By Hovannes Shoghikian
The head of an organization uniting natives of Georgia’s restive Javakheti province living in Armenia on Wednesday condemned a local Armenian nationalist group that staged violent protests against the alleged falsification of local election results.
The group called United Javakhk rallied hundreds of supporters in the regional town of Akhalkalaki and briefly seized a local government building on Monday, saying that they were robbed of victory in the polls held across Georgia last Thursday. Their official results showed the National Movement Party of President Mikhail Saakashvili winning the majority of votes in most parts of the country, including the Armenian-populated Javakheti. Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation said the vote was “conducted with general respect for fundamental freedoms.”
The leaders of United Javakhk, who demand greater autonomy for Javakheti, ran for the Akhalkalaki district council on the ticket of Industry Will Save Georgia, a Tbilisi-based major opposition party. They claim to have won 70 percent of the vote.
Maksim Mahtesian, the ethnic Armenian chairman of the district election commission, denied the allegations on Tuesday, insisting that vote irregularities were not serious enough to affect the election outcome. “The situation here is calm now,” he told RFE/RL from Akhalkalaki.
In Yerevan, the head of the Javakhk Compatriots’ Union, Shirak Torosian, denounced the United Javakhk actions as “treason.” “We are calling on all forces in Javakheti to show prudence, put aside personal, factional interests and not serve third forces,” he told a news conference.
Torosian also urged Javakheti Armenian activists to drop their demands for the impoverished region to be given the status of an autonomy. The Georgian government and the international community associate the word “autonomy” with separatism these days, he said.
Incidentally, another Akhalkalaki-based Armenian group demanding autonomy, Virk, reportedly teamed up with Saakashvili’s party to contest the polls and won several council seats. According to Mahtesian, 27 of the 32 newly elected members of the legislative council are ethnic Armenians.