Ruling Party Prevails In Georgian Parliamentary Elections
RFE/RL October 09, 2016
Georgia's governing party has won parliamentary elections according to near-complete results released amid accusations of vote rigging from the opposition.
With votes in 99 percent of the constituencies now counted, the Georgian Dream party had clinched about 48.6 percent while the opposition United National Movement (ENM) came in second place with 27 percent, the Central Election Commission (CEC) said.
The pro-Russian Alliance of Patriots has 4.9 percent of votes, falling short of the 5-percent threshold required in order to win parliamentary mandates.
The preliminary results that have been released are for a proportional ballot that will decide 77 of the 150 seats in the legislature. The 73 other seats have been contested in single-seat constituencies.
Because of Georgia's complex election laws, the final composition of the country's legislative assembly might not be determined until late next month.
Voter turnout was low, with just over 51 percent of those eligible casting ballots, according to the CEC.
International observers monitoring Georgia's parliamentary elections say the October 8 vote was competitive, well-administered, and fundamental freedoms were generally respected.
However, their preliminary statement released on October 9 also said that the campaign atmosphere was impacted by allegations of unlawful campaigning and some incidents of violence.
'Pluralistic But Polarized'
"Strongly competitive and well-run, yesterday's elections offered an opportunity for voters to make informed choices about their options in a pluralistic but polarized media environment," said Ignacio Sanchez Amor, the special coordinator and leader of the short-term observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The isolated incidents of violence "did not undermine an otherwise positive election," Amor added.
"Georgia has reaffirmed its status as the leader of democratic transformation in this region," said Paolo Alli, head of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly delegation. "The conduct of this election is greatly encouraging for all those who support Georgia on its path towards Euro-Atlantic integration."
Speaking to a cheering crowd of supporters gathered outside the Georgian Dream headquarters late on October 8, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said a "huge victory" had been won based on exit polls.
Kvirikashvili praised the election as "truly free and fair," but the ENM accused the government of attempts to "steal elections."
"We will defend our votes," Nika Melia, chief of the ENM's campaign and an MP candidate, told protesters outside the CEC early on October 9.
Georgian Dream, which has been in power since 2012, was formed by the billionaire businessman and former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.
The ENM was founded by Ivanishvili's rival, former President Mikheil Saakashvili.
'Evidence Of Fraud'
Several other opposition parties denounced vote rigging during the elections.
"Our party will not recognize these results," former parliament speaker and the leader of Democratic Georgia party, Nino Burjanadze, said. "The elections were not free and fair."
"We have evidence of electoral fraud in favor of Georgian Dream, such as, for example, multiple voting," Burjanadze added.
An October 5 car bombing targeting ENM lawmaker Givi Targamadze in central Tbilisi saw the party accuse authorities of creating "a climate of hatred" before the polls.
The blast raised security concerns, as did reports of a foiled terror plot on a gas pipeline and authorities' publicly expressed suspicions that a postelection coup might be in the planning.
On election day, about a dozen men tried to storm into a polling station in the village of Kizilajlo, about 40 kilometers southwest of Tbilisi, and clashed with police.
The Interior Ministry said two police were hurt in that incident, but authorities prevented the men from entering the polling station.
With reporting by civil.ge, AFP, AP, AFP, and Rustavi-2 TV
Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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