Parliamentary elections in October marked the first peaceful democratic transfer of power in Georgia’s post-Soviet period. However, there were numerous violations of the right to freedom of expression before and after the election.
In October, the Georgian Dream coalition, united around billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, won the general election, ending nine years of dominance by President Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM). The months leading up to the elections were accompanied by reports of harassment of Georgian Dream activists and supporters. Following the election, scores of high-ranking officials and UNM party members were questioned and arrested. They included a former Minister of Defence and of the Interior, the Chief of the General Staff and the Vice-Mayor of Tbilisi, on charges such as possession of illegal drugs and weapons, abuse of office, illegal detention and torture. The arrests prompted international criticism and requests to the new government to avoid the selective targeting of political rivals.Top of page
In the run-up to the elections, there were reports of harassment, intimidation, obstruction and unfair punishment of opposition members and supporters. Fines against Georgian Dream coalition supporters, organizations and individuals associated with them were often imposed unfairly. Attacks on opposition supporters were reported. They ranged from threats to physical beatings and violent assaults against opposition supporters and increased each month as the election approached.
Scores of public and private sector employees were dismissed allegedly for supporting or being related to the leaders of the opposition parties. Schoolteachers in the regions appear to have been specifically targeted. In most cases the dismissals were decided after the individuals or their relatives made declarations about their political affiliations.
Journalists from pro-opposition media outlets were attacked on several occasions while covering campaign meetings and events. Pro-government journalists also reported attacks and verbal abuse. Investigations were initiated and several individuals, including a local government representative, were charged with administrative offences.
Freedom of assembly remained largely unrestricted, with representatives from both the UNM and the Georgian Dream coalition holding large-scale peaceful rallies in the capital Tbilisi as well as in the regions before the elections. However, a handful of incidents of violence and disruption were reported at smaller meetings, mostly in the regions.
Members of the majority Orthodox Christian religion clashed with minority religious groups in rural villages. Police intervened, and Muslim worshippers were able to conduct their prayers. However, the authorities failed to condemn the religious violence in unequivocal terms.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people
In Tbilisi, Orthodox Christians attacked LGBTI individuals.