Georgia’s dominant opposition party, the United National Movement Party (UNM) is set to hold a rally in Tbilisi today to demand the release of ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili’s.
Saakashvili arrived in Tbilisi on October 2nd after an eight-year absence from the country and was immediately arrested to serve a six-year in prison. He was found guilty of abuse of power in absentia in 2018 for trying to conceal evidence about the 2005 beating of an opposition member of parliament. His arrival coincided with municipal elections where the ruling Georgian Dream Party (GD) once again emerged victorious, winning 46.7% of the votes while UNM won 30.7%. UNM has accused GD of election rigging and insists Saakashvili’s charges are politically motivated. These issues will likely energy in a second round of voting for mayoral positions in Georgia’s six largest cities scheduled for October 30th.
Saakashvili has been on hunger strike since his arrest and his personal doctor stated that his blood tests indicated that he will soon need medical treatment. It is unclear if other opposition parties will join the rally given Saakashvili’s divisive reputation across the country. Nevertheless, protests will likely continue even after October 30th’s elections.
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Nastia is a research analyst on the Current Developments team. She focuses on the former USSR region, specializing in security, Russian and Eurasian affairs.