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The News in Brief

Tuesday, June 1
President hails "yet another victory of Georgian democracy"

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili congratulated his party on winning the local elections on Sunday as exit polls showed a strong performance by the United National Movement in Tbilisi.

"Georgian democracy has obtained its latest victory," the President announced at the election headquarters of the ruling party's Mayoral candidate Gigi Ugulava, to which he went a few minutes after the result of the exit polls was announced.

Preliminary results from exit polls conducted in Tbilisi by U.S. pollster Edison Research and Germany's GFK both put the ruling party ahead by a large margin and gave a similar lead in the Georgian capital's first direct Mayoral elections to the incumbent, Gigi Ugulava.

"Preliminary exit polls, and our political experience and intuition, tell us that the political force represented by Gigi and all of us gathered here was chosen by approximately the same number of voters as at the Parliamentary elections in 2008 and the local elections four years ago," Saakashvili said. "This is very important, as it means we still have the confidence and support of our people," he added.

Early exit polls gave Ugulava 61% of the vote in the Mayoral election and the ruling party 60% in the City Council vote. One of the most popular members of the opposition, former UN Ambassador Irakli Alasania, trailed in the Mayoral race with 17% of the vote while his Alliance for Georgia had 16% of the City Council vote.

The Edison research poll was commissioned by the Rustavi 2 and Imedi television channels, which the opposition say favour the Government. They did not cover voting in the 63 other municipal elections taking place and opposition leaders called on the public to ignore them.
(Rustavi 2)

Nino Kalandadze on local elections

Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze stated at a briefing yesterday that about 2,000 international observers and 40 international organisations had monitored the local elections.

"The international observers have not made their final statements yet, but the general picture gives us the possibility to say that the elections were held normally. Observation missions say there were no essential violations," the Deputy Minister stated.

Foreign journalists hail elections as democratic

Representatives of foreign media outlets have hailed the conduct of the local elections but are still waiting for the announcement of the final results by the Georgian Central Election Commission. They are saying that there were fewer violations at these elections than in all previous elections held in Georgia.

Bryan Whitman, a journalist from Radio Liberty's Prague office, said they were a step forward in the history of elections in Georgia. He added that the high percentage of votes gained by the opposition parties according to the exit polls confirms this.

"These elections were a step forward in the political history of Georgia and experts have already confirmed this. Violations were fewer in comparison with all previous elections, and mostly in the regions. But let's wait for the final results of the CEC, because even in the United States there have been instances of the results of exit polls significantly differing from the official results of elections. I think the 30 May election was a general rehearsal for future Parliamentary and Presidential elections," Bryan Whitman said.
(Rustavi 2)

Murder suspect arrested

On May 30, as a result of operative search activities, the following members of a criminal gang, Tariel Alikhanashvili (born 1993) Mariam Manukian (born 1993) and Giorgi Kiknadze (born 1990) have been detained on suspicion of the premeditated murder of Zaza Kakabadze, an active member of the Alliance for Georgia. Kakabadze had previously been convicted for drug abuse. Mamuka Mamuchishvili (born 1973) and Eduard Egizarov (born 1988) were also detained on charges of concealing the crime.

The detainees have pleaded guilty. A search conducted in the apartment owned by Tariel Alikhanashvili has found the murder weapon. The investigation is being conducted under Articles 108, 236 and 375 of the Criminal Code of Georgia.
(Rustavi 2)