The opposition United National Movement Mayor of Tsalenjikha Municipality, Giorgi (Gia) Kharchilava, had his car burned down early on the morning of 12 October outside his home, allegedly, under suspicious circumstances that appear to indicate malicious intent.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) told Civil.ge that they have launched an investigation into the incident under Article 187 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, which envisages the damage or destruction of property.
Mayor Kharchilava spoke with Mtavari Arkhi TV after the incident and stated that in his view, everything about the situation points to the fire being started on purpose by someone. “What I can say with 100% is that the car was in great condition, and my conclusion [therefore] will be that it is a result of human intervention, that is, a person caused the fire,” he said.
“If I continue in this direction and reasoning […] [I think] it is related to the fact that the municipality of Tsalenjikha is the only opposition mayor’s office [in the country], and carries out clearly defined reforms, anti-corruption policy […] and does not compromise common Georgian values for a second,” Mayor Kharchilava underscored.
Background on Tsalenjikha
Notably, Tsalenjikha was the only municipality that was won by a Mayoral candidate from an opposition party in the 2021 local elections.
The Municipality was also one of seven Local Councils (Sakrebulos) where Georgian Dream failed to secure a majority. When polls closed, GD and UNM had secured 11 seats each, while the For Georgia party had 4 seats, although one of its elected members left the party to go independent, and Lelo for Georgia had 1 seat.
Tsalenjikha became one of six Local Councils – which included Batumi, Rustavi, Zugdidi, Chkhorotsku, and Senaki – which were unable to meet because of the existing stalemate between the opposition and GD in which neither was willing to compromise to elect a chairperson and convene the Council.
In Tsalenjikha, the opposition was able to overcome the stalemate and elect a chair after the three opposition parties agreed to collaborate to back Korneli Salia, a member of the For Georgia party.