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The News in Brief

Monday, August 1
Georgian police arrest man for making terrorist threats

A young Georgian man has pled guilty to spreading a message online that incited violence and contained a threat of terrorism, and could now face a prison sentence of six to 11 years.

Georgia’s counter-terrorism officers detained a 23-year-old man from the Pankisi Gorge who allegedly posted the potentially threatening message on Facebook using a fictitious name.

The accused was identified by Georgia’s State Security Service as Vakhtang Khangoshvili, of the Duisi village of the Akhmeta region in Kakheti.

He has already pled guilty to the allegations, and if found guilty could be sentenced to a term of imprisonment from six to 11 years.

Akhmetaregion is where the Pankisi Gorge is located. The area is mainly inhabited by Muslims and was home to senior Islamic State (ISIS) commander Tarkhan Batirashvili (Omar al-Shishani), who died in a counter-terrorism attack in March.

Georgia’s Counter Terrorism Centre released information about its investigation into the online terrorism threat.

"The investigation established that on 29th of July, 2016 the detainee disseminated information that contained a terrorist threat though social network Facebook under the username DauLevski,” said the agency, which operates under the State Security Service.

Once the investigation identified the offender, police searched his vehicle and apartment. Officials did not say whether anything illegal was found in their search.

"It is worth noting that the detainee plead guilty during the interrogation process, and as a result he was detained,” the State Security Service said.

An investigation is now underway to determine the full details of the case.

Political Ratings in NDI-Commissioned Poll

More than a third of likely voters were undecided as to which party they would vote for, according to a public opinion survey which was fielded more than three months before the October 8 parliamentary elections, and also showed that the GDDG ruling party had a slight lead over its chief rival, the UNM party.

The poll, released on Wednesday, was fielded by CRRC for the U.S. National Democratic Institute (NDI) between June 8 and July 6. The survey was conducted through nationwide face-to-face interview with 4,113 respondents and it has a margin of error plus, minus 2.1%.

67% of respondents said they would vote if elections were held tomorrow.

Asked which party they would vote for if parliamentary elections were held tomorrow, 35% of likely voters responded “don’t know”; 13% refused to answer, and 3% responded “no party”.

The Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia (GDDG) ruling party had 19% support among the likely voters, followed by the United National Movement (UNM) – 14%.

State for People, party launched this year by opera singer Paata Burchuladze, and Alliance of Patriots of Georgia were tied with 4% support each among the likely voters.

8% of other potential voters named other parties as their preferred choice. These included the thirteen parties which were named by less than 3% of respondents each. Among them are: the Free Democrats; the Labor Party; the Democratic Movement; New Political Center-Girchi; Free Georgia; the Republican Party; the National Forum; the Conservative Party; the Industrialists; and the New Rights party.

57% of 4,113 respondents surveyed said they are undecided about how they would vote if parliamentary elections were held tomorrow, down from 61% in NDI/CRRC poll in March, 2016.

“Georgians overwhelmingly want to vote in the upcoming elections but have not yet made up their mind, making the election results unpredictable,” Laura Thornton, NDI’s senior country director in Georgia, said. “The ratings for each of the individual parties are so low that they cannot be taken as a guide to the outcome of future elections. With 67% of Georgians planning to vote and 57% undecided, the numbers seen in the final election tallies will look considerably different than the numbers presented in this poll as the results will depend on how these undecided ultimately cast their ballots.”

Asked which of the issues matter the most when voting in parliamentary elections, 41% of respondents named party’s economic policy, followed by party’s stance on healthcare policy (14%); national security issues (11%); parties stance on rule of law and foreign policy – 9% and 8%, respectively.

NDI/CRRC’s previous poll was fielded in March, before the Georgian Dream coalition’s announcement that its member parties were parting ways for the upcoming elections, and before the formal launch of the State for People party. In the March poll, the Georgian Dream coalition had 15% support among the likely voters, followed by the UNM – 13%; Free Democrats – 6%; Labor Party – 4%, and Alliance of Patriots – 3%. A total of 38% of likely voters were undecided.

Georgia has a mixed electoral system in which 77 seats are allocated proportionally under a party-list contest among political parties, which must clear a 5% threshold in nationwide popular vote.

The rest of the 73 lawmakers in the 150-seat Parliament are elected in 73 single-member constituencies, known in Georgia as “majoritarian” mandates; a candidate has to win over 50% of votes in order to be an outright winner in the first round, otherwise a second round should be held.