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So here we are

By Messenger Staff
Monday, May 31
So the local elections are over. We do not know the exact figures and results yet, but it is not difficult to predict that the National Movement will win most of the contests. What will be interesting is what the scale of this victory is and at what expence.

Opinion polls produced different results throughout the campaign but now we have actual official results to discuss. However the most interesting issue in these elections was how democratic and fair they were. Government members frequently said that holding proper elections was in the best interests of the ruling party. Chair of the Georgian Parliament Davit Bakradze stated that “We should all do everything to ensure that Georgia wins the May 30 elections". 36 local NGOs and 28 international ones observed the elections, the total number of official observers being over 10,000, of which around 1,500 were international ones. These are unprecedented numbers for local elections, and they demonstrate the particular interest the West is taking in them.

Many analysts, journalists and opposition leaders highlighted before the elections that the ruling party would use a great many administrative resources to support its campaign but try to avoid committing any violations on polling day itself, so that observers and opponents would have no reason to starting complaining about rigged elections. Many think that the ruling party had no need to conduct any violations on election day as all polls showed that in Tbilisi, where the direct election of the Mayor was taking place, ruling party candidate Gigi Ugulava was the clear favourite. There was no reason why the authorities would manipulate the poll and arouse the opposition in the capital, although observation confirms that the regions are totally dominated by the ruling party.

Just couple of days before the elections the competing parties signed the code of ethics prepared by UN and the EU. This code obliged all the signatories to accept the results of the elections if they were conducted fairly and democratically. This has never happened since the collapse of the Soviet Union, as the losing side has never accepted defeat and always complained that the elections were conducted unfairly. The National Council's Kakha Kukava has stated that the elections are already neither free nor fair. They do not comply with international standards in several respects, the campaigning environment is not equal, there is no free and independent media, so how can we consider these elections democratic? asks Kukava.

Other opposition representatives expect international observers to give a fair evaluation of this. Mamuka Katsitadze from the Alliance for Georgia thinks that if the elections are conducted fairly there will be no problem with congratulating the winner and no threat of instability after the elections either. It is not likely that the so-called radical opposition will conduct mass if they lose. The public are clearly frustrated by the conduct of the opposition, who failed to unite even in Tbilisi and proved unable to nominate a common candidate for Mayor. Attempts to consolidate the opposition forces have failed several times and people have stopped turning up to opposition protests. There is a general feeling that things should not be changed by revolution or disturbances. People have begun thinking that only through elections can the Government be changed.

One important question will be: if ruling party candidate Ugulava and his party as a whole are certain winners, who will come second? The opposition parties failed to unite because different ones claimed to be the real leader of the opposition movement, expecting the rest to unite around them. So which party will be proved right, and, more importantly, what will the others do then?