The Central Election Commission (CEC) announced the preliminary results of the May 22 by-elections, saying the ruling party Georgian Dream (GD) candidates won elections at seven out of nine electoral constituencies and the opposition United National Movement (UNM) won the remainder.
CEC: GD candidates win by-elections in 7 constituencies, UNM in 2
By Tea Mariamidze
Tuesday, May 24
The by-elections of the Sakrebulo (local council) were held at local majoritarian election districts in the Gldani district of Tbilisi, Gardabani and Kaspi in eastern Georgia, as well as in Tskaltubo, Ozurgeti, Khobi and Zugdidi in the country’s western regions. In total, there were 45 polling stations throughout the country.
The Sakrebulo by-elections were needed to fill the vacant seats in the local councils of these municipalities. According to Georgian legislation, a candidate who won more votes than the other candidates and gained more than 30 percent votes will be declared the outright winner of the race without requiring a second round runoff.
According to the CEC's head, Tamar Zhvania, the election process was mainly held in a calm environment and there were only 16 complaints filed at the CEC. However, a major incident took place at the Kortskheli polling station in Zugdidi, where UNM members were assaulted; naturally, this marred the election process.
Zhvania announced the results of the by-elections according to which GD won in Gldani District by 80.69%, in Gardabani #21.08 by 67.89% and in #21.18 by 98.5%; The ruling party also gained most votes in Tskaltubo-64.31% and Kaspi -65.48%; and in #60.01.04 district of Ozurgeti - 64.56%; in Khobi -100%.
UNM candidates won in two districts: Zugdidi-49.76% and in Ozurgeti #60.05 majoritarian district by 59.6%.
In Zugdidi’s Kortskheli single-mandate constituency, members of the United National Movement party were brutally beaten, including former Tbilisi Mayoral candidate of the UNM, Nika Melia, and the party’s Foreign Relations Secretary, Giga Bokeria.
According to Irma Nadirashvili, a UNM MP who was at the scene, the assault was perpetrated by athletes deliberately brought from Tbilisi by the Georgian Dream. The UNM later held a briefing where they published the names of the sportsmen who took part in the violence.
Georgia’s Energy Minister and Vice-Premier Kakha Kaladze denied the participation of any sportsmen in the incident. He said this scene was prepared by the UNM, blaming them for staging a provocation.
“GD calls on the opponents to refrain from provocative actions…we condemn violence and call on our supporters not to yield to provocations because it is in our interests to hold the elections in calm and democratic conditions,” Kaladze said.
According to the head of the Sports and Youth Affairs Parliamentary Committee, Shota Khabareli, no famous athlete or national team members were in Kortskheli on May 22.
“They were Georgian citizens and arrived there ordinarily. I believe they were not mobilized there specially. It was a pure provocation what happened there,” stated Khabareli.
President Giorgi Margvelashvili was quick to condemn the violence.
“Such incidents have no winners; there are only victims,” the President said in a statement read out by his spokesperson, Eka Mishveladze.
According to the Prime Minister and the leader of GD, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, the incident is unacceptable and in the future, faster mobilization from law enforcers will be necessary.
“This incident should be investigated and the perpetrators punished. We should hold peaceful elections and to give the opportunity to our citizens to vote without violence in a peaceful environment,” PM commented.
Observers from the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) and Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) NGOs - which were monitoring Sunday’s by-elections - reported that there was only a small number of policemen on the scene in Kortskheli when the fight broke out and they failed to prevent the incident; additional police forces only arrived later according to observers.
The ISFED condemns the violent incident that took place in Zugdidi and considers that such acts of violence are contrary to democratic, free and fair elections principles. Fair Elections calls on law enforcement agencies to ensure the effective investigation of the case and severely punish the perpetrators.
Another NGO, Transparency International Georgia, urges the authorities to immediately investigate the Kortskheli incident.
“We call on the investigating authorities to immediately launch an investigation into the incident to determine the identity of the persons involved in the incident and to hold them accountable,” they said.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs have already launched an investigation into the Kortskheli incident. According to the agency, police were at the scene of the incident and instantly responded to the clash. The investigation was launched under article 125 of the Criminal Code, pertaining to assaulted. However, no arrests have been made yet.