The messenger logo

The News in Brief

Monday, October 23
President Says He Voted for Three Different Electoral Subjects

After casting his ballot at one of Tbilisi’s polling station on Saturday morning, President Giorgi Margvelashvili said he has voted for three different electoral subjects.

“I want to call on the voters to be very active,” he told journalists outside the polling station. “The fate of a lot of issues will be decided today: most importantly, the municipal elections should address our everyday problems and needs. At these elections, we are making a choice for better self-government, a more engaged self-government, where people will have a much bigger say,” he added.

Responding to the journalist’s question on his specific choice, President Margvelashvili said he was given three different ballot papers and that he “marked three different subjects in the ballots”.

PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili, who chairs the ruling Georgian Dream - Democratic Georgia party, also cast his ballot on Saturday morning in Tbilisi. He told journalists at the polling station that he voted for “an even better Tbilisi”. “I gave my vote to Tbilisi, where everyone is happy to live, where urban transport is better organized, which has green spaces so that our citizens breathe freely, where the education system is developed, where there is high economic growth, and where entrepreneurs are happy to start their businesses.”

Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze spoke to the reporters as well, saying he cast his vote “to the candidate, who can lead our city to an absolutely new level of development.”

Kobakhidze also expressed hope that the elections would be held in a calm environment. “If all electoral subjects, all parties treat these elections with responsibility, we will, naturally, avoid any incidents and the elections will pass in an absolutely calm and fair environment. Our party will do its utmost for that,” Kobakhidze said.

Over 3,600 polling stations opened at 8am across the country for municipal elections. 3,440,123 voters will be electing 2,058 members of 64 city councils (Sakrebulo) and 64 municipal mayors.

Abkhazia shuts down elementary school in Georgian populated region

Breakaway authorities in Abkhazia have closed a public school in the region’s southern district which has a predominantly ethnic Georgian population.

De facto authorities told school principals in Gali on Wednesday that the school in Tagiloni, a the village near Gali, must be closed due to the small number of students. The principals were asked to distribute students between other schools in the vicinity.

They were also asked to employ the teachers at the now closed school.

“There are 29 children attending the school, we do not have 4th and 7th grade classes at all. We were hoping that [the authorities] would allow [us] to conclude the first semester, but that did not happen. Probably the students will be accepted by nearby schools from Monday on,” one of the teachers at the Tagiloni school told DFWatch.

The school closure comes as for the second year now, Russian is the mandatory language of instruction in first to sixth grade at Gali district’s Georgian elementary schools. Due to lack of proper knowledge of Russian, many families opt to send their children to schools in Zugdidi or elsewhere across Enguririver, to territories controlled by Georgian authorities.

The decision to switch from Georgian to Russian as the language used for teaching led to a drop in the numbers of pupils at all of Gali’s formerly Georgian schools, which has become an apparent excuse for Sokhumi authorities to close the school.

Although Sokhumi authorities ascribe the school’s closure to the scarcity of students, the locals claim the real reason is related to the fact that de facto government was unable to find enough Russian-speaking teachers for Georgian schools.

The teachers at Gali’s formerly Georgian schools fear other schools will face the same fate, if the trend continues.

“The Abkhaz side don’t have enough Russian-speaking teachers to staff Gali schools, and that is why teachers have been undergoing retraining courses for the second year, but evidently this was not enough. There is an assumption that if [Sokhumi] authorities can’t fully implement their plans of Russification, they’ll gradually phase out all Georgian schools here,” one of the local teachers told DFWatch.

After the closure of the Tagiloni school, altogether 30 public schools are left in Gali district, where 4,315 pupils are currently enrolled. Out of these, 10 schools offer teaching partly in Georgian.

Gali is the only district in breakaway Abkhazia where ethnic Georgians still constitute a majority, over 98 percent, of population. Although Georgians constitute majority of population in several other districts, including Sokhumi, Ochamchire, Gulripshi and Gagra, prior to 1992-93 War in Abkhazia, they were almost totally ethnically cleansed during and immediately after the war. Only Gali district was spared from the ethnic purges but still has been undergone strict political, economic and cultural pressure by the separatist authorities.
(DF watch)