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News in Brief

Friday, December 21

Two dead in Upper Abkhazia car accident

Two died in a car accident near the village of Kvemo Kvabchara, in Georgian-controlled Upper Abkhazia, on December 19.

The vehicle fell approximately 50 meters into a precipice, according to the government-in-exile, killing Besik Chkhetiani, a civilian and Irakli Gugushvili, an employee of the Interior Ministry. Weather conditions were reportedly poor and there was ice on the road. Kvemo Kvabchara is just 100 meters from separatist-controlled territories. (Prime News)

Davit Gamkrelidze meets voters in Kakheti

New Rights presidential candidate Davit Gamkrelidze continued his campaign trail in Kakheti on Thursday, meeting villagers of Vaziubani in Gurjaani district. On Wednesday he presented his election campaign to locals from the villages Kakabeti and Tsnori, promising an improvement of social conditions, agriculture, and normalized relations with Russia. (Prime News)

Opposition office ransacked in Chokhatauri

An office in Chokhatauri belonging to the United National Council, a coalition of opposition parties, was ransacked on Thursday morning. Computers, leaflets and campaigning materials were reportedly taken. Representatives of the United National Council, which is backing presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze, have accused the ruling National Democrat party of being behind the raid. (Prime News)

Tamaz Bibiluri demands return of Samshoblo publishing house

Tamaz Bibiluri, chairman of the April 9 Society and head of the Skhivi association of journalists, staged a protest in front of the Samshoblo publishing house on December 19, protesting its recent privatization.

In early August a number of newspapers, journals and television channels were expelled from the building as part of the government’s privatization drive. “This building should be returned to the editorial boards that were previously located here… This would be a positive step towards enhancing freedom of speech and democracy in Georgia,” Bibiluri declared.

Bibiluri also discussed why he pulled out of the presidential race. “I recalled my candidacy in protest. I have documents confirming preparation for election fraud,” Bibiluri said, adding that presidential candidates were conducting their campaigns in unequal conditions. (Black Sea Press)

Georgian CEC approve plebiscite questions

On December 19, the Central Election Commission (CEC) approved the wording of the plebiscite questions that will be put to voters on January 5 alongside the presidential election ballot.

The NATO question will be worded: “Do you support the integration of Georgia into NATO?”

On the timing of parliamentary elections, voters will be asked: “Do you agree that the next parliamentary elections should be held in spring 2008?”

CEC Chairman Levan Tarkhnishvili said negotiations had been held with political parties and all CEC members. The CEC is composed of seven government-appointed members, one ruling party representative and six opposition representatives, effectively giving the ruling party a majority of one on the commission.

After meeting with acting president Nino Burjanadze and Tarkhnishvili to discuss the issue, Justice Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili said that the final choice for the plebiscite on the timing of parliamentary elections was the opposition’s wording. The ruling party had pushed for language emphasizing a fall scheduling.

Rescheduling parliamentary elections was a key demand of the opposition when they staged an anti-government protest that lasted from November 2 until its violent dispersal by police on November 7.

In November 2006, the government altered the constitution to push parliamentary elections back and presidential elections forward, to coincide in autumn 2008, a move which the opposition criticized.

Over 50 percent of voters must take part in the plebiscites for them to be considered legitimate. (Black Sea Press)