Georgian police fireplace water cannon at protesters who declare polls have been rigged

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© Reuters. Opposition supporters protest against results of a parliamentary election

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By Margarita Antidze

TBILISI (Reuters) – Georgian police fired water cannon and tear gas against hundreds of protesters outside the Central Election Commission (CEC) on Sunday to support a call by opposition parties for a rerun of Oct. 31 parliamentary elections which they say were rigged.

Small groups of protesters started throwing stones at the police. The demonstrators had moved to the CEC building from the capital’s main Rustaveli avenue, where thousands of people held a peaceful rally.

Police said that protesters tried to storm the CEC building.

“As the protesters used violent methods and did not obey the instructions of the police, the Interior Ministry used proportional force within its powers,” the ministry said in a statement.

The opposition is demanding the resignation of the CEC chief, Tamar Zhvania, and the calling of fresh elections.

According to official results, the ruling Georgian Dream party won 48.23% of the vote, with the largest opposition party, the United National Movement (UNM), taking 27.18%.

After the result gave the ruling party the right to form a government, eight opposition parties, including the UNM, said they would boycott parliament.

The opposition accuses the ruling party and its supporters of vote buying, making threats against voters and observers and of violations during the counting process. Georgian Dream leaders have denied the accusations.

Protesters moved to the CEC building after the 8 p.m. deadline to dismiss the electoral commission head and to start talks on a fresh vote passed without a response from the government.

The economy of the South Caucasus country has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. The government said on Saturday it would impose an overnight curfew from Monday between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. in the largest cities due to a sharp rise in cases since early September.

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