10/04/2021, 11.39
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Georgian Dream wins elections. Country remains divided

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The ruling party exceeds the critical threshold of 43%, thus avoiding an early parliamentary vote, as agreed with the EU. Former footballer Kaladze goes to the ballot to remain mayor of the capital: he is challenged by opposition leader Melia. Many violations reported at the polling stations.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Georgian Dream is celebrating having passed the critical threshold of 43%; the National Movement is celebrating having managed to go to the polls in Tbilisi and other disputed cities. These are the main results of the local elections in Georgia, which took place fairly quietly on October 2. The eve was very tense, after the many controversies and the arrest of former president Mikhail Saakashvili, who returned to his homeland after seven years of exile in Ukraine.

The Georgian Dream party, which includes the president of the Republic (Salome Zurabišvili) and the premier (Iraklij Garibašvili) among members, won the elections with an average of 46.7%.

Although it obtained a majority in 12 municipalities, the united list of oppositions of the National Movement - inspired by Saakašvili - stopped at 30.7%, without succeeding in undermining its opponents in power.

In third place was the For Georgia party of former Prime Minister Georgij Zakharja with 7% of the vote.

In all, over 60 mayors and two thousand sakrebulo (city councilors) were elected. According to agreements made (and then disavowed) by the parties last spring with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, if the majority formation had obtained less than 43% of the vote, the government would have had to call early parliamentary elections.

The result hung in the balance throughout the night, between very divergent exit-polls and contradictory election forecasts. The vote was attended by 51.96% of eligible voters.

The most symbolic result is linked to the choice of the mayor of Tbilisi, where the Georgian Dream was seeking the reappointment of one of its most popular representatives, former AC Milan footballer Kakha Kaladze, opposed by the leader of the opposition Niko Melia. The decision was postponed to the ballot: Kaladze starts at 45.5%; Melia seeks a comeback from 34.13%.

A number of clashes have occurred, especially in traditionally more litigious towns such as Marneuli, in the east of the country, and Gldani, a town in Tbilisi province, where there were numerous violations of electoral rules: buying and selling of votes, "carousels" of supporters of various candidates and the attempt to control operations in the polling stations.

In Marneuli there was a physical confrontation between supporters of the Georgian Dream and those of the National Movement, initiated by two opposing candidates, Džejkhun Čojdarov and Hadžimurat Muradov. The latter had photographed the lists of voters, a fact deemed unacceptable by Čojdarov, who lashed out at him, until the police intervened.

Voting carousels refer instead to people trying to vote several times, to the point of provoking violent reactions: more than a hundred similar violations have been reported throughout the country, especially in the polling station of Gldani. Other violations were reported in the city of Kutaisi, with pre-filled ballot slips replacing the actual ones; in Dusheti in front of the polling stations there were representatives of various parties offering large sums of money to obtain votes.

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