November 26, 2019 / 1:47 AM / 17 days ago

Georgian police detain activists, use water cannon to disperse parliament protesters

TBILISI (Reuters) - Riot police used water cannon to disperse protesters near Georgia’s parliament on Tuesday and detained several activists, hours after thousands rallied in the capital demanding electoral system reform.

FILE PHOTO: A police officer talk to demonstrators during a rally to protest against the government and demand an early parliamentary election in Tbilisi, Georgia November 25, 2019. REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze/File Photo

Demonstrators, who were standing at four locations in front of entrances to the parliament, were forced to disperse, although dozens gathered in one place in front of the parliament building.

Giorgi Vashadze, one of the opposition leaders, told reporters that several people, including one opposition politician, were detained by police.

Hundreds of police officers were then deployed to the scene.

Protesters were planning to block entrances to parliament and said they would not let lawmakers in for a session on Tuesday, but officials said that would not be allowed.

“If protesters violate the law, the state will act adequately,” Mamuka Mdinaradze, a lawmaker from the ruling party, told reporters a few hours before police scattered the protesters.

Protests in the former Soviet 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 current lawmakers 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.

Editing by Sandra Maler and Peter Cooney

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