Georgia elections: Protesters defy crackdown to call for a new poll
Georgia: elections, protests and pandemic &# 160;
Georgian opposition plans to hold protests on November 7 and 8&# 160;
Georgian opposition plans protests and calls on the authorities not to use the COVID-19 epidemic as a political tool to restrict freedom of expression by opponents.
Earlier, the authorities said that in addition to the existing restrictions, they do not exclude the introduction of additional measures to reduce the mobility of people in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection. In particular, we are talking about the introduction of a curfew at night and stopping public transport on weekends..
It should be reminded that the Georgian opposition does not recognize the legitimacy of the October 31 parliamentary elections, claiming that the voting results were falsified, and is starting an indefinite protest. At the same time, the action of the pro-Russian opposition is scheduled in Tbilisi on Saturday, November 7, and the action of the pro-Western opposition – on Sunday, November 8.
Ombudsman of Georgia Nino Lomjaria released a statement on November 6, in which she noted the difficult epidemiological situation in Georgia, as a result of which hospitals in the country were overcrowded and a large number of medical personnel were infected. In order to slow the spread of infection, the Ombudsman calls on the opposition to ensure that precautions are taken during protests, and the authorities are urged to effectively implement existing preventive measures..
Lomjaria also asks the Central Election Commission to promptly examine and resolve all complaints received in connection with the elections, as this will affect the scale of the protest actions and reduce the mobility of people. At the same time, Lomjaria calls on the population to comply with all the recommendations and requirements of epidemiologists.
Statistics and preventive measures
In Georgia, since the beginning of September, certain measures have been taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, due to the rapidly growing number of people infected with coronavirus, additional bans were introduced in the country. So, since November 4, wearing masks in Georgia has become mandatory both in closed spaces and on the streets, kindergartens have been closed in most cities, and the educational process has begun to be conducted remotely, in addition, all food facilities are not allowed to work after 22: 00 hours.
As of November 6, 51,993 people were infected with coronavirus in the territory controlled by the Georgian authorities, with 14,551 active cases, of which 37,019 have already recovered, and 423 have died.
In Georgia, where there has been virtually no internal transmission of COVID-19 since June, infections have been on the rise since early August, although the daily increase in infections has increased significantly over the past month and has exceeded 2,000 over the past two days..
A serious challenge
Professor Tengiz Pkhaladze from the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs, a former adviser to the former president of the country, Giorgi Margvelashvili, believes that exercising the right to freedom of expression in the form of a protest is a serious challenge in a pandemic, since a mass gathering of people can become a hotbed of infection. At the same time, the expert says, Georgia is in the process of an election campaign, as the second round of parliamentary elections is ahead, and citizens have every right to express a peaceful protest, especially since many voters consider it important to demonstrate their distrust of the results of the first round of elections..
“It is indisputable that protesters should not endanger the health of others, so it is necessary to follow all the recommendations of epidemiologists, that is, distance and wear masks. At the same time, the electorate, which is annoyed by the method of counting votes by the Georgian Central Election Commission, has the right to demand a recount of ballots. It is important that this happens in a timely and transparent manner in order to find out if the votes were really rigged or not. If this was exactly the case, in the end, for the first time in the history of the country, someone should be held accountable for manipulating the votes of voters, since this does not meet the standards by which the people want to live in Georgia, “Pkhaladze said..
According to an expert George Shavshishvili, the pandemic may indeed end up in the hands of the authorities as a “tool for taming the opposition”, so, according to the political scientist, it is important to guarantee freedom of manifestation to the protest electorate.
On the other hand, says Shavshishvili, the problem is that the Georgian opposition has not yet decided exactly for what purpose to hold a protest, which does not look entirely correct, given the risk to the health of the participants..
“If the opposition wants to demonstrate that it has many supporters, we must take into account that it is unlikely that many of those who support them will come to the rally because of the risk of infection. Second, if the opposition boycotts the second round and the new parliament, then there should be a demand for new elections, but some parties say that they agree to an honest recount of votes from the disputed polling stations and to participate in the second round. So, in general, it is not known what the next plan is for the opposition, what will happen after the protest, or is it just the end in itself of the actions? It is desirable that there is more clarity in connection with the promotions, ”the expert believes..
Recall that after counting 100% of the votes, the Georgian CEC announced that according to proportional lists, the ruling Georgian Dream gained 48.15%, and the main opposition force, the United National Movement – Strength in Unity, received 27.14%. They are followed by seven parties with three percent or less, including the pro-Russian Alliance of Patriots..
Another 30 deputies to the Georgian parliament are elected by majority lists. After counting the votes, the CEC announced that candidates from the ruling party had won in fourteen single-mandate constituencies, and a second round would be required in sixteen, since none of the candidates could overcome the fifty percent barrier. If the opposition decides to declare a boycott of the second round, candidates from the ruling party will automatically win in single-mandate constituencies, and accordingly, Georgian Dream will receive 91 seats in the new parliament. This is enough for the parliament of the new convocation to convene, and the deputies recognize its powers..