UARU
Activists Block Georgian Parliament Demanding Cabinet's Resignation and Snap Election
18 November, 2019

Editor's Note: The following is an adapted version of the article by Hromadske's partner, JAM News. It first appeared on their webpage.

The reason behind the protest is the parliament’s decision to not enact electoral reform personally promised by ruling party leader Bidzina Ivanishvili during protests in the summer of 2019. 

More than 20 opposition parties have announced their participation in a large-scale protest in front of the parliament in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi.

Protesters outside the Parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia on November 17, 2019. Photo: JAM News

Their slogan is: “All minus one – Bidzina must leave.”

"Bidzina" refers to the head of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Ivanishvili, and who many call the country’s shadow puppeteer.

READ MORE: What Georgia’s Informal Leader Has to Do With the New PM

Later in the evening hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the main office of the ruling party, Georgian Dream, where they chanted “Go away” and whistled. The building is cordoned off by a police cordon and the lights are off.

Protesters outside the Parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia on November 17, 2019. Photo: JAM News

The united opposition parties have put forward their requirements, of which the main is the adoption of a proportional electoral system and snap parliamentary elections.

Background

Protests in Tbilisi and several other Georgian cities began on November 14, when parliament failed to pass a constitutional amendment on electoral law.

Meanwhile, the protests in June 2019 came to an end to a large extent precisely because the leader of the ruling Georgian Dream party Ivanishvili yielded to the demands of the opposition and personally promised to abandon the majoritarian system and adopt a proportional (party) parliamentary system with a zero electoral threshold.

The next parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2020.

For the bill to pass, 113 of 150 MP votes were needed. However, only 101 MPs supported the changes on November 14.

Mostly it was majoritarian MPs who abstained from the ruling Georgian Dream party.

On the same day, opposition and civic activists announced the beginning of protests, pitched camp on central Rustaveli Avenue and said they refused to leave until the demand would be satisfied.

On November 17, the united opposition announced a new rally of disobedience and called for a picket line around parliament.

We will not leave and continue the full picketing of the parliament, because this body has lost its function. This night will show what we are capable of,” Grigol Vashadze, the leader of the formerly ruling United National Movement party said while speaking at the rally.

Vashadze was the main competitor of the current president of Georgia in the autumn of 2018.

Protesters camping outside the Parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia on November 17, 2019. Photo: JAM News

He called on protesters to use "all the radical tools provided for by the constitution and legislation to return Georgia to its citizens."

Do not try to blame only [the leader of the ruling party] Bidzina Ivanishvili – all of you, MPs and the government, members of the ruling party are responsible for what is happening, at least morally,” Vashadze said.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia issued a special statement on November 17. The Interior Ministry said it would “ensure the security and freedom of expression of citizens during meetings and demonstrations,” but warned of the need to comply with the law.

“Any violations, as well as attempts to storm the buildings or obstruct the work of the police will be immediately prevented,” the Georgian Interior Ministry said.

Opposition leaders who speak at the rally emphasize that this is a peaceful rally and urge the police to prevent the recurrence of the events of the summer of 2019.

In June, thousands of people took to the streets in front of the parliament; gas and rubber bullets were used to disperse the protest, many people were injured, and a few lost their eyes.

Protesters outside the Parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia on November 17, 2019. Photo: JAM News

Protesters' Demands

The leader of the former ruling party, the United National Movement, Grigol Vashadze formulated the requirements of the combined 20 political forces in the following points:

• The resignation of the “criminal government”;

• Conducting early elections on a proportional system;

• Release of political prisoners detained after the ‘night of Gavrilov’ on June 20-21;

• New rules for appointing the Central Election Commission;

• Release of the doctor Vazha Gaprindashvili from Tskhinvali prison.

Well-known Tbilisi doctor Vazha Gaprindashvili, recently detained by Russian servicemen in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone, was sentenced on November 15 to two months’ pre-trial detention in Tskhinvali, controlled by the Ossetian side.