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UNM Says GD Coerces Dmanisi Councillor to Switch Sides

United National Movement has accused the Georgian Dream of pressuring the party’s majoritarian member Ramiz Ramazanov for support in the hung Municipal Council (Sakrebulo) of the southern town of Dmanisi.

In the 30-member Sakrebulo, the Georgian Dream has 15 members, the UNM has 13, Progress and Freedom has 1, while one member is independent. With the number of members split 15-15 between GD and the opposition, the ruling party needs the support of one councilor to elect a chairperson. Opposition members have also launched a boycott of the Sakrebulo, which cannot hold a session if at least the majority of members are present.

UNM members tell reporters that they have been unable to reach Ramazanov, and are not aware where he is either. The opposition party’s member, Hussein Husseinov said on December 8 that during their last conversation, on December 5, Ramazanov had told him that he planned to commit suicide. According to Huseinov, he has been unable to reach his colleague since.

Another UNM member, Levan Moseshvili has claimed that the GD authorities tried to bribe Ramazanov for his support, promising the post of Sakrebulo Vice-Chair and paying off his debt. Moseshvili said the authorities threatened Ramazanov after he refused the offer.

“Freshly appointed governor [Giorgi Dokhturishvili] and his deputy spoke with him [Ramazanov] and directly said that he would be arrested if he did not attend the Sakrebulo session,” Moseshvili also said.

According to the UNM member, on December 8 he tried to visit Ramazanov at a school he works at as a math teacher and saw an automobile of State Security Service employees parked outside. Ramazanov was dismissed from his post as the school principal some two weeks ago, according to a Formula TV report.

Moseshvili has claimed that soon after he arrived outside the school, Georgian Dream activists, former and current Sakrebulo members came and took Ramazanov away. “He has not been abducted but is being isolated against his will,” the UNM member further claimed.

Freshly elected Dmanisi mayor, Koba Muradashvili of the GD denied the UNM’s claims, arguing it is not in the Georgian Dream’s “style” to coerce, pressure or abduct someone. “We are ready to cooperate with the opposition,” he said instead, going on to offer to elect a Sakrebulo Chair from the GD and a Vice Chair from the opposition.

Civil.ge inquired with the Interior Ministry if it has begun examining the developments surrounding Ramazanov. The Ministry said it has not yet launched a probe.

Ramazanov denies pressure

Ramazanov denied the reports about the possible coercion and threats, speaking with the online media outlet Netgazeti on December 9. Albeit denying that he was taken away from the premises of the school, he confirmed that some people were waiting for him nearby, but did not confirm their identity.

“After a lesson, I drove home to Dmanisi. Then I had something to do so I went somewhere else,” Netgazeti cited Ramazanov as saying.

As for his party colleague’s claims about being unable to reach him, Ramazanov said he had a power outage at home on December 8, arguing this could be the reason for the fellow UNM members’ inability to contact him.

Ramazanov also noted that he will not join the boycott of his colleagues and plans to attend the December 10 session of the Sakrebulo.

CSOs suspect “political harassment”

Voicing concern over the reported developments surrounding Ramazanov, six local civil society outfits suspected the ruling Georgian Dream party aims to “politically harass” the councilor for his support.

“The measures employed by the government to consolidate power at the local level are unacceptable. They substantially damage democratic processes,” the CSOs stated, going on to call on the authorities to protect Ramazanov’s “security, freedom and dignity.”

The CSOs, among them Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, Transparency International Georgia and Social Justice Center, argued that “such practices in regions densely populated be ethnic minorities carry additional social derivatives, especially since a few months ago Dmanisi was a place of severe confrontations.”

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