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UNM rally draws thousands to Tbilisi

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, November 17
Thousands of people gathered in central Tbilisi on November 15 at a rally organized by the opposition UNM party. The theme of the rally was ‘Say no to Annexation’. According to UNM representatives, the main aim of the rally was to condemn Russia’s occupation of the de-facto regions of Georgia. However, a majority of the rally was dedicated to accusing the current government of ignoring the problem. Former President Mikheil Saakashvili gathered the rally via social media and stressed that the current leaders of Georgia are pushing the country into “darkness.” UNM representatives claim that the rally represented a “yellow card “to the government and that future rallies will be held.

Prior to the rally, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili called on law enforcement to do their best to ensure security in Tbilisi. In his lengthy address to the population, the PM also spoke about the country’s pro-Western orientation.

"The government steadfastly pursues its path to European and Euro-Atlantic integration; this process is irreversible,” Gharibashvili said. "Obviously, we may encounter numerous obstacles on this path, but we must overcome them with dignity.”

The PM stressed his government clearly saw the threat of annexation of Georgia's occupied territories, which undermined Georgia's statehood and unity.

The UNM representatives, stated that the current government was quite loyal to Russia and that it ignores serious problems related to the country’s reintegration.

UNM MP Giorgi Gabashvili told the people that the Georgian government is “deceiving itself, its own people and the entire world.”

MP Zurab Japaridze stated that the government created obstacles for people in the regions to attend the rally.

Former President Saakashvili outlined that there are “two types of Georgia” – one worthy and clever and another-degraded and silent to the occupation, which is orchestrated by the founder of the Georgian Dream coalition Bidzina Ivanishvili. He stressed that Ivanishvili’s dream was to transform the country into a small “insignificant village.” Saakashvili appealed for people to be intolerant of the occupation and oppose the government’s inactiveness.

Members of the Georgian Dream coalition state that the United National Movement has tried to exploit a “very sensitive” issue for its own gains. MP Manana Kobakhidze states that the country’s territorial issues cannot be resolved through such demonstrations. Fellow MP Eka Beselia suggests that there was great difference between the current and former administrations. “As a rule, such rallies were disrupted under the previous government. We respect freedom of expression,” Beselia said.

Many of the people who attended the rally said they were there to protest the Russian occupation and were taking part in partisan activities. There were those as well who were there to express their grievances about their pensions and those who did not know at all why they were at the rally.