Georgian ruling party wins in 19 out of 20 municipal run-offs. Opposition calls for a rally
With 100% of precincts counted, results published by the Central Election Commission show Georgian Dream candidates victorious in 19 mayoral run-offs, including in self-governing cities of Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi, Rustavi and Poti.
United National Movement’s mayoral hopeful won the Tsalenjikha race, as per the preliminary results, informed civil.ge.
As polling stations closed at 20:00 on Saturday, both the ruling party and opposition groups celebrated victory based on conflicting exit polls by Gorbi, commissioned by pro-government TV channel Imedi, and by Anova for pro-opposition TV channel Mtavari. However, following the official results, Georgian Dream will add another 19 municipalities and cities to 44, where the ruling party won outright in the first round on October 2.
With all ballots counted, Giorgi Kharchilava from the United National Movement (UNM) narrowly defeated Georgian Dream candidate Goga Golordava in Tsalenjikha Municipality with 51% of the vote, making him the only opposition mayor in the country. The municipality in the western Samegrelo Region borders Abkhazia’s Gali District. Georgian Dream also lost its majority on Tsalenjikha’s municipal council, where 16 out of 27 councillors will be from opposition groups.
A UNM-dominated coalition of opposition parties that included Girchi — More Freedom, Lelo, and Droa, failed to win the mayoral races in all five self-governing cities: Batumi, Kutaisi, Poti, Rustavi, and the capital Tbilisi.
“I would like to congratulate all of you for concluding the second round with victory,” Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili addressed supporters shortly after the first exit polls, “now we must calmly wait for final data to be announced,” he added.
In his brief remarks, GD party chair Irakli Kobakhidze thanked the public for supporting “our political power once again.” “Today, we saw this victory through,” he maintained. Mayoral candidate Kakha Kaladze said he was “happy” that Georgian Dream clinched a “dignified” victory in the second round.
On the other hand, the opposition leader Nika Melia, the United National Movement’s Tbilisi mayoral candidate, has called on supporters to gather outside the Parliament building at 19:00 to discuss a “concrete plan” to fight against “rigged elections.” In his short announcement in Lelo party office earlier this afternoon, Melia said mayoral run-offs yesterday went against the backdrop of “total violence,” the process that also included “total rigging” of the vote. No one should expect the Government of Georgian Dream founder, former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili to be forgiven “this rigged election, won by soul-crunching insult [to voters],” the UNM leader noted. Stressing the need for a “very peaceful, but steadfast fight,” Melia concluded: “The fight did not end but began yesterday.”
OSCE/ODIHR and European Parliament (EP) observation missions have assessed Georgian municipal election run-offs held yesterday, stating that the race „was generally competitive and organised professionally“, but increasing polarisation and negative rhetoric, as well as allegations of voter intimidation and the “continuing advantage of incumbency, demonstrated the need for further reforms”. Albert Jonsson, head of the ODIHR election observation mission, added that while the elections were technically well run, concerns over the impartiality of election commissions at the lower level persisted. Other election watchdogs Transparency International Georgia and International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) said today election results were possibly affected by violations.