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Your guide to the Georgian parliamentary elections

By Messenger staff
Wednesday, May 21
Once scheduled for this fall, these elections were moved forward at voter insistence after the crisis of November 2007.

It was on November 7 that riot police violently dispersed anti-government demonstrators in Tbilisi, prompting a state of emergency and a raid on a pro-opposition television station.

To defuse tensions, President Mikheil Saakashvili called a snap presidential election for January, which was eventually accompanied by two referendums. One asked whether parliamentary elections should be rescheduled for spring, the other whether voters supported Georgian membership in NATO.

Voters overwhelmingly favored holding parliamentary elections in spring. In April, Saakashvili announced the vote would be held on May 21.

Who’s running?

Three blocs and nine parties are competing.

1. Georgian Politics
2. Republican Party
3. Alliance of the Rights, Topadze-Industrialists
4. Labor Party
5. United National Movement-For Victorious Georgia
6. Georgian Sportsmen Union
7. United Opposition (National Council, New Rights)
8. National Party of Radical-Democrats of the whole Georgia
9. Christian-Democratic Alliance
10. Christian Democrats
11. Traditionalists-Our Georgia and Women Party
12. Our Country

The ruling National Movement, the United Opposition, the Christian Democrats, the Labor Party and the Republicans are expected to perform most strongly.

Who’s watching

More than a dozen foreign organizations are sending over 800 observers, including the OSCE and the US National Democratic Institute. Over 30 local NGOs are also expected to keep an eye on the polls.

Who’s voting

The total number of eligible voters was 3 465 736 as of May 12, according to the Central Election Commission.

Votes can be cast from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m Tbilisi time at a total of 3 358 regular precinct election commissions and 72 special polling stations in Georgia. Another 47 polling stations were opened abroad.

Who’s counting

There will be exit polling today, jointly carried out by a group including a state university, the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies and the small Washington-based firm QEV Analytics.

The exit poll project has attracted criticism from opposition campaigners, who claim it will be biased in favor of the ruling party. They have called on supporters to boycott the polling.

Exit polling and other survey results are not allowed to be published or broadcast until the polls close today.

Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT)—a process in which observers count votes at the same time election officials do—will be conducted by the New Generation-New Initiative NGO. It plans to carry out PVT in all election districts in the country and will dispatch a total of 1500 observers.

The first official results are expected late tonight or early tomorrow.

The rules

• Parliament is shrinking from 235 to 150 seats, all of which are up for grabs today. 75 MPs will be elected through country-wide party lists, and 75 party-nominated MPs will be elected from individual districts, one MP per district.
• Parties must get at least five percent of the vote to win seats in the party list voting
• The top candidate in the 75 district races—those for ‘majoritarian’ seats—must win at least 30 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff
• Unlike the January presidential election, Georgians may not register to vote on the day of the election
• TV and radio broadcasts of election ads were required to stop 24 hours before election day.
• The CEC announces final election results by June 8

How it’s looking so far

In its second interim report, released last week, the OSCE election observer mission said it has received numerous allegations of violations—including widespread intimidation, illegal campaigning by civil servants and abuse of administrative resources—some of which it has substantiated.

It also noted the low level of preparedness at some precinct election commissions and suggested that media coverage of election campaigns favors the ruling party.

A delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, visiting Georgia at the end of April, expressed concern at the low level of public trust in the electoral process.

Government officials have strongly called for clean and democratic elections.

The day after

Leaders of the United Opposition have already called for demonstrations outside the Central Election Commission building at 11 p.m. tonight, when they say they will present the “real” results of the elections.

A large discrepancy between opposition expectations and official results could spur rallies over the next several days. With opposition campaign rhetoric explicitly warning of a revolution, the atmosphere will be tense.