Protest At Georgia's Election Commission In Tbilisi Ends After Police Use Water Cannons

TBILISI -- A protest demanding the resignation of Georgia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) and new parliamentary elections came to an end in Tbilisi after police used water cannons several times to disperse the crowd.

Human rights watchdogs had called on police not to use force against the demonstrators, but the ruling Georgian Dream party claimed it was justified because it said the opposition tried to storm the CEC building.

The protesters were behind fences installed near the CEC building when the water cannons were used, and no attempt to storm the building or attack the police was reported, according to RFE/RL's Georgian Service.

RFE/RL journalists at the scene said they heard no warning before police began spraying water at several hundred protesters who had pledged to remain outside the CEC building until their demands were met. Georgian law requires police to warn civilians before using water cannons.

The opposition vowed to continue protests on November 9 despite a curfew put in place to combat a rising number of COVID-19 infections in the country.

Earlier in the afternoon, thousands of protesters gathered to hear opposition leaders issue their demands.

The United National Movement (ENM), the country’s largest opposition party, earlier on November 8 rejected the election results, which handed the ruling Georgian Dream party its third consecutive election victory.

Georgian Dream, founded by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, came in first in the October 31 elections with 48.15 percent, while ENM's bloc had 27.14 percent and European Georgia, led by a number of former ENM members, was third with 3.78 percent.

On November 2, Davit Bakradze, a leader of European Georgia, said the legislative elections “were neither free nor fair” and that his party did not accept the official results.

Turnout was said to have been 56 percent.