Tue, 21 Jan 2020

Making a stink in Georgia's parliament

14 Dec 2019, 04:49 GMT+10

A sudden waft of a putrid stench disrupted the plenary session of Georgia's parliament on December 12, leaving lawmakers pointing fingers of blame at one another. The incident, described as a "chemical attack" by speaker of parliament Archil Talakvadze, came amid an ongoing campaign to sabotage the legislature's work.

Live footage showed lawmakers leaving the parliamentary chamber covering their faces with their hands. Fire trucks, ambulances and police rushed to the site. Several lawmakers requested medical attention and a forensic team went in to the chamber to investigate.

Shame, a protest movement, claimed responsibility for the attack and published a photo of the substance they used, ASD (Antiseptic Dorogov's Simulator), a veterinary drug invented in the Soviet Union and now produced in Russia. ASD is used in human cancer treatment, though its anti-carcinogenic effects are debated. The drug is known for its rancid smell.

"The liquid used during the protest today is completely harmless," Shame said in its Facebook post, adding the hashtag "the system reeks."

Members of opposition gloated following the incident. "Everyone who goes into the plenary hall says that there is a smell of dung there," said Roman Gotsiridze, a member of the largest opposition party, United National Movement, adding that it was appropriate given the composition of the legislature.

The ruling Georgian Dream party blamed two members of a minority party, European Georgia, for pouring the liquid in the hall. The two MPs, Irma Nadirashvili and Lela Keburia, came into the hall hiding unknown objects, Georgian Dream's Irakli Kobakhidze claimed. "The opposition is hysterical and desperate, and they are using such base and cheap tricks to get attention," Kobakhidze said.

Asked by a journalist if she was responsible for the odor, Keburia demurred. "Those who make these accusations need to prove it, I don't have to defend myself," she told TV 1.

Opposition groups have been trying to subvert the parliament's work with protests and hit-and-run pranks after a bill on electoral reform failed to pass the legislature in November. The opposition says that the current electoral law gives an unfair advantage to the Georgian Dream. Gotsiridze, of the United National Movement, last month locked the door to the plenary hall with a cable lock that had to be removed with bolt cutters.

Police are now investigating the smell incident as "a deliberate attempt to inflict harm to human health."

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