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Clashes Disrupt Voting at Polling Station in Marneuli
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 8 Oct.'16 / 19:31

Voting was disrupted at a polling station in the village of Kizilajlo of the Marneuli municipality in Kvemo Kartli region late on Saturday afternoon after clashes erupted at the precinct No. 48.

Footage from the scene showed stones being thrown at a public school, where the polling station is located, shattering windows.

Dozens of men outside the polling station tried to break into the building, which is guarded by the police; at least one policeman was reportedly injured.
 
By the evening an armed unit of special task force was deployed, pushing the crowd outside the school yard.

It was not immediately clear what caused the incident, but GDDG ruling party and UNM opposition party have blamed each other of provoking it.

UNM’s Giorgi Tugushi said that the ballot box was “hijacked”, accusing the ruling party supporters of trying to thwart voting at the polling station.

“This hysteria and violence was caused by the fact that the Georgian Dream is sensing defeat,” Tugushi said.

The Central Election Commission has denied that the ballot box was hijacked.

“The ballot box remains at the polling station and the police are there to protect it,” CEC spokesperson, Anna Mikeladze, said.

GDDG’s executive secretary, Irakli Kobakhidze, said that people who provoked the clashes and tried to storm the building were supporters of UNM’s majoritarian MP candidate in Marneuli Akmamed Imamquliyev. Kobakhidze said that the crowd tried to storm the building in an attempt to hijack the ballot box. UNM has denied that its activists were present at the scene of the incident.

Imamquliyev, who arrived at the scene, told journalists that activists of various opposition parties, including those from Paata Burchuladze’s State for People, were gathered at the polling station demanding vote at the precinct to be canceled.

When Imamquliyev arrived he was asked by one of the persons to “calm people down; they were throwing stones”; Imamquliyev responded: “I am responsible now that after my arrival no one will throw anything at anyone.”
 
Speaking to journalists in Tbilisi, less than two hours before closing of the polling station in the parliamentary elections, Burchuladze said that ballot was rigged and called on PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili, who chairs ruling GDDG party, to “acknowledge defeat.” 

The Interior Ministry said in a statement released on Saturday evening that “supporters of the United National Movement [UNM] and election bloc Paata Burchuladze- State for People tried to break into precinct No. 48 in the village of Kizilajlo of the Marneuli municipality and to hijack a ballot box.”
 
“Law enforcement officers, who were mobilized on the ground, did not let them do it.  After that the supporters of these parties became especially aggressive and started throwing stones at police officers,” the Interior Ministry said.

“Several law enforcement officers, including the chief of Marneuli police, were injured as a result of confrontation.”
 
“The attackers failed to hijack the ballot box. Presently the situation is under control. Additional police units have been mobilized on the ground.”
 
“The Interior Ministry calls on all citizens to refrain from aggressive acts. All those activists, who commit wrongdoings, will be punished in accordance with the law.”

“The Interior Ministry calls on the citizens to refrain from aggressive actions. Measures, envisaged by the law, will be employed against all those activists, who commit illegal actions,” the Interior Ministry said.

 Chairperson of the Central Election Commission, Tamar Zhvania, said that the ballot box at the polling station No.48 remains “intact and protected”.

“The voting at the polling station is suspended,” she said. “There are legal means for addressing complaints… If there are complaints, they should be address through legal means… We will review all the complaints and take relevant decisions.”

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