Georgia protests: Tbilisi police fire water cannon at demonstrators

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A protester faces a line of riot police in Tbilisi, GeorgiaImage source, EPA
Image caption,
Protesters have demanded a new vote

Police in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, have fired water cannons at crowds protesting against the results of last week's parliamentary election.

Thousands of people gathered outside the Central Election Commission to demand a new vote, after accusing the governing party of rigging the poll.

The Georgian Dream party has denied the accusations of fraud.

International election observers said "fundamental freedoms were respected" but criticised aspects of the process.

Georgian Dream, which was founded by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili and has been in power since 2012, secured over 48% of votes in the 31 October election.

The victory gives the party the right to form the country's next government.

But the thousands of protesters who marched in Tbilisi rejected the result and called for the resignation of both the police chief and the election commission.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Thousands of people marched through the capital Tbilisi on Saturday

"What Georgian Dream did during the elections amounts to a coup," 33-year-old pharmacist Theona Lanchava told the AFP news agency. "We will force them to call new polls."

The protesters and the country's main opposition parties accuse the ruling party and its supporters of electoral fraud and voter intimidation.

Eight opposition parties have already said they would boycott parliament over the results of the vote, Reuters news agency reports.

International election observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) noted that "pervasive allegations of pressure on voters and blurring of the line between the ruling party and the state reduced public confidence in some aspects of the process".

However, they also added that the vote had been competitive and that "overall, fundamental freedoms were respected".

The protest took place a day before a new overnight curfew comes into effect in the country's major cities amid a rise in coronavirus cases.

Georgia, which has a population of just 3.7 million people, has recorded more than 57,000 coronavirus cases and 475 deaths since the pandemic began.

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