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Georgia: Ruling party, opposition both claim election win

November 1, 2020

A coalition of opposition groups united to try and oust the ruling Georgian Dream party, led by a billionaire. They have rejected his party's claim to have won the election.

Crowds gather in front of a screen during the Georgian election
Image: Zurab Tsertsvadze/AP/picture alliance/dpa

The preliminary results of Georgia's parliamentary election were contested by an alliance of opposition groups on Sunday.

With votes from more than 92% of precincts counted, the ruling Georgian Dream party had won 48% of the vote, against 45.5% for opposition parties. The proportional ballot decides 120 of the 150 seats in the legislature.

Many other opposition parties cleared the 1% threshold for representation in the parliament, according to the central election commission.

The ruling party — founded by Georgia's richest man, Bidzina Ivanishvili — declared victory soon after polls closed. However, opposition parties have rejected the results and called for protests.

Read more: Georgian opposition unites in bid to oust billionaire-backed party

"We won't accept this result and call on people to come to Rustaveli Avenue (in the capital Tbilisi) at 4 p.m." (1200 GMT) on Sunday, Nika Melia, one of the UNM leaders, told reporters after meeting with other opposition figures. The UNM called for a demonstration on Sunday afternoon.

Opposition parties said they had enough votes to form a coalition government. Police were deployed to the area around the election commission's building.

Criticism of the election

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said that the election had been competitive and that fundamental freedoms had generally been respected. The OSCE gave the vote a broadly positive assessment in a statement, but flagged up allegations of pressure on voters and a blurring of the line between the ruling party and the state, which it said "reduced public confidence in some aspects of the election process."

Some other independent local election observers also criticized Saturday's vote. It "marked a setback of Georgia's democracy," the Georgian branch of Transparency International said in a statement. 

Georgian Dream has enjoyed a strong majority in parliament for the past eight years, but its popularity has sunk due to economic problems in the South Caucasian nation. The coronavirus pandemic has further hit the economy, which is expected to shrink 5% this year.

Ivanishvili congratulated his party'ssupporters. 

"It needs to be emphasized that the Georgian Dream wins the elections for the third time," he said. "What our country wanted, a solid team, we have got it."

A 'triumph' for opposition

Former-President Mikhail Saakashvili, who founded the largest opposition party United National Movement (UNM), and has spent years in self-imposed exile in Ukraine, described the results as a "triumph" for his bloc, and vowed to form a coalition government with other opposition parties.

"This is practically a great triumph of the Georgian opposition, despite the harassment, intimidation and pressure," he said in televised remarks from Ukraine. "In these conditions, our main task is to form a government of national unity."

Saakashvili also claimed that Georgian Dream "is massively falsifying election results" and announced a "mass mobilization (of supporters) to defend the votes."

Elections in Georgia, a country of nearly four million people, regularly spark mass protests, with only one orderly transition of power after a parliamentary vote in 2012.

aw, sri/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

This is an updated version of a previous article.