The ruling Georgian Dream party gathered tens of thousands from across the country in downtown Tbilisi today for a final rally ahead of local election runoffs, slated for October 30.
Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, governing party chair Irakli Kobakhidze, Parliament Speaker Kakha Kuchava, Deputy PM/Culture Minister Tea Tsulukiani, Rustavi Mayoral Candidate Nino Latsabidze and Kakha Kaladze, incumbent Tbilisi Mayor running for re-election have addressed the crowd.
PM Garibashvili’s Address
Addressing the rally, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili made scathing remarks against the United National Movement, its arch-rival challenging GD candidates in key mayoral runoffs: “in 2012, with the leadership of party founder Bidzina Ivanishvili, ordinary soldiers of this country have peacefully disarmed an authoritarian, oppressive regime and removed from power the party of murderers, executioners, and traitors; anti-state, anti-national, anti-church force.”
PM Garibashvili praised the Georgian Dream government for “restoring justice” step-by-step, by imprisoning the architects of “oppressive and violent regime” of UNM, including Bacho Akhalaia, Ivane Merabishvili, and “major hangman under [ex-President Mikheil] Saakashvili, Megis Kardava.”
“And on October 1, we gave – Mikheil Saakashvili, the main architect of this bloody and violent regime, [man] who gave up his citizenship, the traitor of the country and the oppressor of the people, who fled Georgia and recently cowardly, in a thievish way sneaked in the country – a deserved place in prison for long-term,” the Prime Minister stated.
“Sooner or later,” PM Garibashvili went on, “justice will visit everyone and we will not forgive anyone their oppression against people, the loss of our territorries, the selling of lands; we will forgive no one swearing and offending our patriarch [Ilia II], clergymen and the Orthodox Church, the foundation of the Georgian state.”
Noting that economy still fails to live up to the level of democracy in Georgia, the Prime Minister said many people remain in need of state assistance, while unemployment and poverty remain as great challenges.
PM Garibashvili asserted that on October 30, Georgians will “make a civilizational choice,” that will determine whether people in 20 runoff municipalities give control to “anti-church, anti-national forces, murderers and torturers that will bring constant sabotage, boycott, chaos in the regions” or “patriotic government having democratic, European and national values… for stable and peaceful development.”
Addresses by Ruling Party Chair, Parliament Speaker, Culture Minister
In his address to the crowd, ruling party chair Irakli Kobakhidze has called on supporters “to bring victory to the end” in runoffs.
MP Kobakhidze went on to list their “Georgian dreams,” involving “the dream about united Georgia – of returning Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, our Abkhaz and Ossetian brothers and sisters,” and that of “national unity, where people are not divided by hate, but united by love towards one another, homeland, and national values.” He also underscored the dream about Georgia becoming “a full-fledged member of the European family.”
In his remarks, the governing party chair also slammed the UNM, calling it “a radical anti-state and anti-church grouping, that represents a constant threat to the Georgian state and democracy for 18 years.”
Parliament Speaker Kakha Kuchava, on his part, highlighted that they gathered on the Freedom square to “clarify one more time what sort of future we want for our country.”
Speaker Kuchava stressed that the GD, sharing “a historic choice of people,” pursued the path of Euro-Atlantic integration. “The Georgian Dream government has been able to take its strategic partnership with the European Union, the U.S. and NATO to a new level,” he stressed, adding that “our goal is to return to the European family.”
- EU: Georgia Failed Third Pledge on Judicial Reform
- Secretary Blinken: ‘Deeply Troubled’ By Top Court Appointments in Georgia
On her part, Culture Minister Tea Tsulukiani from the rally addressed jailed ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili to “look out of the prison cell and see how many free Georgians are here that remember your violent regime.”
Minister Tsulukiani said that even today “we are still fighting against” the former Georgian leader, despite Saakashvili being incarcerated.
Praising the GD government, she said the Georgian judiciary is independent from the executive branch, while in prisons inmates are “not afraid” of the officers.
Address by Kaladze
Kakha Kaladze, running for reelection against UNM’s Nika Melia in the Tbilisi mayoral runoff, called on everyone to go to the polls on October 30 and “put an end to evil, lies and destruction in Georgian politics.”
Referring to the first round polls of October 2, he said “the Georgian people once again chose freedom, truth, justice, peace and development.” “Georgian people once again laid responsibility on us to defend the strength of our state and church, to protect human dignity and freedom.”
Alluding to UNM supporters, Kaladze said “we should free these people from the shackles of the violent ideology … and return them to the path of respecting state and their own people.”
Reports of civil servants’ rallying
RFE/RL’s Georgian Service reported that public officials, including council chairs in Lagodekhi and Zugdidi municipalities, supervised trips, organized to transport people joining the GD rally from regions.
According to the same report, people attending the rally from Lagodekhi, were mainly civil servants employed in government agencies, as well as employees of state-funded organizations, school teachers and principals, and kindergarten managers and educators.
Civil society concerns
Mediachecker, a local watchdog, reported several incidents, when supposed participants of the rally confronted, insulted or physically attacked journalists. Footage shows three men insulting reporters of government-crticial Formula TV in separate incidents, with one of the persons seemingly striking the operator’s camera.
Other footage, published by TV Pirveli, another government-critical station, shows a woman pushing a reporter. One of the men who also featured in Formula TV footage, can be seen striking the microphone of a TV Pirveli reporter.
Also, a picture disseminated by TV Pirveli shows a man seemingly butting out a cigarette on the muffler of a reporter’s microphone.
The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics, a non-state self-regulatory body, called on the ruling GD party and its activists to allow journalists to cover the rally freely. It reminded “everyone” that interfering with professional duties of a journalist is prohibited by law.
Transparency International, a local watchdog, said measures taken today by the police, in particular securing parking slots for vehicles transporting the GD supporters from regions with barricade tapes, went beyond the scope of its obligations to support manifestations. The watchdog argued the activities “carried the nature of using the administrative resources in favor of the ruling party.”
The watchdog said the Interior Ministry has never used “such unreasonably restrictive measures” for rallies of any other political party, underscoring such activities showed “there is no dividing line between state institutions and the ruling party.”