A large-scale protest is set to be held in Tbilisi today following the arrest of key Georgian opposition figures, including United National Movement leader Nika Melia.
Melia stands accused of inciting violence in 2019 protests but has stated that such allegations are purely political on the part of the ruling Georgian Dream party. The crisis erupting from the arrest of Melia has led to the resignation of Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, who disagreed with his own administration’s crackdown on the opposition.
The new prime minister, Irakli Garibashvili, who was chosen by parliament to replace Gakharia, is part of the Georgian Dream party and previously served from 2013-2015. Due to his political affiliations, opposition members are unlikely to find common ground with Garibashvili. International spectators, including the US Department of State, have urged the Georgian government to avoid escalating tensions, which could damage the country’s NATO ambitions.
Expect continued protests in the short-term as opposition leaders remain imprisoned. To diffuse the growing polarisation and chaotic circumstances in the streets of Tbilisi, expect Garibashvili to urge the police forces to abstain from using force against protesters. However, the spiraling crisis now leaves Georgia vulnerable to interference from its neighbours, chiefly Russia.
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