newly established party is not.

In some other less tense episodes, Gakharia spoke of the Georgian Dream founder, Bidzina Ivanishvili, noting that “no one stands above homeland and the state.. Bidzina Ivanishvili… did many kind and useful things for this country, but this does not mean [he is granted] never-ending indulgence for everything.” Ex-PM also vowed to never call the ruling party the Georgian Dream, but rather “Organization Dream,” asserting it detached itself from the ideals of 2012.

21:24 UTC+4 — UNM Speaks of “Unimaginable Pressure” on Candidates in Javakheti

UNM MP Khatia Dekanoidze says the State Security Service continues “unimaginable pressure” and “backmailing” on their supporters in ethnic Armenian majority Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda municipalities. They are forcing the cancellation of our proportional-party lists so we cannot take part in elections locally, Dekanoidze notes on her Facebook page.

21:10 UTC+4 — Kaladze Unveils Priorities

Incumbent Mayor of Tbilisi, Kakha Kaladze, who is running for reelection, unveiled the list of his program priorities. 

  • Urban policy — here Kaladze listed the renovation projects of Orbeliani Square, Queen Darejan Palace, Gudiashvili Square. He also vowed to keep control over floor area ratio, noting that no construction permits will be given at the expense of gardens and sports fields.
  • Environmental protection — Mayor Kaladze underscored the importance of new gardens and recreation areas and addressing the air pollution.
  • Transport policy — Kaladze vowed to expand controlled zonal parking areas; to bring additional busses in the city; and to continue the cab reform.
  • Healthcare and social policy — Kaladze promised to continue building new kindergartens, recalling that 20 new kindergartens were built under his tenure. He also pledged to resolve the issue of unfinished constructions for 3,000 families, that are still waiting from real estate developers to build their pre-paid homes. 
  • Education, culture, sports and youth policy — he said 320 education and youths projects were funded under his term, and GEL 44 million (USD 14 mln) were spent on sports federations. He vowed to fulfil his earlier pledge about the construction of 10 multi-functional centers across the city, noting that works had commenced onlyfor the construction of two of them due to pandemic reasons. Wherever the space allows we are putting jogging and biking lanes, Kaladze added.
  • Infrastructure, economy, management – Kaladze said about 1,000 streets were renovated, but problems persist. Our approach is to fix water pipes, sewegeand drainage systems before renovating road infrastructure, Kaladze added.

21:00 UTC+4 — Kobakhidze Says Saakashvili’s Remarks “Gift” to Georgian Dream

MP Irakli Kobakhidze, the Georgian Dream chair, said Mikheil Saakashvili’s statement on arriving to Georgia was a “gift” to GD as it would help the ruling party better mobilize its supporters.

18:35 UTC+4 — Saakashvili Vows to Arrive in Georgia for Elections

Kyiv-based ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili said in a video address “I will arrive in Georgia for this election.” He also called on Georgians residing abroad to arrive in the homeland for October 2 polls, be it “by land or by air.” The former President, who is wanted in Georgia, said “I am also not afraid of them [Georgian Dream authorities] arresting me.” Saakashvili said he will brief supporters on a concrete route, mode of transportation and date of arrival to Georgia when he has more details available. Noting that although “there will be no revanche” once the Georgian Dream is no longer in power, Saakashvili said Bidzina Ivanishvili, the Georgian Dream founder and ex-PM “will bring every stolen penny back.”

17:20 UTC+4 — NDI Begins Limited Long-Term Observation

The National Democratic Institute, U.S.-funded non-profit, announced today about launching its limited long-term election assessment mission of October 2 elections. The team includes three long-term analysts (LTAs) and a mission director, supported by additional Georgia-based assistants. It will focus on key electoral themes, including the conduct of political campaigns, the administration of elections, media and information space, gender and inclusion issues, and the impact of COVID-19 on the elections. The assessment team arrived in Tbilisi over the past weekend and will remain in Georgia through election day.

14:14 UTC+4 — IRI Launches Long-Term Assessment Mission

The International Republican Institute (IRI), U.S.-funded non profit, said it is launching a Long-Term Assessment Mission of October 2 elections. For the upcoming 6 weeks, invited long-term analysts will be assessing pre-election, E-day, and the post-election period, the IRI said. The Assessment Mission will work closely with domestic and international observation missions from the following perspectives: political campaign, election administration, and electoral law, media, and inclusion, it added. It was not immediately clear how many analysts will be assessing the elections.

12:00 UTC+4 — Kaladze Calls Rivals to Take Drug Screening, Dolidze Slams ‘Soviet Method’

Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, who is running for reelection, took a drug screen and called today his rivals to follow the lead. Ana Dolidze, another mayoral hopeful, slammed Kaladze’s call, saying it represents the “continuation of the Soviet policy, that the Government is using against drug-addicts.” Noting that it was Kaladze’s Georgian Dream that removed drug screen requirement for candidates, Dolidze said existing urine drug screen testing – performed before camera / or [police] employees –  contains danger of blackmailing opposition politicians.

Sunday, September 5

18:00 UTC+4 — Garibashvili Says “Ordinary Criminal” Nika Melia’s Mayoral Bid “Great Paradox”

At an election campaign event in Ambrolauri, western Racha region, PM Irakli Garibashvili said it was a “great paradox” that “an ordinary criminal” Nika Melia is running for Tbilisi Mayoral race. The PM recalled the case of forcing Cartu Bank into bankruptcy in which the court found Nika Melia, UNM leader, along with ex-Justice Minister Zurab Adeishvili, guilty in 2019. MORE

17:55 UTC+4 — Garibashvili Says ex-President Saakashvili “Rabbit, Coward”

Reacting to ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili’s upcoming announcement over his plans to return from Kyiv to Georgia, PM Garibashvili said “we will greet him a beatiful collection of ties.” [Garibashvili referred to a viral video from August 2008 War times when Saakashvili was spotted chewing his tie while talking on phone]. “We will bring him in a prison, a renovated one,” Garibashvili said, adding that Saakashvili is a “rabbit, coward” who could not dare to return to Georgia during the past 9 years.

14:00 UTC+4 — European Georgia Says its Candidate Under “Political Persecution”

European Georgia’s Gigi Tsereteli said Rusudan Kovziridze, their majoritarian candidate in western Terjola Municipality’s Ghvankiti costituency, is facing political pressure from the government. Tsereteli said Kovziridze, who is the Head of the Youth Center of the Municipality, was first approached and “advised” to break ties with the opposition party.

After her refusal to do so, Kovziridze started to face political persecution from the GD government, Tsereteli asserted, adding that the Audit Office entered the Youth Center as Kovziridze was on holidays while simultaneously being ill with COVID. According to Tsereteli, the Audit Office insisted on Kovziridze to provide certain documents, disregarding the fact that she was sick with COVID. As per the  European Georgia leader, Kovziridze on the sixth day of his COVID quarantine got tested, with negative result and went to her office to provide the demanded documents to the Audit’s Office, while police appeared there to fine Kovziridze with GEL 2,000 (USD 641) over breaching COVID isolation rules.

13:00 UTC+4 — Speaker Kuchava Talks Ancient Trade Links Between Racha, Egypt 

At a campaign event in Oni, western Georgia’s Racha region, Parliament Speaker Kakha Kuchava said “one of the most ancient civilizations come right from here.” He added: ” At the confluence of Sophkhidura and Rioni [rivers] incredible artefacts were found, which proves that before common era, thousands of years ago, there were direct trade [links] with Egypt.”

Saturday, September 4

21:00 UTC+4 — Gakharia’s Party Speaks of “Systemic Pressure” on Their Candidates

Natia Mezvrishvili of ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia party alleged that their candidates across the country are facing “systemic pressure” from the government. In particular, Mezvrishvili said For Georgia’s candidates from ethnic Armenian-majority Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda municipalities, candidates from ethnic Azeri majority villages of Kabali and Karajala of Lagodekhi and Telavi municipalities, respectively, and candidates from Adigeni and Ozurgeti municipalities, faced such pressure, leading their withdrawal from the contest. In Ozurgeti Municipality, Parliamentary Vice Speaker (ex-Speaker) Archil Talakvadze, and his brother Avtandil Talakvadze, who is running for Ozurgeti mayor, were “actively involeved” in putting pressure on For Georgia’s Nasakirali majoritarian candidate Nona Tunadze, who was eventually forced to withdrew, Mezvrishvili noted.

Thursday, September 2

13:00 UTC+4 — Third Force Names Free Democrat Leader As Tbilisi Mayoral Candidate

Strategy Aghmashenebeli-led “Third Force” platform presented today Tamar Kekenadze to run for Tbilisi Mayor, Sergo Chikhladze to contest Tbilisi City Council (Sakrebulo) chairpersonship, as well as majoritarian candidates in the October 2 local polls. Kekenadze, 39, is the chairperson of Free Democrats, a smaller party that teamed up on August 30 with Strategy Aghmashenebeli to form the new platform. She has in the past worked at the Georgian Defense Ministry, and as its representative at Georgia’s Mission to NATO. MORE

Wednesday, September 1

19:00 UTC+4 — Kaladze Unveils GD’s Proportional List for Tbilisi 

Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, who is running for reelection, unveiled the Georgian Dream’s youth-dominated proportional party list of 25 people, including 16 men and 9 women, for Tbilisi City Assembly (Sakrebulo). MORE

18:00 UTC+4 — Ex-Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia Joins Tbilisi Mayoral Race

Former Georgian Dream Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, founder of For Georgia party, said he will join the Tbilisi mayoral race. “You will have to deal with me personally,” Gakharia addressed his former Georgian Dream colleagues, accusing the government of putting pressure on For Georgia members and supporters. Gakharia also unveiled the list of other mayoral candidates and Tbilisi Sakrebulo membership hopefuls via majoritarian and proportional-lists: MORE

Thursday, August 26

15:00 UTC+4 — ODIHR Opens Observation Mission

The OSCE’s democracy and rights arm, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) opened today an election observation mission (EOM) for Georgia’s October 2 local self-government elections. The mission consists of a core team of 12 experts based in Tbilisi and 30 long-term observers, who will be dispatched throughout Georgia from 4 September. ODIHR also plans to request OSCE participating states to send 350 short-term observers, who would arrive several days before election day. MORE

Monday, August 23

21:00 UTC+4 — Lelo for Georgia Names Tbilisi Mayoral Candidates

Lelo for Georgia, partliamentary opposition party named 35-year-old Ana Bibilashvili as its mayoral candidate for Tbilisi. Bibilashvili spoke of “dangeorus” construction development in the capital city, ecological and transport issues, air pollution, the destroyed green spaces, and the loss of cultural heritage and jobs. “Most importantly, Tbilisi is losing people.” MORE

Tuesday, August 17

15:00 UTC+4 — UNM, Girchi-MF, European Georgia, Droa Name Joint Sakrebulo Candidates in Tbilisi 

Four opposition parties, including the United National Movement (UNM), European Georgia, Girchi – More Freedom, and Droa presented joint candidates for all 10 majoritarian constituencies of Tbilisi to make it in Tbilisi Sakrebulo (the City Assembly). Girchi – More Freedom are set to run in four out of ten single-mandate constituencies, while both European Georgia and Droa presented 3 candidates each to run in the remaining districts. UNM did not name its members as per its earlier pledge. MORE

Saturday, August 14

18:00 UTC+4 — Anna Dolidze Joins Tbilisi Mayoral Race

Anna Dolidze, former Deputy Defense Minister and left-leaning leader of the newly established For People party, has joined Tbilisi Mayoral race. READ MORE

Monday, August 9

12:00 UTC+4 — PM Garibashvili Announces Salary Rise for Mayors, Public Servants

Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili announced today the Government decided to increase salaries of mayors and public servants starting from January 2022, citing years-long stagnation in their remunaration and the “failure” of the public sector to compete with the private sector.

Sunday, August 8

15:00 UTC+4 — CEC Assigns Party Numbers

The Central Election Commission of Georgia (CEC) determined list numbers for political parties running in the local elections. Read the list with numbers HERE.

Saturday, August 7

15:00 UTC+4 — Labor Party Names Tbilisi Mayoral, Sakrebulo Chairpersonship Candidates

The Labor Party has named Mikheil Kumsishvili, leader of the party’s youth wing, as its Tbilisi mayoral candidate and Lasha Chkhartishvili, an environmental activist, was picked as Sakrebulo (City Assembly) chairmanship hopeful. MORE

Monday, August 2

18:00 UTC+4 — President Announces October 2 as Election Date

President Salome Zurabishvili set today October 2 as the date of holding local self-government elections in Georgia. MORE

14:00 UTC+4 — New CEC Chair Elected

The Parliament of Georgia elected Giorgi Kalandarishvili as the new chairperson of the Central Election Commission, receiving 83 votes in favor and 3 against, as the majority of opposition lawmakers did not attend the session. His opponent, Giorgi Santuriani garnered only four votes. Kalandarishvili will serve for a six-month term as the Georgian Dream lawmakers elected him with a simple majority after Parliament’s three unsuccessful attempts to choose the new chair. The distrusting opposition lawmakers, whose votes were required for the supermajority, were unwilling to back any of the two candidates. MORE

Friday, July 30

18:00 UTC+4 — GD Names Mayoral Candidates

Georgian Dream chair Irakli Kobakhidze announced on July 30 the party’s picks for mayoral races for municipalities and cities in the nearing October 2 local elections. MP Kobakhidze said he will lead the campaign HQ, Kakha Kaladze, incumbent mayor of Tbilisi running for reelection, will lead the party campaign in the capital city, and Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili will take the helm of their nationwide campaign. READ HERE the list of ruling party’s mayoral candidates.

Saturday, July 24

18:00 UTC+4 — CSOs Raise Alarms over Homophobic Campaign Posters

Key election watchdogs have raised alarms that derogatory political posters which appeared in capital Tbilisi on July 24, targeting the United National Movement party, media, and civic and LGBT+ rights activists, are “a call to violence” and endanger those depicted. MORE

Friday, July 23

21:00 UTC+4 — UNM’s Nika Melia Enters Tbilisi Mayoral Race

Nika Melia, chairperson of the United National Movement, the largest opposition party, entered the race for Mayor of Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital city on July 23. He will join forces with Elene Khoshtaria of Droa! political movement who will run for the Tbilisi City Council (Sakrebulo) chairpersonship. MORE

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