11/04/2021, 11.22
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Tbilisi, elections:Georgian Dream triumphs. Opposition takes to the streets

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The pro-Russian party in power has won 19 out of 20 mayoral elections. Opponents of the National Movement denounce fraud. Former president Saakashvili continues his hunger strike in prison: without his return from exile in Ukraine the opponents would have taken even fewer votes.



Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Georgian Dream has triumphed in the second round of local elections in Georgia. In the ballots, the party in power in Tbilisi won the mayors of all the main cities of the country, starting from the capital. The opponents of the National Movement do not recognize the validity of the results, and promise to continue an "uncompromising struggle", calling on the population to take to the streets.

On October 30, government candidates prevailed in 19 out of 20 cities, after a relatively quiet round of elections. The opposition candidate in Tbilisi, Nico Melia, received a blow to the head on his way to the polling station, but no other significant incidents occurred. Melia himself was defeated by the outgoing mayor, former AC Milan footballer Kakha Kaladze, who garnered 55.6% of the vote. The Georgian Dream won in the large cities of Rustavi, Kutaisi, Poti and Batumi, losing only the city of Tsalendžik, which has less than 25 thousand inhabitants, where by a few votes the opponent Georgij Kharčilava was elected.

Due to the intransigence of the oppositions that do not recognize the results, the October elections have not resolved the political crisis in Georgia, with the anti-government deputies continuing in all ways to boycott the activities of the Parliament. The president of the Georgian Dream, Iraklij Kobakhidze, rejected the allegations of fraud. He stressed that "the next elections will be only in 2024, and there will be no room for referendums asked by the oppositions; this vote was in fact a referendum, and we won with more than 55%."

Nico Melia invited the supporters of the National Movement to take to the streets to protest on Rustaveli prospekt, the main street of Tbilisi; several hundred people are demonstrating in turn these days in front of the Parliament. Beyond the accusations of fraud and forgery, however, the pro-Western party does not seem to have succeeded in mobilizing the most skeptical part of the electorate en masse, not even after the resounding return of former President Mikhail Saakashvili, followed by his arrest and hunger strike in prison. On the other hand, as many commentators note, without Saakashvili's intervention, the oppositions would have obtained much lower percentages.

Before the ballots, the imprisoned leader had declared that "on the votes of our supporters depends my life," after a full month of hunger strike. On October 27 the chairwoman of the Human Rights Committee of Ukraine, Ljudmila Denisova, visited him in prison, as Saakashvili is also a Ukrainian citizen. The envoy from Kiev has declared to have found him with almost 20 kilos less and with problems in speaking.

Saakašvili claims to be a "personal prisoner of Vladimir Putin, who maneuvers the leadership of Georgia with his business partner." He alludes to entrepreneur and founder of the Georgian Dream, Bidzina Ivanišvili, who owns a substantial stake in Russia's Gazprom.

The former Georgian president complains that he cannot even communicate on the phone, and that he has not been ordered to appear in court. He also demands to be transferred to a specialized hospital, as advised by doctors who examined him in prison. On the government side, the prisoner's hunger strike is not taken seriously. Prime Minister Iraklij Garibašvili speaks of "a farce", adding that "according to all laws every citizen has the right to suicide". Kobakhidze claims that "the whole prison is laughing at him, who drinks three liters of lemonade a day."

Prison authorities refuse to transfer Saakašvili to a public clinic for fear of unrest. Supporters of the former president have plastered the area around Rustava prison, near Tbilisi, where he is being held along with "hundreds of thugs, many of them convicted under his presidency, who may now try to take revenge," as Saakašvili's lawyer, Beka Basilaja, noted.

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