1000’s of Georgians protest ‘stolen election’, urge snap polls

Thousands of Georgians protest 'stolen election', urge snap polls

AFP / Vano Shlamov
Former French diplomat Salome Zurabishvili, Georgia’s first girl president, mentioned her election was a step ahead for girls and a transfer nearer to Europe

Round 25,000 Georgians protested Sunday in opposition to the election of a ruling party-backed candidate to the presidency and demanded snap parliamentary polls in a transfer that threatens to complicate the transition of energy within the Western-backed nation.

Holding Georgian and EU flags, protesters alleged vote-buying and different irregularities as they packed Rustaveli Avenue in entrance of the parliament constructing within the centre of the Georgian capital Tbilisi.

The previous reformist president and chief of the 2003 “Rose Revolution” Mikheil Saakashvili addressed the massive crowd by video hyperlink from Amsterdam, the place he lives in self-imposed exile.

“Misha! Misha!” chanted supporters because the flamboyant 50-year-old politician appeared on a giant display.

“Georgia’s future is being born on this sq. right this moment,” mentioned Saakashvili, accused by the authorities of abuse of energy.

“We are going to battle peacefully however we’ll by no means hand over,” he mentioned, flashing the victory signal on the finish of his speech.

On Wednesday, former French diplomat Salome Zurabishvili was elected the ex-Soviet nation’s first girl president, beating a candidate backed by an alliance led by Saakashvili’s get together.

Zurabishvili has mentioned her election was a step ahead for girls and a transfer nearer to Europe.

However opposition leaders together with Zurabishvili’s rival Grigol Vashadze have refused to simply accept the end result, pointing to cases of alleged vote-buying, voter intimidation and ballot-stuffing within the election’s second spherical.

Contemporary avenue protesters might spark concern for the nation, which has seen civil wars, mass demonstrations and unrest since gaining its independence in 1991 with the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The vote was the small South Caucasus nation’s final direct management ballot because it transitions to a parliamentary type of governance.

Within the first spherical, held in October, French-born Zurabishvili did not take the 50-percent-plus-one-vote wanted to win outright.

– ‘Election fraud’ –

Forward of the second spherical Vashadze was narrowly main in opinion polls. Nevertheless Zurabishvili gained greater than 59 % on Wednesday, whereas her rival topped 40 %.

The brand new head of state will likely be a largely ceremonial determine, however the vote was seen as a trial run for the competition between billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili’s ruling Georgian Dream get together and the opposition in additional essential parliamentary polls set for 2020.

“Georgia doesn’t have a president now,” Vashadze, a profession diplomat, mentioned to roaring applause from the protesters.

He mentioned the outcomes of the “stolen election” needs to be annulled and snap parliamentary elections held.

He mentioned the authorities needed to overhaul the nation’s electoral system and by December 16 set up a working group to carry talks with the opposition.

Many protesters accused tycoon Ivanishvili, seen by many because the nation’s de facto ruler, of stealing folks’s votes.

“I’m right here to protest in opposition to election fraud,” Liana Partsvania, 63, instructed AFP.

“Folks took to the streets right this moment as a result of the elections had been rigged,” mentioned one other protester, 20-year-old Gia Mgeladze.

The vote was additionally seen as a check of Georgia’s democratic credentials because it seeks European Union and NATO membership.

Displays from the Organisation for Safety and Cooperation in Europe mentioned the election was aggressive however additionally they raised considerations about misuse of administrative sources.

Tensions elevated forward of the second spherical, because the opposition accused the federal government of voter intimidation and claimed that ruling get together activists had attacked Vashadze’s marketing campaign workers.

Zurabishvili in flip mentioned she and her kids had obtained loss of life threats from folks affiliated with Saakashvili’s United Nationwide Motion.

In what critics derided as “vote-buying” forward of the election, Ivanishvili promised the federal government would drastically enhance social spending and pledged to spend his personal cash to write down off the financial institution loans of greater than 600,000 folks.

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