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Georgia: Election protesters clash with police in Tbilisi

November 8, 2020

Police in Georgia used water cannon and tear gas on protesters demanding a rerun of the nation's recent tightly contested elections. The opposition has accused the ruling party of vote-buying and threats against voters.

Protesters wave flags in the Georgia
Image: David Mdzinarishvili/ITAR-TASS/imago images

Tens of thousands of opposition supporters gathered in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on Sunday, rejecting the result of the ex-Soviet nation's tightly-contested parliamentary elections last month.

Demonstrators who gathered outside the Central Election Commission (CEC) building were confronted by police. Live television footage showed riot police firing water cannon without warning after demonstrators threatened to blockade the building.

Earlier, some 45,000 opposition supporters rallied outside the Georgian parliament, denouncing alleged fraud in the October 31 election in which the ruling Georgia Dream party claimed victory.

The demonstrators, most of them wearing protective masks due to coronavirus concerns, vowed daily protests until a fresh vote was called.

Opposition rejects election results

The CEC said the ruling Georgia Dream party won 48.23% of the vote in parliamentary elections on October 31. The Largest opposition party, the United National Movement (UNM), took 27.18%.

The result gave the Georgia Dream party the right to form a government, but eight opposition parties, including UNM, said they would boycott the parliament. The opposition accuses the ruling party and its supporters of vote-buying, threats towards voters and election observers, and violations during the counting process.

"This regime and this government are illegitimate ... these results are illegitimate," Nika Melia, a UNM leader, told thousands of protesters on Sunday.

The Georgia Dream party has flatly denied accusations of election fraud.

An alliance of more than 30 opposition parties have given the ruling party's founder, billionaire businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili, a Sunday night deadline to dismiss CEC head Tamar Zhvania  and start talks on a fresh election.

dv/rc (AFP, Reuters)