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The News in Brief

Tuesday, April 8
Number of Sakrebulos to be increased

Number of local councils, Sakrebulos, to be elected in the June 15 local elections will be increased from 64 to 71 as a result of splitting up seven municipalities.

The change, endorsed by the Parliament on April 4, is a result of a new self-governance law, adopted in February, which granted “self-governed” status to seven more towns – Telavi, Mtskheta, Gori, Akhaltsikhe, Ambrolauri, Ozurgeti and Zugdidi. Other “self-governed” cities are Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Rustavi, Batumi and Poti.

Those new “self-governed” towns previously were forming municipalities together with their surrounding villages. But as a result of their new status, these towns will be separated from those municipalities. For example Zugdidi municipality was made up of town of Zugdidi and up to thirty villages. With this change those thirty villages will form a municipality separate from the town of Zugdidi with its own Sakrebulo; the town of Zugdidi will also have its Sakrebulo.

Along with Sakrebulos, voters in twelve “self-governed” cities will also elect mayors and voters in municipalities will elect Gamgebeli (head of municipality) during the June 15 local elections.

Authority of five Sakrebulos, which were elected in 2006, will again be prolonged like it once already happened in 2010 without elections; these are those five councils, which before the August, 2008 were located in the Georgian-controlled areas of breakaway Abkhazia (in Kodori gorge) and South Ossetia (Eredvi, Tigvi, Kurta and Akhalgori).

Georgia to create Inter-agency commission for elections of local self-governing bodies

An inter-agency commission will be created in Georgia on the eve of the elections for local self-governing bodies.

Georgian Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani has already signed an order on creation of this commission, Georgian Justice Ministry told Trend on April 7.

The justice minister will head the inter-agency commission. The commission will include the deputies of interior minister, foreign minister, finance minister, defense minister, minister of regional development and infrastructure, minister of corrections and probation, as well as health minister.

The deputy justice minister will be the commission's secretary. The inter-agency commission aims to prevent the violation of the electoral legislation by public servants, to react to the detected violations and thereby ensure a free and fair electoral environment. To this end, the commission cooperates with election subjects, political forces participating in the elections, local and international organizations, observers and other interested persons.

The inter-agency commission will meet in the case of necessity but no less than once every two weeks, while after expiration of registration of election subjects, it will meet no less than once a week.

The inter-agency commission will cease its work immediately after the Central Election Commission announces the official results of the elections. Regarding the last amendments to the Electoral Code the issue related to creation of a permanent commission was considered, nevertheless, this issue was removed from the agenda later.

The elections for local self-governing bodies will be held on June 15 in Georgia.

Minibus drivers in Rustavi on strike, claim tender was rigged

Drivers of minibuses on the route between Tbilisi and Rustavi have been on strike for the last few days, demonstrating outside the office of the Georgian Dream coalition. They accuse Rustavi city authorities and Energy Minister Kakhi Kaladze of corruption.

City Hall in Rustavi, a town 20 km south of the capital, recently announced a tender to replace the minibuses.

The company Intertrans won and is planning to replace the minibuses with yellow minibuses, but the drivers who have their own minibus lines claim that the tender was rigged and that ordinary drivers were not able to participate.

They also claim that Intertrans has ties with Energy Minister Kakhi Kaladze’s friends, but this was rejected by Rustavi City Hall.

Drivers say that they do not know if the company plans to offer them jobs, but even if there is such an offer they suspect that Intertrans will make it more difficult for them by setting higher daily license fees.

About 400 drivers currently work on the minibus line between Rustavi and Tbilisi. They demand that the results of the tender are annulled.

“City Hall lied to us. They forced us to change cars, buy new cars produced after 2000, the so-called Sprinters, which costs more than USD 25,000 and now they tell us that these cars aren’t comfortable and we have to change them,” one of the drivers said.

They want the results of tender to at least be postponed for three years, so they can pay down the loans that they took in order to buy Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans.

Mayor Davit Jikia answered that he cannot take responsibility for what’s happening and did not force any drivers to change their cars.

He explained that according to the contract with the company, drivers will keep their jobs and ticket prices will not go up.

One of the drivers, Tamaz Mansirashvili was detained during Saturday’s rally for verbal abuse and resisting police, but was released on Sunday.

Another driver, Shmagi Mikeladze, on Thursday attempted to set himself on fire. He later said that if demands are not met, drivers will burn their cars and themselves.

Mikeladze was taken away by police for questioning and later returned to join the others. On Saturday another driver tried to set himself on fire, but again police intervened.

Drivers wanted to meet with representatives of Georgian Dream, but no-one came to meet them.

Drivers plan to continue demonstrating until the tender is declared invalid.
(Democracy & Freedom Watch)

German Chancellor invites PM Gharibashvili to Germany

The Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Gharibashvili has received his first official invitation from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to visit Germany.

The news was announced on Monday by David Magradze, a Foreign Affairs Service adviser of the Administration of the Government of Georgia.

He said the leaders of two countries would hold a face-to-face meeting when Gharibashvili visits Germany.

"The discussion will focus on bilateral and multilateral cooperation,” Magradze said.

Gharibashvili is expected to meet the German Chancellor in early June, a few days before Georgia will sign the Association Agreement (AA), including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area component, with the European Union.

Magradze believed Merkel’s invitation for Gharibashvili to visit Germany held special importance and was necessary to be held before the country signed the AA document.

German Chancellor Merkel visited Tbilisi in August 17, 2008, as part of international peace efforts following the Russia-Georgia war.