News / Europe

Georgia Set for Important Parliamentary Vote

James Brooke
On Monday, Georgian voters are to elect a new parliament. In turn, that parliament is to choose a prime minister with new presidential powers.

In a rarity for much of the former Soviet Union, this is an election in which the result is not known in advance. President Mikheil Saakashvili is facing the strongest challenge since he was first elected eight years ago.

His challenger is Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgia’s richest man. Long known as a reclusive philanthropist, Ivanishvili is suddenly the new face in politics here.

Monday’s parliamentary elections will test whether Ivanishvili can convert his billions of dollars into millions of votes for his Georgia Dream coalition.

Keti Tsiptauri, a Tblisi primary school teacher, says she is impressed by Ivanishvili's charitable donations in Georgia.

“The first block of our university was reconstructed by Ivanishvili,” she said. “And we are grateful to him, and I want to thank to him for this.”

A competitive election would reinforce Georgia’s post-Soviet reputation as an island of democracy in an authoritarian neighborhood.

President Mikheil Saakashvili has dominated politics here since he spearheaded the 2003 Rose Revolution against fraudulent parliamentary elections.

On Friday night, he filled the nation’s largest stadium with 55,000 supporters. But unlike the spontaneous crowds of his early years, many people came on government-chartered buses from the provinces.

Outside the stadium, Nunu, a beauty shop owner who came by bus from Telavi, a provincial city, said she loves President Saakashvili, “He does everything he can,” she said. “He builds all the roads.  We all love him.”

But in 2008, Georgians’ love affair with President Saakashvili was shaken when Russian troops invaded Georgia. Four years later, Russian soldiers are still garrisoned in two of Georgia’s breakaway provinces.

Last week, Saakashvili took another hit when opposition channels aired footage of Gldani prison guards beating and sodomizing prisoners. The president fired the interior minister, but protests at the prison quickly spread to the city center.

Outside the jail, Mumuku, who did not wish to provide his family name, said his son has been in the jail since April. He says he was shocked by the videos: “Supposedly, people already knew about the prison abuse for some time,” the father, a wine expert, said. "There were well-known reports about it, but no one could have imagined it was this bad.”

The jail videos inflicted a serious political blow, said Alexander Rondeli, president of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies.  “The ruling party has not had enough time to neutralize this blow, so this blow is serious,” said Rondeli, a government supporter.  “How serious, we will see with the elections.”

Angry over the prison abuse, thousands of university students swelled the ranks of Ivanishvili supporters.

On Saturday, the Ivanishvili campaign closed with a rally of about 100,000 people in the center of the capital.

With campaigning over, Georgia’s political future now is in the hands of the voters.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid