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Javakheti opposition under lock31.08.2012 | 17:08
On the eve of the parliamentary election in Georgia, the struggle for power has reached Armenian-populated Javakheti region (in Armenian - Javakhk). The city of Akhalkalaki, which is the most active part of the region in social and political terms, is a vivid example for this.
Just two months ago, as noted by local and foreign experts, the authorities launched "political persecution" of Melik Raisyan, one of the local politicians, and his driver, George Mkhchyan. Recently, they joined the ranks of the opposition party "Georgian Dream", led by Bidzina Ivanishvili. Now Mkhchyan is under arrest for two months, and Melik Raisyan is wanted. After joining Ivanishvili's party, the investigation brought a criminal case accusing them of the falsification of documents for privatization of a three-story building in the center of Akhalkalaki in 2005. Raisyan, according to rumors, was to become the chief of staff of the "Georgian Dream" in Akhalkalaki.
Local residents, most of whom have ambivalent position towards the personality of Raisyan (since he was twice elected to the parliament from the Akhalkalaki region as a member of the party of President Mikheil Saakashvili, "United National Movement" - Ed.), believe that auhorities have launched political prosecution against Melik Raisyan; and this completely fits into the framework of the political struggle between the opposition and the authorities. "Of course, Raisyan is no angel, but a criminal case on the eve of parliamentary elections - this is a clear indication of a political background in this case. Otherwise, how can you explain the fact that the falsification of documents of 2005 surfaced only now, and almost immediately after Raisyan and Mkhchyan joined the ranks of the Ivanishvili's party", a local activist who requested anonymity said in an interview to GTimes.
Such figures as local activist Vahagn Chakhalyan (now political prisoner), a deputy from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia Shirak Torosyan (originally from Javakheti, whose entry in Georgia is prohibited) and leader of the unregistered Party of Georgia "Virk" David Rstakyan consider the recent deterioration of the situation in Javakheti a political persecution. "The fact that authorities have recalled the violations of 2005 on the eve of the parliamentary election causes certain reflections. We should take serious steps to stop political persecution in Javakheti. Armenian authorities also should raise this issue at the talks with the Georgian colleagues", Shirak Torosyan believes.
"This is definitely a political persecution. In the hands of Georgian authorities it has turned into a tool to eliminate opponents. Thereby they are strengthening the position of the current regime. The whole security system is working in this direction", David Rstakyan said recently, adding that the position of the Georgian authorities has never been strong in Javakheti. "A high percentage of the votes the current regime has gained here, was "drawn" by the local authorities, who are fully loyal to Tbilisi and, in fact, are the puppets of the center", the local politician said.
In comparison to Akhalkalaki, where, despite the control of the center, there are political groups, disloyal to the current government, in Ninotsminda the situation is rather unequivocal. The locals say that de facto the area is under control of the large by local standards businessman Henzel Mkoyan, a pro-governmental MP, elected from Ninotsminda district. "He controls the situation here. Heads of local municipalities are under his control. Even teachers and janitors get jobs after Mkoyan gives go-ahead", say the locals, gathered near the local shopping center.
Despite the complaints, many residents of Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda have expressed their willingness to vote for the ruling party, since they are happy with the changes that have occurred since the "Rose Revolution" in 2005. "The main thing is that Saakashvili stopped the mess, ruling in Georgia prior to him. He has built the state from the scratch", the locals note, adding that they do not support political persecution.
"Tbilisi must understand that the use of political pressure in the region, which is home to minority, acquires ethnic nature. This is also a sign that the position of the Georgian authorities in Javakheti, which has traditionally voted for the government, has weakened", a former official from Ninotsminda concludes. He also agreed to an interview on condition of anonymity "in order to avoid a meeting with the security organs".