Monday, March 1

Concerns following the arrest of an opposition leader

Several thousand opposition supporters demonstrated in Georgia on Tuesday against the muscular arrest of a prominent political figure, a measure that risks aggravating the political crisis underway in this Caucasian country since the October legislative elections. .

At the end of the afternoon, protesters gathered in front of the seat of government in Tbilisi to denounce the arrest of Nika Melia and demand early elections.

Nika Melia, the leader of the main Georgian opposition party, the United National Movement (MNU), was extirpated Tuesday morning from the premises of his political party in the capital to be remanded in custody.

Hundreds of riot police then used tear gas against his supporters and leaders of all opposition parties, who had been camping outside the building for nearly a week.

Dozens of people supporting the opposition were also arrested during this intervention by the police, strongly denounced by the Western allies of Georgia.

The opposition called for a new march on Friday in Tbilisi.

“Proportionate use of force”

The Georgian Interior Ministry, for its part, claimed that the police had “used proportionate force and used special means” during the arrest.

The police action came after the resignation of Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia on Thursday, who mentioned a disagreement within the ruling party over the application of the court ruling, issued last week, to detain Nika Melia.

The opponent is accused of having organized “mass violence” during large-scale protests in 2019, risking nine years in prison, but rejects these accusations, which he considers to be political in nature.

The American Embassy declared itself “deeply concerned” by his arrest. “Today Georgia has stepped back on its path to becoming a stronger democracy in the family of Euro-Atlantic nations”, she asserted.

The EU’s envoy, Carl Hartzell, for his part regretted that “the logic of escalation wins”.

“Broken democratic system”

The arrest of the 41-year-old opponent could further weaken democracy in Georgia, which has been facing a political crisis since the parliamentary elections in October.

Opposition parties claimed that the ballot was rigged after the Georgian Dream, the ruling party, claimed a narrow victory.

On Monday, Parliament confirmed the appointment as head of government of Defense Minister Irakli Garibashvili, who then immediately announced the upcoming arrest of Mr. Melia.

The new prime minister is seen as a staunch supporter of Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder of the Georgian Dream Party and the richest man in the country, suspected of secretly controlling power.

In power since 2012, the Georgian Dream Party has seen its popularity decline amid economic stagnation and accusations of undermining democratic principles in this former Soviet republic.

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