As Pompeo visits Georgia, thousands protest election results | Georgia

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Thousands of Georgians unhappy with the way a recent parliamentary election took place took to the streets of the capital Tbilisi on Wednesday, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to politicians and a church leader .Georgia, a small South Caucasus country that Washington has traditionally strongly supported, including with military aid, is Pompeo’s final stop on a multi-country tour.

His next stop is Israel.

Pompeo met on Wednesday with President Salomé Zurabishvili, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia and Georgian Orthodox Church Patriarch Ilia II, as well as representatives of civil society.

Pompeo told the Georgian Prime Minister that he recognizes “the pain and difficulty associated with the (Russian) occupation of your country”, a reference to Russian forces garrisoning two separatist Georgian regions after a 2008 war .

Pompeo said the United States wanted to continue supporting Georgia in building its institutions to ensure “free and fair elections and all that comes with a strong debate and democracy.”

The opposition welcomed Pompeo’s visit.

“Georgia needs the continued and active involvement of the United States to support its security and democracy in order to repel the aggression (of Russian President Vladimir) Putin in this border state,” said Giga Bokeria, a leader of opposition, to the Reuters news agency.

Outside, thousands of people formed a live channel in the city center with a huge Georgian national flag and posters saying: “USA – Thank you for supporting our freedom!” and “Elections Rigged by Russian Oligarch”, referring to Bidzina Ivanishvili, the leader of the ruling party, who made his fortune in Russia in the 1990s.

According to the official results of the parliamentary elections on October 31, the ruling Georgian Dream party won 48.23% of the vote, the largest opposition party, the United National Movement (UNM), 27.18%.

The opposition accuses Georgian Dream and his supporters of buying votes, making threats against voters and observers and violations during the count. Eight opposition parties, including the UNM, have said they will boycott parliament and are calling for a resumption of elections.

Georgian Dream executives denied accusations by the opposition, and international observers said the election was competitive and fundamental freedoms were generally respected.



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