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The News in Brief

Monday, March 6
Japanese MFA on S.Ossetia Referendum, Abkhazia Crossing Points Closure

The Japanese Foreign Ministry said in its March 1 statement that it “expresses deep concern” over “the so called referendum” in South Ossetia, scheduled for April 9.

It also expressed its deep concern over “the closure of so-called crossing points along the occupation line of the Abkhazia region, which is causing grave violations of human rights.”

“It is Japan’s consistent position that peaceful resolution of the conflict in Georgia’s occupied regions of Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia and Abkhazia in line with the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders is essential for the peace and stability of the country and the entire South Caucasus region,” the MFA statement said.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry added that the country opposes “any attempts to change Georgia’s internationally recognized borders.”

Georgia’s ruling party postpones switch to indirect election of president

The Georgian Dream party is backing down on a previous pledge to phase out the use of direct elections to select a president already from next year. Instead, the ruling coalition plans to introduce the change from the 2023 election.

“The rules of presidential elections have been a topic of a lot of speculation,”

Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze said at a meeting of the constitutional commission on Thursday.

“We think we should eliminate any excuse for such speculation. Therefore, the stance of the leadership of the ruling team is that it is desirable, in order to avoid such speculation, to hold direct elections next time and afterwards we can switch [to the alternative system].”

The constitutional commission comprises politicians from the ruling party and opposition, as well as members of civil society and experts. It is tasked with ‘improving’ the current Constitution. However, the opposition and many civic activists fear that Georgian Dream is planning to adjust the Constitution to fit its political agenda. These fears are well-founded as GD holds a constitutional majority in the parliament, i.e. over three quarter of seats, and can adopt any amendment it wants. Curtailing the powers of the President is regarded as part of this process.

The incumbent President, Giorgi Margvelashvili, was elected with the strong support of then-Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, but afterwards they engaged in a bitter rivalry.

Margvelashvili’s term expires in 2018.

Ivanishvili, a Georgian billionaire and the founder of GD, is believed to have a strong influence on the ruling party, although officially he retired from politics in 2013. He has repeatedly underlined the need for the president to be elected by Parliament, claiming that direct elections do not correspond to the real powers of the office of the president.
(DF watch)

Tbilisi modernises public bus fleet, welcomes new buses

Brand-new buses continue to modernise Tbilisi’s fleet as route 87 gets an upgrade.

The new buses began operating on March 1 along a popular Tbilisi bus-route that serves the city’s central districts – from Baratashvili Bridge to Vake and on through to Saburtalo districts.

City Hall announced today that the new buses will be able to transport 425 passengers per route completion, instead of the former yellow bus capacity of only 240 passengers.

The first blue buses arrived in Georgia on October 6, 2016 and began circulating on route 61, which travels through Tbilisi’s two central streets – Rustaveli Ave and Chavchavadze Ave.

New buses were put into operation on routes 51 and 37 this year as well. Route 51 connects the outlying districts of Tbilisi - Gldani to Baghebi through Dighomi, Didube, Saburtalo and Vake districts, while route 37 shuttles passengers from Tbilisi Railway Station (Tbilisi Central) to Tbilisi Shota Rustaveli International Airport.

All new buses are more environmentally-friendly than the current yellow ones as they run on compressed natural gas (CNG).

Furthermore, new buses are able to accommodate people with wheelchairs and other disabilities.

A leading international provider of commercial vehicles, Man Truck, provides new buses for Tbilisi. An agreement signed last year between Man Truck and Bus AG Company provides for 143 new buses that will be added to the Tbilisi public transport service by April 2017.

Currently, there are 522 public buses operating in Tbilisi.