A fistfight erupted in the village of Mereti in Shida Kartli region on June 26 as Bidzina Ivanishvili, the leader of opposition coalition Georgian Dream, was holding a campaign meeting with locals in that village, which is located in an immediate vicinity of the breakaway South Ossetian administrative border.
Two people, both supporters of Ivanishvili, including a young woman, were taken to hospital for treatment.
Ivanishvili, accompanied by leader of Our Georgia-Free Democrats party Irakli Alasania, arrived in the village of Mereti as part of his pre-election campaigning. As one of the Georgian Dream supporters was talking to Ivanishvili, telling him about the need to restore territorial integrity, a middle-aged man approached saying, referring to Ivanishvili and his political allies “where they were during the war” with Russia. Then Ivanishvili himself approached a group of women standing nearby and one of them told him: “I consider you to be Georgia’s traitor... Putin instructed you to stir turmoil in Georgia”; another one told him: “Saakashvili is not only a president, but he is our god too.” As Ivanishvili was talking with this group of women a fistfight erupted several meters away. Locals in the village, who support Ivanishvili, said that the fistfight was provoked by the ruling party supporters, including employees of local government agencies.
Scene like this when a group of young men, chanting 'Misha, Misha' were appearing nearby to where Ivanishvili was holding campaign meetings with locals, were seen in several other villages in recent weeks, but the incident in Mereti was the first of this kind when it grew into a clash.
An official from the Interior Ministry said without any specifics, that probe was launched into the Mereti incident and several people involved were identified who would now face "measure envisaged by law."
“This is a typical policy of Saakashvili – provoking confrontation between people. Of course not everyone might support our policy, but they should not thwart a meeting with my supporters,” Ivanishvili said before leaving the village of Mereti.
After returning back to Tbilisi, he told journalists: “Police said they were probing into the incident; there is nothing to examine, the incident was organized by the police themselves.”
Commenting on the Mereti incident, Parliamentary Chairman Davit Bakradze called for restraint ahead of the October parliamentary elections. He hinted that the fistfight could have been a reaction of those people, who were angry with some of Ivanishvili’s remarks, especially about the August war.
“I understand how difficult it is to hear from politician that ‘Georgia started the war’,” Bakradze said, apparently referring to Ivanishvili’s remarks made in November. “I understand that these words are associated with the Kremlin policy… I want to call on the society and supporters of any political party to avoid any incidents in the pre-election period and to show restraint no matter how unacceptable remarks and position of a political group might be.”
The incident in Mereti came just day after President Saakashvili met with provincial governors and officials from the local governments and called them “to ensure unconditional commitment to democracy and legal principles, and to guarantee that this electoral process is really exemplary.”