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Georgia Ruling Party Announces Reforms Amid Continued Protests

People applaud and listen to a speaker during a protest as opposition demonstrators gather in front of the Georgian Parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia, June 24, 2019.

Thousands of protesters demonstrated in Georgia’s capital for the fifth consecutive day Monday, calling for government reform, a snap election and the resignation of the nation’s interior minister.

On Monday, the leader of Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream party announced “large-scale political reform.”

“We will have a parliament where all the existing political actors will be respected,” Georgian Dream Party Chief Bidzina Ivanishvili said.

Ivanishvili announced that next year's parliamentary elections would be organized in a proportional representation system.

But, Ivanishvili’s announcement fell short of satisfying protesters' demands.

Protests began Thursday, in response to a visit by a Russian legislator to Georgia’s parliament.

Sergey Gavrilov, a member of Russia’s parliament, was visiting Georgia to participate in the 26th General Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy, as a member of the Russian envoy.

Demonstrators attempted to storm the building and police responded by firing rubber bullets and water cannons. In the melee, 240 people were injured and more than 300 protesters were arrested.

Russian-Georgian relations have been tense, following a brief but bloody war in 2008.

Following the police response, protesters mobilized again, calling for the release of detained demonstrators and the resignation of Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia, whom many see as responsible for the clashes between protesters and police.

Over the course of the demonstrations, the protests expanded into a larger movement against what many perceive as oligarchic control over Georgian politics.

The protests have led to the resignation of parliament speaker Irakli Kobakhidze, although protesters seek larger reforms.

Protests are expected to continue as Ivanishvili asserts that violence is being led by opposition parties, an allegation denied by the opposition.