Georgia’s Prime Minister condemns clash at Zugdidi By-Elections

Georgia’s Prime Minister condemned the incident and said those responsible must be punished. Photo by the Prime Minister’s webpage., 23 May 2016 - 14:47, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili is condemning a clash at a regional polling station that left dozens of people battered and bruised after supporters of opposing political parties started fighting one another.

A clash erupted between supporters of the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia (GDDG) party and opposition United National Movement (UNM) outside a polling station in western Zugdidi municipality, Samegrelo region yesterday during the by-elections.

Today Prime Minister Kvirikashvili said the incident was unacceptable and the Government "would not tolerate” violence in the election process as such facts "victimised the Georgian state and its citizens.” 

What happened in Samegrelo is absolutely unacceptable and it must not be repeated. We must close the page when elections were held in violence, alongside fist-fights. I believe better mobilisation of police is necessary to avoid such incidents in the future,” said Georgia’s top official.

The PM stressed Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs has already launched investigation over the incident but mentioned existing legislation didn’t include penalties severe enough for such offenses. 

I instruct the Ministry of Justice to propose legislative amendments immediately, at the next governmental meeting, to introduce tougher sanctions against those committing violent acts amid political and electoral processes. 
The Government will not tolerate violence in the electoral process, and our reaction to any  offender, regardless of his/her political affiliations, will be swift and severe,” the PM stressed. 

Kvirikashvili promised the Government would do its best to ensure the upcoming Parliamentary Elections in October are held in a peaceful manner.

The by-elections of Sakrebulo (local council) were being held at local majoritarian election districts in parts of the country yesterday to elect people to fill the vacant seats in the local councils ins several municipalities. 

The by-elections were held in the Gldani district of Tbilisi, Gardabani and Kaspi in eastern Georgia as well as Tskaltubo, Ozurgeti, Khobi and Zugdidi in the country’s west.

Apart from the clash at Kortskheli village in Zugdidi municipality, the by-elections were held in a peaceful manner.

GDDG Political Council member Mamuka Mdinaradze alleged several former law enforcers had been "hired” by UNM to participate in yesterday’s clash and physically assault GDDG supporters. He named the people and released their photos. 

An assessment of the incident by local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) stated verbal insults erupted between the supporters of UNM and GDDG, which escalated into a physical altercation.

Several leaders of the UNM party were at the scene, including Giga Bokeria, Nika Melia, Eka Kherkheulidze and others. 

UNM and its supporters accused the Government of staging the provocation and assembling sportsmen for the clash. 

In response, GDDG General Secretary and Minister of Energy Kakha Kaladze said UNM were the instigators of the clash.

Kaladze said it was in UNM’s interests to stage the clash to ‘prove’ to diplomatic corps and the international world that the current Government would not be able to hold a peaceful and transparent Parliamentary Elections on October 8, 2016.

GDDG Political Council member Mamuka Mdinaradze alleged several former law enforcers had been "hired” by UNM to participate in yesterday’s clash and physically assault GDDG supporters. He named the people. 

Meanwhile Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili also condemned the violence. He stressed "such incidents had no winners” as it affected the state’s interests. 

United States Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly said physical, verbal and all other types of altercations at polling stations were inacceptable. He applauded the Government for launching an investigation into the incident to find those responsible.

The investigation has been launched by Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs.