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The News in Brief

Tuesday, February 18
Georgia’s ruling coalition promises clean local election

The Georgian Dream coalition promises that there will be no fraud in the upcoming local elections, as the voters’ list is being checked by the use of biometric data, which will prevent names from appearing two or more times.

Georgian Dream, both the coalition and the party with the same name, met on Sunday to discuss election issues. Member of Parliament Zviad Dzidziguri said after the meeting that the list is being formed by the use of biometric data, as about 3.7 million photos in the Justice Ministry database are converted into biometric data and this will make it possible to prevent the kind of fraud where the same person votes twice using different names or photos.

He said lists will be printed with photographs.

“This is a long-awaited wish by every opposition party in the past,” he said, adding that the Ministry of Justice will soon present the new lists.

During the session, coalition members discussed the Election Code and other aspects of the upcoming election.

Georgian Dream members said the coalition is starting to prepare for it already.

“We already have opinions about what our election campaign will be like,” Dzidziguri said. “We will discuss the election strategy later and at the moment we don’t know who our candidates will be.”

Georgia will hold local elections in the beginning of June. The exact date is not yet set.
(Democracy & Freedom Watch)

Georgian man famous from the Russia-Georgia war photo dies in accident

A Georgian man immortalized in an image of war has died in a tragic accident in a refugee settlement in Karaleti, in the Gori district.

Zaza Razmadze was electrocuted when he was working in a crane when the machine accidentally touched a power line.

Razmadze was depicted in a well-known image of the 2008 Georgia-Russia war, which showed him crying and leaning over his brother’s dead body with his bloodied hand raised in the air.

The day before yesterday Razmadze attempted to use a crane to move an iron cabin, housing his mother’s second hand clothing, from Gori Bazaar to his own cottage in the refugee settlement.

He died after the iron cabin touched an electricity transition line.

Razmadze’s family originated from the village of Eredvi, which is five kilometers from the city of Tskhinvali - one of Georgia’s breakaway regions.

During the August War, the village was bombed several times.

After the Russian 58th Unit entered Eredvi, all the locals were forced to leave their homes. Since then, the Razmadze family has lived in a small cottage in the Karaleti refugee settlement. They are socially vulnerable and live below the poverty line.

Today, the Minister of refugees expressed his sorrow over the tragic accident and said the state would financially help the family.

Complaints against Georgia at Strasbourg court drops 70%

The number of complaints against Georgia at the European Court of Human Rights has been reduced by 70%.

On Sunday, the Ministry of Justice published information showing that there were 375 complaints against Georgia at the Strasbourg-based court in 2010; 395 in 2011; 367 in 2012 – but only 157 in 2013.

According to the ministry, about 80% of the cases reviewed at the European Court of Human Rights concerned violations in the penitentiary system; specifically for torture, mistreatment and problems related to health care.

In 2009, 62% of the complaints concerned the penitentiary system; in 2010 – 8%; in 2011 – 89% and in 2012 – 81%.
(Democracy & Freedom Watch)

Bus drivers on strike in Batumi

Bus drivers in Batumi have been on strike for five days, demanding higher salary and the dismissal of the director of Batumi Autotransport Ltd.

Two of the protesting drivers, Nugzar Gvianidze and Nika Sikharulidze, are on hunger strike and live in tents outside the entrance of the company’s garage.

“We brought blankets yesterday and stayed here despite the bad weather,” they told InterPressNews on Sunday, and warned that the strike will not be called off until the director resigns or is dismissed.

The reason why they want to dismiss the director is that he didn’t follow through on an agreement from a year ago that the company would sign a collective contract with the drivers and increase their salary.

Buses are standing still in the Black Sea resort due to the strike. About 300 drivers are part of the protest.

Batumi Autotransport Ltd has employed more minibuses to serve passengers until the strike is over.
(Democracy & Freedom Watch)

Plan to boost Georgia’s education system announced

Georgia’s teachers and school principals will update their skills thanks to a five-year professional development plan initiated by the Ministry of Education.

Education Minister Tamar Sanikidze said the independent US foreign aid agency ‘Millennium Challenge Corporation – Georgia’, announced an international tender and the experts of a technical assessment competition commission chose German consulting company GOPA to help develop a professional development scheme for education professionals and create a new school evaluation system.

"This German company, which will work together with the Millennium Challenge Corporation and Georgia’s Ministry of Education, will develop a five-year program for professional development of teachers and principals, and will create a new assessment system. It [GOPA] will be our guide. It will help us determine major policies on how to solve this problem,” Sanikidze said.

She noted the project was focused on developing quality education in Georgia.

US Ambassador in Georgia Richard Norland and Millennium Challenge Corporation– Georgia director Jim McNicholas also attended the event.