Ruling party eyes major win in Georgian parliamentary elections

Mon 10 Oct 2016

Ruling party eyes major win in Georgian parliamentary elections

In the October 8th parliamentary elections in Georgia, with 99% of the ballots counted, the Central Election Commission (CEC) has said the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia (GDDG) party gained some 48.6% of the votes, with the main opposition party United National Movement (UNM) coming in second with 27%. Voter turnout was 51.63%.

The electoral bloc Alliance of Patriots is 3rd, hovering around the electoral threshold of 5% (with 4.99%), with results from the remaining 22 precincts yet to be counted. Irakli Alasania’s Free Democrats party came in 4th, with 4.59%, followed by State for People election bloc (led by opera singer Paata Burchuladze) with 3.45%, Nino Burjanadze’s Democratic Movement with 3.55%, Labour Party 3.12% and Republican Party 1.55%. All other parties and blocs have slightly over 3% of the votes combined.

Thus, if the official preliminary results are confirmed, only two parties will enter the parliament: GDDG and UNM, who will share 77 seats between them.

Possible constitutional majority for ruling GDDG

The remaining 73 seats are contested in single-mandate constituencies, in 51 of which second rounds of voting are expected, as no candidate gained more than 50% of the votes. In the other 22 districts GDDG-related candidates seem to be winning in a first round. If GDDG candidates also win in the second round of at least 42 districts with a runoff, the party said it is eyeing a constitutional majority of 113 seats in parliament.

PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili called it ‘a huge victory,’ and praised the elections as ‘truly free and fair.’

Violence

Local election monitoring groups released a joint statement on their assessment of the pre-election situation in the country on the eve of the elections. In it, they say that though the campaign period was ‘not entirely free of cases of violence,’ overall it was characterized by a pluralistic media, low level of political harassment and use of administrative resources, and political parties were able to run a campaign in a competitive environment. The violence they refer to concerns three incidents in the run-up to the election, and another occurred on election day, with opposition supporters storming a polling station in Kvermo Kartli region, claiming the ballot box was hijacked. The three pre-election incidents are an explosion in central Tbilisi that hit opposition United National Movement party MP Givi Targamadze’s car on 4 October; an October 2 shooting of 2 men at a campaign rally of majoritarian MP candidate in Gori, and assault on 3 activists of the ruling Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia party in a village in the Zugdidi municipality on October 1.

First reactions of election monitors

Ignacio Sanchez Amor, the special coordinator and leader of the OSCE short-term observer mission, in a first reaction called the elections ‘strongly competitive and well-run,’ saying they ‘offered an opportunity for voters to make informed choices about their options in a pluralistic but polarized media environment.’

‘Georgia has reaffirmed its status as the leader of democratic transformation in this region,’ said Paolo Alli, head of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly delegation, adding ‘the conduct of this election is greatly encouraging for all those who support Georgia on its path towards Euro-Atlantic integration.’

Opposition’s reaction

The opposition was less positive. UNM accused the government of attempts to ‘steal elections.’  ‘We will defend our votes,’  said UNM’s campaign chief Nika Melia, to protesters outside the CEC early on October 9.

Nino Burjandaze said her party ‘will not recognise these results,’ saying ‘the elections were not free and fair.’ She also said ‘we have evidence of electoral fraud in favour of Georgian Dream, such as, for example, multiple voting.’