Georgia police use water cannon to disperse protesters

At least three injured and 28 arrested after clashes near Parliament during protests demanding electoral reform.

    Protesters were planning to block entrances to Parliament [Vano Shlamov/AFP]
    Protesters were planning to block entrances to Parliament [Vano Shlamov/AFP]

    Riot police in Georgia's capital have used water cannon to disperse protesters near the country's Parliament after thousands of people rallied demanding electoral system reform.

    The interior ministry said in a statement that 28 people were arrested overnight on Tuesday for police disobedience and hooliganism. At least three people were injured during the clashes, the statement said.

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    The police intervention forced demonstrators, who were standing at four locations in front of entrances to the Parliament, to disperse, although dozens gathered in one place in front of the building in Tbilisi.

    Opposition supporters take part in a rally to protest against the government and demand an early parliamentary election in Tbilisi
    Protesters have been pushing for a switch to fully proportional representation in an electoral system [Irakli Gedenidze/Reuters] 

    Protesters were planning to block entrances to Parliament in order to prevent legislators from attending a session on Tuesday - but officials had warned this would not be allowed.

    Georgia protesters attempt to shut down state buildings (02:27)

    "If protesters violate the law, the state will act adequately," Mamuka Mdinaradze, a ruling party legislator, told reporters a few hours before police scattered the protesters.

    Al Jazeera's Robin Forestier-Walker, reporting from Tbilisi, said police on Tuesday morning formed a cordon around the side entrances to the parliament building.

    "They put up yellow buses to block the road to stop an anticipated attempt by the opposition to prevent the governing party MPs from attending a session this morning inside the parliament," he said.

    He also said the government was in no mood to compromise.

    "But I get the impression that this political crisis shows no sign of letting up. The opposition is hopeful that it will be able to continue with this momentum," he said.

    Electoral reform

    Protests in the country of 3.7 million people have been taking place for two weeks to push for a switch to fully proportional representation in an electoral system that currently also includes single-seat constituencies.

    The change was scheduled for 2024, but the opposition is demanding it be brought forward, saying the rules benefit the Georgian Dream party, in power since 2012.

    Almost half of the current legislators were elected not by party lists but in single-mandate constituencies, most representing the ruling party.

    Police also used water cannon on Monday last week to scatter protesters outside Parliament, arresting 37 people.

    Detainees have been sentenced to terms ranging from four to 13 days in trials which the opposition called politically motivated.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies