Protests in Georgia Yield Promise of Change in Electoral System Over Against ‘Enemy and Occupier’ Russia
by Jordan Hilger, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) - The government of Georgia has finally conceded to a few demands of protesters as crowds gathered in the Eastern European country’s capital of Tbilisi for a fourth consecutive night.
Head of the Georgian Dream party currently in power, Bidzina Ivanishvili, announced on June 24 that the country would transition from a mixed to a proportional electoral system, after a Russian diplomat’s decision to sit in the Georgian parliamentary speaker’s seat during an address to the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO) was seized upon as proof by opposition parties that Russia controls politics in Georgia.
“You have an opposition which is still associated with former President [Mikheil] Saakashvili, which is very keen...to play the Russia card and accuse Georgian Dream of being soft on Russia, and it's also keen to portray the government as out of step with society,” analyst for Carnegie Europe Thomas de Waal told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The protests, which began on June 20, were met with a severe police response in which 240 people were hospitalized by rubber bullets and other crowd suppression methods, and included demands for the resignations of officials viewed as Russia-sympathetic, such as parliament speaker Irakli Kobakhidze and the Georgian interior minister, as well as early parliamentary elections aimed at rectifying the presence of a Russian “fifth column.”
Russia is viewed as an occupier by nationalistic elements in Georgia, having crossed into the Orthodox country in 2008 in an attempt to maintain the disputed territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, in which thousands of Russian troops are still stationed.