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The News in Brief

Monday, July 11
Breakaway Abkhazia Holds Referendum

Polling stations opened in Abkhazia on Sunday for a referendum to decide whether to call an early presidential election, but low voter turnout may make the referendum invalid.

Turnout at many of the polling stations was very low, Abkhazia's official news agency Apsnipress reported, citing election commission representatives.

More than half of the electorate should participate in order for the referendum to be valid.

Opposition groups, which were demanding for the referendum to be postponed until the autumn, announced their boycott on the eve of the vote.

On June 1, Abkhaz leader Raul Khajimba signed a decree to hold the referendum, less than three months after opposition parties filed a petition with the central election commission requesting such a referendum.

But on July 5, supporters and members of the Amtsakhara opposition party gathered at an outdoor rally and demanded that the authorities to postpone the referendum, claiming that they had not been granted enough time to mount a campaign; the opposition also complained about having no access to state television to bring their message to voters.

The protest rally devolved into scuffles with the police after several hundred demonstrators tried to storm the Interior Ministry building in Sokhumi on July 5; more than a dozen of people were injured. The authorities had to meet some of the opposition’s demands – the Interior Minister was suspended from office and voters with expired passports were allowed to cast their ballots, but the Abkhaz leader rejected to postpone the referendum.

Amtsakhara said in a statement on July 9 that Khajimba’s goal was to effectively thwart the referendum by not giving the opposition enough time to campaign in favour of an early presidential election and to then “portray it as an opposition failure”.

“It will lead to even more waves of public protest,” a representative of Amtsakhara said after the party announced it was boycotting the referendum. “The state has not created conditions for the free expression of voters’ will…we will not recognize the results of this referendum.”

Murder of Georgian nationals in Turkey solved “The murder case of Georgian nationals in Turkey has been solved,” reads a statement of the Prosecutor's Office of Georgian.

Citizens of Marneuli - Elnur Antesov, Vugar Guliev and Azade Omarova – were detained on 8 July.

The prosecutor's office launched an investigation at the request of the murdered Georgian citizens' family. The investigation revealed that Elnaz Sharifov, Ema Sharifov and his granddaughter Emma Sakhib Gasanov went to work in Turkey. They were financially assisting their family members living in Marneuli. In addition, it should be noted that they had some financial savings which they kept in their house in Duzje. In January 6 2016, they were visited by Azad Omarov from Marneuli. On January 26, 2016, Elnur Antesov also went to Turkey. They, together with their friend Vugar Guliev, committed a brutal murder of the Georgian citizens and took away their computer, cell phones and other belongings.

The investigation continues into the case. Murder is punishable with 16-20 years of imprisonment.

Georgia increases accessibility to polling stations

Georgia’s Government is making efforts to make it easier for people with disabilities to get to a polling station and cast their vote.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) announced out of the country’s 3 634 election precincts 1 103 were now accessible for the persons with disabilities.

"Ensuring an inclusive election environment is significant for the CEC; each citizen of this country despite of the physical capabilities should have equal access to exercise their constitutional right,” CEC Deputy Chairperson Giorgi Sharabidze said.

Sharabidze met with officials from Georgia’s Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure, Ministry of Education and Science, and Tbilisi City Hall. The meeting discussed how to make more voting stations easier accessible for physically challenged citizens.

"As of now 1103 election precincts are accessible for the persons with disabilities and we intensively discuss the processes for ensuring arraignment of more election precincts for the 2016 Parliamentary Elections,” Sharabidze said.

The Parliamentary Elections will be held October 8 in Georgia.

New philarmonic hall on the Black seaside was officially handed to Georgian State by the Kartu foundation in July 10.
(The Messenger)