Ruling Party Ahead After Georgia’s Municipal Elections
(Bloomberg) -- Results from Saturday’s election in the Republic of Georgia show the ruling party leading in municipal polls while fighting to hang onto the leadership of major cities including the capital, Tbilisi.
The credibility of voting for dozens of mayors and thousands of local posts was questioned in a preliminary report from international observers, who nonetheless concluded the election was “competitive.”
Balloting was “marred with allegations of electoral violations, vote buying and unleveled playing field,” the observers said.
The ruling Georgian Dream party received about 47% of the overall vote nationwide, with the United National Movement next with about 31%.
Opposition candidates are competitive with Georgia Dream in many cities.
Tbilisi, by far the largest metropolis with over 1.1 million people, is bracing for runoff between the incumbent Kakha Kaladze and Nika Melia of the United National Movement.
Kaladze, a former professional soccer player, has about 44.5% of votes and Melia about 34.0%. Kaladze claimed victory on Saturday when exit polls on government-run television showed him above the 50% threshold needed for a win, before the official results were released.
Former Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, running for the newly-created For Georgia party, had 9.35% of the vote in Tbilisi, which may have skimmed support from Kaladze.
Runoff elections, where needed, will be held Oct. 30.
Former President Mikheil Saakashvili was detained Friday after returning to Georgia from eight years of exile in a bid to generate enthusiasm for a vote against the ruling party. The government has accused him of misusing power and of crossing the border illegally.
Now the nation’s dominant bloc, Georgian Dream was formed by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. He defeated Saakashvili in the 2012 election.
Some 338 election observers from 37 countries were on hand for Saturday’s balloting.
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