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The Week in Brief

Friday, December 21
Billionaire presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili publicized a three-phase plan to develop the country, involving massive social spending out of his own, deep pockets. He has delayed a return to Georgia until the government offers guarantees of protection. His campaign team, meanwhile, claimed to have no knowledge of a purported plan to distribute gifts of USD 300 after hundreds gathered outside his campaign headquarters to collect their “promised” payments.

Chair of the parliamentary Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee Elene Tevdoradze joined the country’s human rights ombudsman in calling for an investigation into the use of rubber bullets on November 7, which she says were illegal. The government has not prosecuted anyone for the alleged abuses on that day, when protests in Tbilisi were violently dispersed.

Ethnic Georgian residents in the southern portion of secessionist Abkhazia say de facto authorities there are planning to stop them from voting in the upcoming Georgian presidential election. Georgian and separatist authorities continue to accuse each other of plotting provocations.

A Tbilisi court ordered the Central Election Commission (CEC) to allow Georgian soldiers deployed abroad to vote in the presidential election. The ruling party took the case to court after opposition representatives on the CEC blocked a proposal to allow Georgian soldiers in Kosovo and Iraq to vote.

The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association is demanding that two leading government officials be fined for illegally campaigning with Mikheil Saakashvili. The organization alleges that Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava and Minister of Refugees and Resettlement Koba Subeliani broke the law by participating in Saakashvili’s presidential campaign while they were officially on the job.

Georgian officials have denied responsibility for a deadly car bomb attack this week in separatist South Ossetia, saying the violence arose out of a dispute between local organized crime groups. Representatives of the de facto South Osstian authorities alleged the December 16 explosion, which killed one man and left two others serious injured, was plotted by the Georgian government.

Levan Berdzenishvili of the nine-party opposition coalition, emphasizing his allies’ trust for international election observers, said his allies are willing to recognize the results of the January 5 election as long as they’re widely verified. Not all opposition parties have been ready to make that commitment.

Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze promised that the Georgia will have a GEL 275 000 budget surplus next year, as the country dramatically realigns its spending priorities to focus on alleviating poverty.