The second and final round of Georgia’s local elections took place on Sunday 30 October. The result showed that Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream party won 19 out of the 20 mayoral races. Nika Melia, the leader of the main opposition party the United National Movement (UNM), said that the elections were rigged and would fight the results. Observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said the elections were technically well run, but also voiced concerns about alleged intimidation, vote-buying and pressure on candidates and voters. Following the announcement of the results around 2000 to 3000 protestors rallied in the center of Tbilisi. The opposition also announced they will hold a protest on the 7th of November.
protests to free jailed former president
The local elections have been overshadowed by the arrest and hunger strike of former president Mikheil Saakashvili. Saakashvili was arrested on the 1st of October, after he had announced he would return and sneak into Georgia to support the UNM in the local elections on October 2nd. Saakashvili had been in self-exile for 8 years and faces six years in prison due to a conviction in absentia on abuse-of-office and other charges. Saakashvili has argued that the charges against him are politically motivated. Saakashvili started his hunger strike after he was arrested on October 1st. The UNM in the meantime has launched what they say are permanent protests that call for the release of the jailed former president.
After the announcement of the preliminary results, members of Saakashvili’s UNM party called on him to end his hunger strike. In his appeal to the former President, one member stated that they would need him alive to help create a ‘’peaceful revolution’’. Saakashvili’s doctors and lawyers have been calling on the government to move him to a private hospital. However, this has been ruled out by prime minister Irakli Garibashvili from the ruling Georgian Dream party. According to Garibashvili, Saakashvili has the right to commit suicide. The statement comes after a letter from Saakashvili to reporters stated that he was ‘’ready to die’’ for his cause.
Sources: Euractiv Reuters RFE/RL RFE/RL
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