Saturday 7th of December 2019, 15:40 CET|
|Georgia: Thousands rallied to protest ballot fraud|
November 4, 2003
Civil Georgia News
Written by Giorgi Sepashvili
Posted by HW on December 6, 2019
The opposition set an ultimatum to the authorities, demanding to recognize the victory of the opposition parties in the November 2 parliamentary elections by the midday on November 5, otherwise threatened with permanent protest rallies throughout Georgia.
However President Shevardnadze seems to be downplaying opposition's ultimatum saying he is "not afraid of any threats" and called on the opposition to discuss the issue in the normal conditions.
Around ten thousand protesters gathered on November 4 in the center of Tbilisi after the opposition leaders appealed the population to defend their votes with the protest rally.
The numerous irregularities during the elections triggered opposition's accusations that the authorities rig the ballots and manipulated election results. According to the official results, with more than 50% of the votes counted, the pro-presidential election alliance For New Georgia leads the polls with 23,7%, followed by opposition National Movement with 23,1% and the Burjanadze-Democrats - 8,5.
Observers: mass ballot fraud
However it is anticipated that these results will change and the opposition parties' percentage will reduce, after the election results in Adjara Autonomous Republic is summarized. Election Observers say that elections in Adjara marred with mass ballot fraud.
According to the parallel vote tabulation results (PVT), conducted by the election watchdog NGO International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy National Movement is a frontrunner with 26,6%, with the For New Georgia bloc in the second place - 18,9%. The National Movement announced earlier that it trusts the PVT results.
The leaders of the National Movement, Burjanadze-Democrats and the Unity opposition alliances led thousands of people protesting against the ballot fraud. The protest rallies were also held simultaneously in several regions of the country.
"Stop stealing votes"
"I demand from the authorities, particularly from President Shevardnadze, to stop stealing our votes and manipulating election results. We demand cancellation of election results in several election districts, where the ballot was totally falsified. Today we have formed an opposition coalition, which will fight for protecting of our votes," Mikheil Saakashvili said, while addressing the crowd, from the balcony of the Tbilisi Municipality.
"We must demonstrate to the authorities that we no longer want to live under the old regime, that we want a new Georgia. If Shevardnadze wants revolution, he will get it," he added.
To the very end
"We are ready to fight to the very end. It's our last chance. We formed today united opposition alliance - the Resistance Front to protect our votes," Zurab Zhvania, former Parliamentary Chairman and one of the Burjanadze-Democrats said, while appealing the protesters.
"I appeal to you to defend your own votes, the dignity of your country, and the future of our children," Nino Burjanadze, the Parliamentary Chairperson and the leader of Burjanadze-Democrats said at the protest rally.
The mass protest rallied was followed the talks between Nino Burjanadze, Mikheil Saakashvili and Jumber Patiashvili of the Unity alliance earlier on November 4, which was attended by the representatives of the civil society organizations.
"I am ready to join those forces, which will prevent ballot fraud," leader of the Unity election alliance Jumber Patiashvili said.
After the talks Burjanadze, Saakashvili and Patiashvili called on supporters for staging protest rallies and asked other opposition leaders to join them. After three hours around ten thousand Tbilisites gathered at the Tbilisi Municipality. However other opposition leaders refrained from joining the rallies.
The New Rights opposition party leader Davit Gamkrelidze said at a news briefing later that he will wait before the announcement of the final results. "We intend to defend our votes in the district election commissions and not in the streets yet" he said.
As anticipated the Revival Union, backed by Aslan Abashidze, the head of Adjara Autonomous Republic, condemned the protest rallies in Tbilisi. "This is a provocation that will lead to destabilization," Tsotne Bakuria of Revival Union said.
"They [Burjanadze, Zhvania, Saakashvili] do not rally because they want to protect all the opposition parties' votes. They just want to protect only their votes," Zurab Tkemaladze of the Industrialists party said.
Riot police on high alert
The Interior Ministry deployed riot police rapid reaction units in the center of Tbilisi, as thousands of people launched protest rallies this evening against the mass ballot fraud. But there were no signs of unrest. The units of the interior troops were dispatched to the State Chancellery, near the Tbilisi Municipality, to guard the President's administration.
The opposition leaders might stage another protest rally in front of the State Chancellery at 12:00 on November 5, in case the authorities will not recognize the opposition's victory in the elections by that time.
"We [the opposition leaders] have agreed to meet tomorrow at 12:00 in the Philharmonic Hall [in the center of Tbilisi], where the Resistance Front will inform the people regarding the recent development by that time. If the authorities will not stop manipulating election results, we will stage a permanent protest rally in front of the State Chancellery," Zurab Zhvania said, while addressing the protesters.
However it seems that the authorities downplay the opposition's threats. President Shevardnadze condemned the opposition's protest rally, saying that "use of force against the government and mounting pressure on the authorities is inadmissible."
"Nobody should threaten me, that if this or that party does not receive the necessary amount of votes, they will demand Shevardnadze's resignation. I warn everyone, that those who use force against the authorities will be punished by all means. We have to work together in the new Parliament, so we should cooperate, there is no other way. The November 2 parliamentary elections were the most fair and transparent ever held in Georgia," President Shevardnadze told reporters on November 4, while commenting on the opposition's protest rally.
Shevardnadze said he is not afraid of any threats and called on the opposition to discuss the issue in the normal conditions.
Avtandil Jorbenadze, the State Minister and the leader of the pro-presidential election bloc For New Georgia, called the opposition for "a dialogue." He excluded the ballot fraud and warned the opposition that the authorities would eradicate destabilization attempts.
More fair than ever
"Everybody should know, that the elections were much fair than ever," the State Minister said while commenting on the protest rally.
The government's radical stance not to make any compromise further increases protest among the population. "I am really tired of them [authorities]. I was standing in the line to vote on November 2 for couple of hours and after this I will do my best to protect my vote," Tbilisite student Tengiz, 22, told Civil Georgia.
Observers say that the November 4 protest rally was anticipated, as most Georgians are fed up with the current regime, blaming it for widespread poverty and corruption.
This was the first protest rally, stages by around ten thousand people, after November, 2001 mass street protests, which led to resignation of the entire government in Georgia. Exactly two years ago people rallied to protect freedom of speech.