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The News in Brief

Monday, November 16
PM Appeals Alliance of Patriots Leader to Call Off Hunger Strike

PM Irakli Garibashvili has called on one of the leaders of Alliance Patriots, Irma Inashvili, who narrowly lost an MP by-election in Sagarejo to a ruling GD coalition candidate, to end her hunger strike.

Inashvili and several members of the Alliance of Patriots party went on a hunger strike outside the government headquarters in Tbilisi on November 9, demanding a change in the electoral system.

When they initially launched the hunger strike, the protesters were demanding - among other issues – the resignation of Defence Minister Tina Khidasheli and the Minister of Environment Gigla Agulashvili. Both are from the Republican Party, one of the main parts of the GD ruling coalition. The Alliance of Patriots accuse the two ministers of using administrative resources in the October 31 MP by-election in Sagarejo that gave an advantage to GD's candidate Tamar Khidasheli (a relative of the Minister of Defence) of the Republican Party.

The focus of their demands later shifted towards more calls for a change in the electoral system for the 2016 parliamentary elections – a demand that is also pushed for by many other opposition parties.

GD’s Tamar Khidasheli of the Republican Party won the MP by-election in the Sagarejo single-mandate constituency, boycotted by most of the opposition parties, by a margin of just 559 votes over her closest rival Irma Inashvili.

One of Inashvili’s main complaints, amongst others, was that a special polling station, opened for soldiers at the Mukhrovani military base, was used to manipulate the poll results.

Inashvili filed a complaint with the court, but lost the case and the Central Election Commission turned down a complaint in which Inashvili was seeking an annulment of the election results on procedural grounds at a session on November 12 .

Georgia’s largest election monitoring group, International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), said that irregularities reported during October 31 MP by-elections did not affect the final poll results.

ISFED, however, also noted that those irregularities showed the need to address a number of issues in the legislation, especially ahead of the 2016 parliamentary elections, including the rules of setting up special polling precincts, and participation of high-ranking officials in the electoral campaign and other election-related processes.

In his written statement on November 12, PM Garibashvili, who is the leader of GD ruling coalition, said that Inashvili gave GD a “real competition” in the MP by-elections both in Sagarejo and Martvili on October 31.

“It is a fact that the political environment has become open and competitive under the [GD] government. That is an additional factor that encourages the ruling political force to work with renewed efforts… which eventually will contribute to the development of the country,” the PM said.

“I think that the electoral legislation needs to be improved and work is already underway to address this issue. I hope that all the political forces will engage constructively in this process,” he said.

“I want to appeal to members of the Alliance of Patriots to stop this radical form of protest and continue opposing issues related to electoral legislation and election results in a calm environment within the legal framework,” the PM said.

On November 12, the heads of ISFED and Transparency International Georgia, Nino Lomjaria and Eka Gigauri, respectively, also went on hunger strikers.

The two watchdog groups said that along with other partner civil society organizations, they plan to present amendments to the electoral code that would address those problems that have been revealed during the October 31 MP by-elections.

But they also stressed that regardless of whether these procedural problems are addressed or not in the legislation, the change of electoral system – a scrapping of the majoritarian component of the electoral system – remains the “fundamental demand of the authorities.”

Although the GD ruling coalition plans to reform the majoritarian component of the electoral system, it has no intention to scrap it for next year’s parliamentary elections and offers to replace this system after the 2016 elections.

Georgia’s main east-west highway has been blocked for two days

E60, the central highway through Georgia, has been blocked for two days due to bad weather. Vehicles are currently being rerouted near Kutaisi in the western part of the country.

According to the Infrastructure Ministry’s Road Department, a section of road was damaged at the 206th kilometre of the Tbilisi-Senaki-Leselidze road due to flooding of the river Chkhara.

Repair work was halted due to bad weather last night, and the Chkhara flooded again in the morning.

On Friday, repair work was resumed, and the river bed is being cleaned. Traffic is being rerouted through the Zestaponi-Baghdati-Kutaisi road, but trailers and semi-trailers are prohibited from using that road.

The weather has also created difficulties other places in the country. The Road Department published a list of roads where there are restrictions for vehicles:

All types of vehicles are prohibited from using the 94km-110km section of the Koda-Partskhisi-Manglisi-Tsalka-Ninotsminda road to the border with Armenia.

Drivers are asked to use snow chains on the 80km-136km section of the Mtskheta-Stepantsminda road, which leads to the Larsi border crossing with Russia.

In Svaneti, there are restrictions from 70km to 188km of the Zugdidi-Jvari-Mestia-Lasdili road, where trailers, semi-trailers and vehicles with more than 30 seats are prohibited from driving.

All types of vehicles are prohibited from driving on the 106km to 117km section of the Batumi-Akhaltsikhe road.
(DF watch)