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Apathy leading the election race

By Sopo Datishvili
Tuesday, November 4
The parliamentary by-elections held in two districts of Tbilisi, Vake and Didube, on November 3, were distinguished by their low level of activity.

According to the Central Election Commission of Georgia, by 12:00 only 3.42% of voters in Vake and Didube combined had cast a vote. In election precinct No4 in Vake the presiding officer Maia Lortkipanidze told The Messenger that the activity was less than the precinct staff had expected at the beginning. By 4 p.m only 90 people had voted, although the number of officially registered voters in the precinct was 1,439. “We haven’t noticed any obvious misconduct so far. It’s good that the process of voting is so calm. Unfortunately the turnout is low so far but we hope it will rise later,” said an observer at the polling station, Nino Kikodze from Kartuli Dasi.

Vake Precinct No5, like all the other precincts, opened the doors of its polling station at 8 a.m. The first elector was registered 15 minutes later. 1,218 people are registered to vote there, but on November 3 everyone mentioned that the interest was very low. Eight hours after opening, only 74 voters had cast their ballots. “The turnout is low generally. It rose a bit only around 10-11 a.m. We hope that the number of voters will rise in the evening when they come from their jobs,” said Christian Democrat observer Nino Loladze. Under Georgian law, an election is valid if only three electors cast a valid ballot.

One voter The Messenger encountered, Mari Japaridze, gave her reasons for voting. “I want everything to be O.K in Georgia. That’s why I came here today and made my choice.” But the registrar in Vake precinct No4, Nana Mgebrishvili, was sure that the low voter activity was caused by the fact that the people in that district had already chose their candidate (David Gamkrelidze) in the last Parliamentary elections. The elections in Vake and Didube were caused by the refusal of the victorious candidates in the Parliamentary elections, David Gamkrelidze in Vake and Davit Saganelidze in Didube, both members of the New Rights Party, to take their seats in Parliament in protest at the small number of opposition candidates elected in what they described as a “rigged” election.

129 voting precincts were opened in Vake and Didube. Vake district has 97,198 officially registered voters and Didube 70,572. The voting process was being observed by local and international observers, including, from Georgia, the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), New Generation New Initiative, the Civil Education and Development Multiethnic Resource Centre, the Society of Legal Development, the General-Civil Movement “Multiethnic Georgia”, the Union for the Defence of Georgian Democratic Principles and Human Rights and the National Hall of Georgia political union. International observers included the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute of International Affairs (NDI), the EU Special Representative’s Office in the South Caucasus, the European Commission Delegation in Georgia, the Central Election Commission of Kazakhstan, the Sejm (Polish Parliament), and the Embassies of the United Kingdom, Romania, Azerbaijan, the USA, Lithuania and Armenia. All these bodies were registered with the Central Election Commission.