“Georgian Dream” Won in Local Self-Government Elections, Second Rounds Will Be Held in Big Cities
Local self-government elections were held in Georgia On October 2, 2021. According to the official data of the Central Election Commission, the Georgian Dream received 46.73% of the votes, followed by the United National Movement with 30.6%. Former Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s party “For Georgia” is in the third-place – 7.8%.
The second round will be held in all five self-governing cities – Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi, Rustavi and Poti, where Georgian Dream candidates will compete with representatives of the United National Movement.
Georgian Dream won the mayoral elections in the first round in 59 out of 44 municipalities, the second round will be held in 15. Out of 12 municipalities, ruling party candidates will face United National Movement candidates. In three of them – in Senaki, Zugdidi and Khelvachauri municipalities the UNM candidates are leading. The ruling party lost its majority in the Batumi City Council, where the fate of the government depends on the members of Giorgi Gakharia’s party “For Georgia”
The United National Movement was able to gain an independent majority in the Zugdidi city council, but on October 8, the CEC recounted the results of one of the majoritarian constituencies, in which the Georgian Dream candidate was nominated instead of the UNM representative. Therefore, support for the party “Georgia” will be necessary to form a majority in Zugdidi as well.
The election process was criticized by the opposition and international observers. Former Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said that “bribery of voters, violation of the secrecy of the ballot,” carousels “were systemic on election day.” Zurab Japaridze, leader of the Girchi-More Freedom party, said: “It is impossible to call what has been happening recently, or what is happening on election day, free and fair elections.”
According to ISFED, the environment around some polling stations was problematic, revealing several cases of voter mobilization, registration and alleged bribery. GYLA focused on controlling the will of the voters. According to the organization, during the day there was a concentration of persons in the vicinity of several polling stations, which “created an environment of surveillance during the voting and prevented the free expression of the will of the voters.” Transparency International-Georgia said that the analysis of the pre-election period and election day showed that “the government still lacks the political will to hold elections to high democratic standards and the country is still far from achieving the ambitious goals set by the electoral reform.”
The assessments of international partners were also critical. Republican Sen. Jim Risch, a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the October 2 self-government election “extremely disappointing” and noted that it was dramatically different from the 2012 parliamentary election he observed. In response to the senator, the chairman of the Georgian Dream, Irakli Kobakhidze, said: “Jim Risch is not Georgian and does not know, but you know? “How do you compare the 2021 elections to 2012?”
Mikheil Saakashvili, who has returned to Georgia, is detained and is on hunger strike
On October 1, the third president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, posted a video on Facebook, announcing that he was in Batumi and had returned to Georgia. In a video address, the former president called on citizens to support the United National Movement and Nika Melia, as well as those “other small parties” who “are sympathetic to you .”
The ruling party said that Saakashvili had not crossed the Ukrainian border or entered Georgia. Mamuka Mdinaradze, chairman of the Georgian Dream parliamentary faction, told reporters that “there is unmistakable information” that Saakashvili had not left Ukraine, The same evening, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili announced at a briefing that “the third president of Georgia, the wanted Mikheil Saakashvili, has been arrested and transferred to a penitentiary institution.”
In 2018, the former president was found guilty by a court in two different cases. In particular, he was sentenced to three years in prison for pardoning former officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, who were convicted in the case of Sandro Girgvliani. Mikheil Saakashvili was sentenced to 6 years in prison for beating a former parliamentarian Valeri Gelashvili.
The Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Gharibashvili, devoted a lot of time to talk about the former President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, in an interview with Imedi TV on October 3 and even warned him at the end of the interview. “Behave properly, otherwise I will add other charges ,” said the Prime Minister.
On October 3, the country’s third president went on a hunger strike. The patriarch’s secretary, Archbishop Michael Botkovel, handed him the patriarch’s request to end the hunger strike, but Saakashvili refused. He denies all allegations and considers himself a victim of political persecution.
The FLEECE Conference on the Future of the Black Sea Region was organized by the European-Georgian Institute in Tbilisi
A conference on the future of the Black Sea region was organized on September 29-30 by the European-Georgian Institute, Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, South Caucasus Office and Strategic Dialogue Center. It lasted two days. On the first day, international and local experts reviewed the challenges and prospects of the Black Sea region. The young researchers also participated in the conference mentoring program and presented their papers. Furthermore, an online interview was additionally held with former US Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly.