Georgians In Six Municipalities Vote In Local Election Runoffs
RFE/RL's Georgian Service November 12, 2017
Voting has ended in six Georgian municipalities for local election runoffs that came three weeks after the ruling Georgian Dream coalition won victories in most constituencies in the first round.
The November 12 runoffs were held in Georgia's second-largest city, Kutaisi, as well as in Kazbegi, Khashuri, Borjomi, Ozurgeti, and Martvili.
In the first round held on October 21, Georgian Dream won in all constituencies under the proportional contest and secured 63 out of 64 mayoral positions, including in the capital, Tbilisi.
The countrywide local elections were seen by many as a key test for Georgian Dream ahead of next year's presidential election.
Georgia's Central Election Commission said on November 12 that all 317 election precincts in the six contested municipalities were open for voters at 8 a.m. local time, adding that the election was being conducted in a "peaceful" environment.
A statement urged voters to participate in the vote and appealed to the election stakeholders to "support the conduct of elections in a calm and free election environment."
It also said that the vote was being observed by nearly 18,150 observers from local nongovernmental organizations and more than 650 monitors from international organizations.
The commission reported a turnout of about 33 percent.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) generally gave high marks to the first round, saying that "fundamental freedoms were generally respected" in the election.
However, it noted "some irregularities and difficulties in completing results protocols."
The election commission said the Georgian Dream coalition won nearly 56 percent of the vote in the first round, while its closest rival, the United National Movement, got 17 percent.
Turnout was more than 45 percent.
Georgian Dream candidates gathered more than 50 percent in four of the five towns and cities where a mayor is directly elected -- Tbilisi, Batumi, Poti, and Rustavi.
In the capital, the mayoral seat was won by former AC Milan soccer player Kakha Kaladze.
He was backed by Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder of Georgian Dream and a former prime minister who is the South Caucasus country's richest man.
The previous local elections were held in two rounds in 2014, with the coalition winning most of the council seats and mayoral positions.
Ivanishvili withdrew from politics in November 2013, but many believe he continues to control Georgian Dream from behind the scenes.
Georgian Dream defeated former President Mikheil Saakashvili's party and came to power in parliamentary elections in 2012.
Copyright (c) 2017. 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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