A leader of Georgia’s United National Movement (ENM) has pleaded with former President Mikheil Saakashvili to end his hunger strike, saying the opposition needs him alive to help mount a “peaceful revolution.”
Giorgi Baramidze made the plea on October 30 after the second round of local elections in the Caucasus country pitting Georgia’s ruling party, Georgia Dream, against ENM in elections for local councils and mayors, including in five large cities.
“My Misha, my brother, we need you alive. Only Putin and Ivanishvili want you to die. You must not die on the curse of the enemy,” Baramidze said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder of Georgia Dream.
“Your struggle and self-sacrifice have astonished all who have hearts and minds,” Baramidze said.
He called on Georgians to mount a “peaceful revolution” by isolating “this morally completely bankrupt regime” through rallies and disobedience.
He said Saakashvili had shown all Georgians “how to sacrifice for the homeland.”
Saakashvili has been on a hunger strike for almost a month. The opposition, doctors, and Saakashvili’s lawyers have been calling on the Georgian Dream government to move him to a private hospital to receive treatment, but Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has ruled that out, saying on October 29 that Saakashvili has a “right to commit suicide.”
The runoff elections have been overshadowed by Saakashvili’s hunger strike, which came after his arrest within hours of his return from eight years in self-exile abroad on October 1.
The 53-year-old Saakashvili, who was president from 2004-2013, was sentenced in absentia to prison in 2018 for abuse of power and seeking to cover up evidence about the beating of an opposition member of parliament when he was president.
Saakashvili has said the charges against him are politically motivated.
Garibashvili this week urged voters to back Georgian Dream, calling Saakashvili’s ENM an “anti-state and anti-national force.”
In a statement released by his lawyers before polls opened, Saakashvili said the vote was “decisive for the Georgian democracy.”
In his appeal to Saakashvili, Baramidze said the ENM’s main task will be to liberate him “by all methods of peaceful struggle” and work toward political isolation of the regime — “a regime that has neither political nor moral basis, which even these elections showed.”
The Central Election Commission is expected to release official results of the elections on October 31.
Based on exit polls from pro-government Imedi TV station, Georgian Dream claimed victory in all municipalities where its candidates faced a challenge from the ENM.
Preliminary results showed Georgia Dream candidates winning narrow victories in the cities of Kutaisi and Batumi.
But a rival exit poll by pro-opposition Mtavari TV showed ENM was leading the polls. ENM chairman Nika Melia, a Tbilisi mayoral hopeful, claimed the opposition was winning in all major cities.
Baramidze said the election showed the regime must be exposed to international partners so they “see that they must intervene in resolving the misfortune of this country.”