Georgia: Thousands Protest 'Rigged' Election After Pro-Putin Party Wins

Georgia: Thousands Protest 'Rigged' Election After Pro-Putin Party Wins

As many as 3,000 people flooded the heart of Tbilisi, Georgia, on Sunday in protest of the Russia-friendly Georgian Dream party claiming a victory in the weekend’s regional elections.

The rally was the latest of several such events in the past month against the ruling party that also demanded freedom for former President Mikheil Saakashvili, the leader of the Rose Revolution uprising against politicians tied to Russian leader Vladimir Putin in 2003. Putin invaded Georgia in response to Saakashvili’s victory, attempting to break two regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, off of the map of sovereign Georgia.

Saakashvili has been on hunger strike for 32 days as of Monday following his arrest on charges of allegedly misusing his power while president. Saakashvili was arrested on October 1 immediately after entering the country for the first time in years. The former president is now a Ukrainian citizen after a tumultuous near-decade that saw pro-Putin forces in that country attempt to arrest him, as well, and at one time left him entirely stateless.

The former president, in a message from prison, urged all pro-democracy politicians to resign from their official posts in protest of this weekend’s elections.

Images published online of Sunday’s protest showed thousands of people assembled, waving Georgian flags and holding signs calling for Saakashvili’s freedom.

Frances Martel