President Saakashvili and Bidzina Ivanishvili, leader of the opposition Georgian Dream coalition, showed up at the same venue in Adjara almost simultaneously on August 4 triggering minor scuffles between their supporters.
President Saakashvili arrived in a small resort of Beshumi in the mountainous area of the Adjara Autonomous Republic, shortly after noon on Saturday.
An area close to the resort is a venue for two-day traditional festivity, Shuamtoba, held there annually.
Addressing people gathered at the venue of festivity, many of whom were wearing the ruling party’s t-shirts, President Saakashvili spoke, among other things, about “politicians of the past”, who, he said, were trying to destroy what he and his government had built.
In his recent public speeches Saakashvili often mentions “politicians of the past”, who, he says, try to throw Georgia back into the past and although he never mentions anyone by name it is obvious that Ivanishvili and his Georgian Dream coalition are the targets of these remarks.
Ivanishvili plans to hold a large-scale outdoor campaign rally in Adjara’s main town of Batumi on August 5.
In his televised speech in Beshumi, Saakashvili said that he would not “hand the country, built by me” over to “politicians of the past” and would not let them “destroy it.”
“Politicians of the past have always been looking at you,” Saakashvili told supporters gathered at the festivity venue. “We want to tell those people, who now fumble into our rebuilding process with their mummified hands from the past, those who shamelessly state that there were better times in the past, those who tell from TV that new resorts blemish mountains and that new roads insult your authenticity, those who say that old corrupt officials should come back, those who say that old way of life should be returned and those who tell us that we should go back under the old imperial control because it is more comfortable there – we want to tell those people that there is no turning back for us; Georgia and Adjara will move only forward towards better future.”
While Saakashvili was reportedly still at the festivity venue the Georgian Dream leader Bidzina Ivanishvili arrived in Beshumi. After Saakashvili left the venue, Ivanishvili, accompanied by supporters, headed towards the festivity venue, but failed to reach it as ruling party activists blocked the way, scuffling and pushing Georgian Dream supporters away. Some ruling party supporters were shouting at Ivanishvili: “Go away Putin”.
Journalists of Maestro TV and Channel 9 said they were physically insulted by the ruling party activists; journalists also said that the police did not react on their appeal for help.
The Interior Ministry said that the police, present on the ground, interfered in the incident and managed to keep opposing sides at distance. In the Interior Ministry’s statement opposing sides are described as “local residents” and “group of people, which arrived on the territory”.
“The Georgian police will protect the right of expression of all the groups, including of the most aggressive ones, but will resort to any measure, envisaged by the law, in order to prevent growing [of developments] into confrontation and clashes,” the Interior Ministry said.
There have already occurred two serious incidents between supporters of the Georgian Dream and ruling party involving clashes – one in the village of Mereti on June 26 and another one in the village of Karaleti on July 12, both located in the Shida Kartli region.
The Georgian Dream said that the incident in Beshumi was “a provocation”, which aimed at thwarting Ivanishvili’s meeting with the participants of the festivity in lead up to the coalition planned campaign rally in Batumi on August 5.