Thousands protest election reform failure in Georgia

Thousands protest election reform failure in Georgia

Thousands protest election reform failure in Georgia

Hundreds of police were deployed outside the Parliament buildings and the Interior Ministry confirmed that 18 people had been arrested.

Water cannons were fired on the crowds as authorities attempted to break up a second day of wide-spread rallies.

The ministry said that the work of the Georgian parliament has restored and the central Rustaveli Avenue will reopen to traffic in the coming hours.

"The police acted competently and within the law", he said in a statement.

The move had been promised by the governing Georgian Dream party in the wake of massive demonstrations in June.

Opposition parties have accused the party's leader, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, of orchestrating the bill's failure. The key aspect of the reform would involve changing the system that Georgia uses to select lawmakers.

The Georgian Dream party won almost 77 percent of seats in the 2016 parliamentary election despite garnering only 48.7 percent of the vote. In practice, the system tends to boost the ruling party.

Critics accuse Ivanishvili of persecuting political opponents, suffocating critical media, and creating a corrupt political system where his private interests dominate government decision-making.

"We don't plan to discuss any new initiatives for the electoral system in the near future", Kakha Kaladze, Georgian Dream's secretary general and the mayor of Tbilisi, told reporters earlier Monday, when he also warned that "if destructive actions continue we will take action" against the protesters.

In a joint statement, the European Union delegation in Georgia and the U.S. Embassy said they recognised "the deep disappointment of a wide segment of Georgian society" at Parliament's failure to pass constitutional amendments.

In a joint statement released on Monday, they expressed "full support for the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression".

Italian Ambassador Enrico Bartoli said that the diplomatic core urged opposition representatives to stay within the law.

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