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Unrest in Borjomi City Council – Opposition Protests Against Increased Salaries

By Tea Mariamidze
Friday, March 2
The sitting of Borjomi City Council (Sakrebulo) on February 28 was held with the background noise and physical confrontation between the opposition and ruling Georgian Dream (GD) representatives.

In the only municipality of the country, where the opposition formed majority after winning the local elections, the ruling GD members of the council boycotted all the sittings, except the last one, when the issue of the City Hall salaries was being discussed.

However, the budget was not approved due to the protest of opposition MPs, who did not support the draft, which envisages increased salaries for the Borjomi Mayor’s Office officials.

Only 11 MPs of the Georgian Dream voted in favor of the budget while the rest 15 opposition MPs refused to vote which escalated the situation and turned into the physical and verbal confrontation.

After completion of the meeting, part of the City Hall staff blocked the cabinet of the City Council Chair Zaza Chachanidze, who is the representative of the opposition party Alliance of Patriots of Georgia.

The employees of the Mayor’s Office threatened not to release Chachanidze from his cabinet, until the issue of salaries was resolved.

One of the leaders of the opposition United National Movement (UNM) Nika Melia, arrived to Borjomi Sakrebulo to support Chachanidze and called on the Mayor’s Office representatives to release him, however, the appearance of Melia tightened the situation, as the City Hall employees threw brooms at him and urged him to leave.

The police have instantaneously reacted to the incidents during the sitting held in Borjomi Sakrebulo and launched investigation into the developments in Borjomi City Council.

On March 1, the Ministry mobilized special forces units at the building, explaining it was necessary to ensure maximum safety of Sakrebulo employees and ordinary citizens.

However, the opposition alleged the units were mobilized to prevent opposition MPs from entering the building.

On Thursday Nika Melia made a statement, saying Borjomi City Hall is going to launch a boycott.

“Municipal transport, kindergartens and cleaning service will not work starting tomorrow,” Melia stated.

He noted that Georgian Dream has boycotted the sessions of Borjomi City Council for three months already, adding now they want to increase the salaries and decided to distance the opposition from this process.

“I address the opposition parties, NGOs, Public Defender. We must unite to face this big challenge,” he added.

Borjomi City Council Chair told media that at present in the building of the Assembly there are only the representatives of the Mayor’s Office and Sakrebulo members from the GD, adding the police don't let the opposition MPs enter and do their work.

Elene Khoshtaria, member of the European Georgia opposition party believes the ruling party is carrying out sabotage and violence in Borjomi Municipality.

“In the region where the GD lost elections, they are trying to change the results by violence…This is a political order,” she stated.

According to the draft, which failed to be adopted, the salaries of employees in the City Hall for this year are as follows: Municipality Mayor - 3450 GEL; First Deputy - 2400 GEL; Deputy Mayor - 2300 GEL and Heads of Departments - 2000 GEL.

Due to the fact that opposition MPs did not support the increased salaries, 125 employees of self-government have not received salaries since January.