Georgia unveils reforms in bid to ease protests

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 25.06.2019 00:18

The leader of Georgia's ruling party said yesterday the ex-Soviet nation will hold the next parliamentary election based entirely on a proportionate system, fulfilling a key demand of anti-government protesters.

Speaking at a news conference following four days of rallies, the founder of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, announced "large-scale political reform." There will also be no threshold for parties to enter parliament, Ivanishvili said. "We will have a parliament where all the existing political actors will be represented."

The protests, which erupted on Thursday, have seen thousands take to the streets of Tbilisi on consecutive nights and clashes with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets. It was unclear whether the announcement would be enough to mollify protesters, who were also demanding a snap vote and the resignation of Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia. Throngs of demonstrators tried to storm parliament, angered by a Russian lawmaker taking the speaker's seat during an international meeting of lawmakers. The protest reflected simmering anger against Russia, which routed Georgia in a 2008 war and maintains a military presence in Georgia's two breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian influence in Georgia remains a politically sensitive subject, with the opposition accusing the ruling Georgian Dream party, which backed Zurabishvili for the presidency late last year, of being too meek when it comes to confronting Moscow. The two countries broke off diplomatic relations after the war but steps have been made in recent years to restore ties, including Georgia scrapping visitor visas for Russians and Russia lifting a ban on Georgian wine imports.

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