The head of Adjaria, Aslan Abashidze, will not lift the state of emergency in the autonomous region if Tbilisi refuses to accede to a series of demands made by Batumi. In part, the Adjarian leader has insisted that the period for preliminary voter registration in anticipation of parliamentary elections on March 28 be extended.
On Monday, the Georgian Central Election Commission refused to prolong the registration period, judging that the voters of Adjaria had had sufficient time already. At present, the commission has registered a total of 26,000 voters, although information at the commission's disposal indicates that there are 80,000 voters in Adjaria, while Batumi claims a total of 280,000.
Abashidze said he suspects the election commission is intentionally minimizing the number of voters in Adjaria so that the republic's interests, as represented by the political party 'Rebirth,' will not be reflected in the Georgian parliament.
The state of emergency in Adjaria was implemented on November 23, 2003, in the context of the so-called 'velvet rose revolution,' and suspended during the Georgian presidential elections on January 4, 2004. A curfew in Batumi was lifted on March 19.
In addition, Abashidze has demanded that the Georgian procurator's office suspend its criminal investigation of 10 of his close supporters, including the minister of state security, Soso Gogitidze, and his lieutenant, as well as against the leadership of the Adjarian Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Adjarian leader has also demanded that Tbilisi turn over control over the customs service of the autonomous republic located on Georgian territory.
Abashidze had previously agreed with Mikhail Saakashvili that the customs service in Sarpi and the port of Batumi be placed under joint control with Adjarian customs officials.