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“Samegrelo is not a Rose Revolution Domain”

18.12.2007
Pre-election Turmoil in Samegrelo and Totally Falsified Election Registers

Samegrelo is awaiting the presidential elections. Levan Gachechiladze and Mikhail Saakashvili, two presidential candidates, have already emerged in the districts of Samegrelo. They are being expected in Zugdidi in the near future. The appearance of the presidential candidates highlighted the issue of the so-called “dead bodies”. The constituencies of Samegrelo talk about the governmental attempt to falsify the registers. Along with this, the leaders of opposition parties and their supporters are being pressured. There are incidents of persecution and blackmail of the opposition. The pre-election period is marked by bribery and persuasion.

“Samegrelo is not a Rose Revolution domain! The pre-election period in Samegrelo is a total disaster. We shall do our best to expose the ill-conduct of the government. The government’s behavior vividly shows its fear of the victory of Levan Gachechiladze, the United Opposition candidate. The resistance is the strongest in Samegrelo. Saakashvili’s government knows that losing the election in Samegrelo means losing the election in the whole country and that is why they are trying to falsity the elections here,” states Kakha Mikaia, the curator of Levan Gachechiladze’s election headquarters in Samegrelo.

The representatives of Levan Gachechiladze’s election headquarters are preparing for the meeting with the inhabitants of Zugdidi. It is said to be the largest scaled pre-election meeting, where the protest against the government will be the strongest.

Samegrelo constituencies strong objected when Romanoz Bulia, a member of the Freedom Movement was kidnapped from his home in Natsuluku village by young men in a Lada Niva.
This happened when Romanoz Bulia was collecting signatures in his village for presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze. The assaulters beat him first, and then threw him from the car onto the main road between Zugdidi and Tbilisi, near the village Tsaishi .The activist from the opposition was threatened with imprisonment and was told the opposition would not win the election in Zugdidi.

“The representatives of the Constitutional Security Department (CSD) drive in white-colored Niva’s. Nino Chkadua, a member of our party, was charged by the CSD and told that she had been handing out money in the name of the opposition and would be arrested.

Chkadua was released only after she demanded to be confronted with those people who she allegedly gave money to,” states Kakha Mikaia, a member of the Freedom Movement, and indicates once more that the government is attempting to terrorize people.

Unlike the CSD, MP Grisha Kobalia terrorizes people secretly. This time he tried to intimidate the Khvichia family, IDPs from Abkhazia. After being released by the CSD, Eka Khvichia fell in the hands of Grisha Kobalia.

Eka Khvichia: “The MP phoned the owner of the house in the village Kortskheli, where we lived as refugees. He told Monika Kharchilava that her house was operating as the headquarters of the Freedom Movement and she was advised to expel us to avoid problems. I will not change my views because Grisha Kobalia wants me to. I assure him that his political activities are more harmful than my membership of the election commission in a village polling station.”

On December 9, the leaders of the United Opposition together with Levan Gachechiladze started their election campaign in Samegrelo from Poti. They met a lot of people in the building of Public School # 2 of this port town.

Levan Berdzenishvili, Republican Party leader: “I see that Saakashvili is good at fishing .He does it so well that Georgia asks you, the citizens of Poti, please leave him here for a while. The country will at least have fish, but I doubt he will do his job well. We want people to have the right to labor and the right to fish. We also want people to have dignity. We do not want to have a country where only Saakashvili and the robbers around him live comfortably.”

Zviad Dzidziguri, leader of the Conservative Party: “This meeting shows that people do not support Saakashvili. He has only three TV companies, the CEC, the Police and boards on his side. The citizens of Poti support the opposition parties.”

Davit Berdzenishvili, leader of the Republican Party: “The meeting with the inhabitants of Poti has shown that the whole of Georgia is against Saakashvili. Today he was ironically called a former president. He did not justify the confidence he had had from people.”

People in Samegrelo really have lost their confidence. They were somehow expecting the government to falsify the election. But it was surprising when the opposition parties got into district commissions via National Movement quotas.

Ramaz Shubitidze, the Freedom Movement’s election campaign manager: “Those members who got into district commissions via opposition party quotas (Industrialists, New Rights and Labor Party) are in fact activists of the National Movement. The exceptions are only the Khobi and Chkhorotku districts. There were several cases when our opposition party members were nominated for the posts of head of commission, deputy or secretary, but did not get enough support from these opposition parties. They unanimously voted for National Movement candidates. The real opponents of the leading party are the Conservatives, Republicans and the Freedom Movement. Three against ten.”
The Conservative Zviad Dzidziguri confirms the fact that the government is working actively on persuasion and bribery of oppositional forces: “They will not succeed! This is the method of the Georgian Citizens Union, a former political party, and Saakashvili will soon be a history as well as this party.”

The issue of Saakashvili’s place in history is controversial, but the problem of the so-called “dead bodies” in election registers is real. Along with “dead bodies” there are people who are registered several times. As it turns out, 20-25 dead people appear in every polling station.

Nana Okhujava, head of the Zugdidi Regional Election Commission #67: “If a person does not report on the death of his relative, I do not have the right to cross him out of the register. I need a document proving a person’s death.”

Apparently, death certificates have been handed in in Abasha ,unlike in Zugdidi. Otherwise, the members of the National Movement would not have to wander the cemeteries of the Abasha district to cross out the names from grave stones.

In every district of Samegrelo, the election register problems are connected with IDPs. Approximately, 43 000 IDPs are registered in the Zugdidi Regional Election Commission #67. Whilst 39 663 IDP constituencies are registered in the data base of Adjara and Samegrelo-Upper-Svanetia Regional Department of Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation of Georgia. Hence, presidential candidate Mikhail Saakashvili, is said to possess more than 3000 guaranteed votes. Several people with similar names and identical addresses appeared in Zugdidi Polling Station #11. This indicates that there are problems concerning election registrations. Leila Kobalia was registered six times without a passport address.

Tengiz Gergedava, head of Levan Gachechiladze election headquarters in Zugdidi, found 12 new dwellers in his house according to the election register: “ I was returning home terrified with the idea that I would find new hosts there who would probably demand an inheritance. 12 People, who are completely unknown to me, registered to my address, Ninoshvili Street #10. They are neither friends nor relatives of mine. I do not have any kind of financial relationship with them.”

The inhabitants of Ninoshvili Street cannot identify the 132 IDPs registered in their neighborhood, from Ninoshvili Street #1 to # 40.
       
In the Tsalenjikha district, registers are overblown by IDPs. About 300 non-existent people can be found in the register of the polling station of the village Pakhulani. In polling station # 4 in Tsalenjikha and its adjacent village Chkadua, in the Zugdidi district, the IDP voters are registered twice. 

Members of the election headquarters of presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili have discovered about 200 “dead bodies” in Polling Station #17 which is located in the building of the Zugdidi brewery.

“These IDPs have vague addresses. There are 8000 IDPs whose ID numbers are indicated in the register, but their addresses are not correct. According to election registers they live in a tent, garage, tea factory and so on. These 8000 IDPs are scattered according to alphabet in those polling stations of Zugdidi where the constituencies are below 15 000,” explains the head of the Regional Election Commission. But such occasions in IDP registers are very rare. Nana Okhujava is ready to help IDPs to find their names in registers, but it is difficult to imagine what will happen if the IDPs approach the Regional Commission.

There is a complete disorder in polling stations. The governmental candidate will receive the votes from IDPs. This is not news. But hiding the election registers, which concerns the IDPs, is a novelty. Zurab Kukhalashvili, a member of the Freedom Movement, saw the following scene at Polling Station #23: “Giorgi Tabaghua, head of the commission, exposed the registers in his room and stated that the public demonstration of registers is not correct. Savage IDPs live on this territory and they might take the lists from the wall, he says.”

The working conditions of the commission members are more severe than the life of IDPs. Polling Station #18 in the administrative building of a former china factory in Zugdidi is completely open to everyone, meaning literally open. Broken doors and windows without glasses can be seen in other polling stations too. The election registers are not displayed on the walls in Polling Station #18 as well. A similar situation can be found in a former canning factory in Zugdidi where Polling Station #85 is located. That is why the members of the polling station have decided to find shelter in neighboring Polling Station #14. Tengiz Gergedava, head of Levan Gachechiladze’s election headquarters, talks about the restrictions imposed by the heads of district commissions on the members of the Freedom Movement: “The members of our party do not have the opportunity to work on registers..... Our representative was demanded at one of the polling stations to write a statement why he wanted to see the registers. It seems that the representatives of opposition parties must only follow the schedule drawn up by the heads of the commissions.”

Nana Pazhava. Poti


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