Georgian riot police deploy water cannon as protesters in Tbilisi try to blockade parliament

Georgian riot police deploy water cannon as protesters in Tbilisi try to blockade parliament
By Caroline MortimerReuters
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Protesters are calling for electoral reforms to be sped up as they say the current system unfairly favours the ruling party


Riot police in Georgia have deployed water cannon against protesters attempting to blockade the entrance of the parliament in Tbilisi.

Thousands took to the streets once again on Monday night following two weeks of protests against the government over delays to electoral reforms.

Demonstrators are calling for the transition to an electoral system of proportional representation to be sped up as they say the current system unfairly favours the ruling party.

The ruling Georgian Dream party, which came to power in 2012, has promised the changes will come into force by 2024 but the opposition wants the changes in place by the 2020 parliamentary elections.

Almost half of current lawmakers were elected in single-mandate constituencies, most representing the ruling party, rather than by party lists.

Tornike Gordadze, who served as Georgia's minister for European integration, told Euronews: "[The government is] going back and they are contesting their own promises and the changes that have already been agreed.

"There is a huge political crisis in Georgia. The ruling party lost all its [crediblity], people are leaving [the party] including the MPs and we saw a huge protest movement uniting the whole of the opposition.

Read more: Very realistic & very ambitious: Georgia's push toward Europe

"So the time has come for most of Georgia's electors to come together and organise early elections."

Speaking at the protest, the leader of the opposition party, European Georgia, Giga Bokeria added: “[Georgian Dream leader Bidzina Ivanishvili] promised that there will be a change, and then he played a very distasteful charade to the public, and nobody is going to accept that.

“So this protest will continue and will become more and more hot."

The leader of another opposition group, United National Movement, Tina Bokuchava went further and called for Ivanishvili to resign.

She said: “Everybody in this country understands that Ivanishvili must go, and he will go. Just that now it is up to him to decide whether it will be today or tomorrow, but the end of his government has come.

“It is time for regime change, and we must do this as peacefully as possible, and that is also the spirit of these demonstrations.”

The government has been accused of being heavy handed with protesters since the demonstration began two weeks ago after the Georgian parliament rejected a constitutional amendment to bring proportional representation into force in 2020.

At least 37 people were arrested at a protest last week and several were sentenced to between four and 13 days in jail.

The opposition says the convictions were politically motivated.

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