Georgian Dream councilors have boycotted Batumi City Council, preventing the council from appointing a head as well as voting to annul the annual city budget approved by the outgoing council last month.
On Thursday, councilors from Georgian Dream did not show up to an extraordinary council meeting, denying the council the quorum needed to vote for its chairperson for the second time.
Batumi, the capital of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara, is among just 20 cities and municipalities where Georgian Dream did not win a majority in October’s local elections.
The opposition’s slated candidate to lead the council is Irakli Kupradze from the Lelo party.
Batumi city assembly is composed of 35 councillors — 16 members from Georgian Dream, 14 from the United National Movement (UNM), two members from For Georgia, one from Lelo, and one independent.
Irakli Tavdgiridze, For Georgia’s third original council member, declared himself independent after the elections, while the 35th councillor, Nugzar Putkaradze, died under disputed circumstances.
Tavdgiridze’s defection and Putkaradze’s death shifted the balance towards Georgian Dream, who were previously disadvantaged against the opposition with 16 members to 19. A crucial by-election for Putkaradze’s vacant seat will be held early next year.
Opposition groups complain about intimidation and undemocratic moves in Batumi
Georgian Dream’s boycott on 23 December was purportedly in protest at the opposition’s intent to annul the city budget that was adopted by the outgoing council on 26 November.
The council was also supposed to elect a new chairperson, after failing to elect one on 3 December, when the newly elected local councils of Georgia began.
On its opening day, the opposition councillors walked out after accusing the ruling party and authorities of pressuring UNM councillor, Nugzar Putkaradze, resulting in his death.
Putkaradze died on 18 November, after he claimed, according to the UNM, that he was being pressured and bribed into becoming a ‘neutral’ member of the assembly.
[Read more on OC Media: Opposition claim fatal pressure on Batumi councillor]
In late November, several Georgian cities, including Batumi, got their budgets drafted and approved by the outgoing councils, dominated by Georgian Dream, which triggered a wave of condemnations by the opposition.
Protests throughout 25–26 November by opposition groups over ‘illegitimate’ and ‘undemocratic’ moves by the Batumi City council resulted in four arrests, and UNM councillor Mirdat Kamadadze squirting a foul-smelling substance in the chamber during the sitting to disrupt the session.