The Alliance of Patriots of Georgia Defends the Electoral Rights of the Citizens
Protest Rally Against Massive Electoral Fraud in the Sagarejo District.
18,550 participants, Tbilisi, Georgia
On November 8, 2015, the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia held a large-scale, peaceful rally to protest against massive electoral fraud in the Sagarejo district during the By-Elections for a single-mandate constituency to the Georgian Parliament.
The demonstration under the slogan "NO to Falsified Elections" began near the Rustaveli monument in the center of Tbilisi, and according to official information based on Google Map data gathered more than 18,550 people.
Within the rally, members of the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia and protesters organized a march from the Rustaveli metro station to the building of the Government Administration. The demonstrators repeatedly raised their hands during the procession to show that this was an absolutely peaceful demonstration, and they had no weapons with them.
The protesters demanded immediate changes to the Electoral Code of Georgia, and the resignation of Defense Minister Tinatin Khidasheli and Environment Minister Gigla Agulashvili, who personally organized and implemented the falsification. "You don’t deserve what was gifted to you by Georgian people on October 2012 – their trust. The Government has deprived the Sagarejo people of their right to choose and has stolen their votes, this is the violation of Constitution, and this is why we are coming out to the streets again! We demand the immediate change of the electoral environment! The upcoming parliamentary elections must be protected, and fair and free elections in October 2016 must be ensured. All those who participated in the falsification must be punished under the Law", stated Irma Inashvili, the General Secretary of the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia.
Following this demand and with the aim to support the protest against gross electoral fraud, the leaders of the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia resorted to drastic measures and on the same day announced a hunger strike. This hunger strike lasted for 16 days with 103 people taking part in the protest action. The protesters on hunger strike stayed vigilantly under an open sky along with the leaders of the party.
As its candidate for the Sagarejo By-Elections, the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia put forward Irma Inashvili, who was participating in these elections along with the Republican candidate from the ruling Georgian Dream coalition, Tamar Khidasheli. During the elections, the Minister of Defense, Tinatin Khidasheli, who is one of the leaders of the Republican Party and at the same time is the relative of the Sagarejo electoral candidate Tamar Khidasheli, used administrative military resources in favor of Tamar Khidasheli and was personally involved in counting ballots and drawing up "official" protocols.
In addition, in all Georgian villages, Irma Inashvili was winning with a large margin, and despite the fact that in the area where mostly Azerbaijani people live Inashvili was losing, overall she was still ahead of the candidate from the ruling party. However, Tinatin Khidasheli took an advantage of her powers as the Minister of Defense of Georgia and created a special closed "military" polling station on the territory of Mukhrovani military base in the Sagarejo district. Khidasheli then transported 629 Georgian soldiers before the elections, and these votes were the deciding factor in the By-Elections in favor of the ruling party’s Republican candidate. Moreover, according to election results, it turned out that 100% of the soldiers voted for the ruling party’s candidate at the specially created "military" polling station. In fact, even 2 more ballots than the number of soldiers who voted were detected at this special "military" polling station.
However, not only Irma Inashvili and the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia declared that the By-Elections in the Sagarejo district were falsified. All other opposition parties publicly stated the same. In addition, MP Gogi Topadze, who is one of the leaders of the Georgian Dream coalition, made the same statement directly on TV. And the Deputy Minister of Diaspora Issues, Sandro Bregadze (who also is a member of the ruling coalition), even had to resign from his post due to his public statements about the massive electoral fraud in the Sagarejo district.
The Defense Minister’s interference in the electoral process was criticized by the radio "Tavisupleba" (Freedom), the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), by different newspapers such as the "Kronika" (Chronicle) and "Sakartvelo da Msoplio" (Georgia And The World), as well as by the Kakheti Information Center, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), and various experts and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
After a large-scale rally with more than 18,550 protesters and a hunger strike of the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia, the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia launched an investigation into the case of massive electoral fraud. The investigation was launched under the article 332, Paragraph 1 (Abuse of Official Position) of the Criminal Code of Georgia. Nikoloz Mzhavanadze, the Head of the non-governmental association "Human Rights Defenders" (HRD) has recently stated: "The Alliance of Patriots of Georgia once again proved by its protest rally that it is the main opposition force in Georgia. Today none of other political parties are able to bring thousands of people to the streets. UNM spends millions, organizes concerts, makes PR, but still it’s no able to gather more than 2,000 people, and talking about other parties doesn’t even make sense".