CEC ad showing three different ballots for the municipal polls. Photo: screengrab
On October 21, Georgian citizens will head to polls to elect 2058 members of 64 city councils (Sakrebulo) and 64 municipal mayors.
Civil.ge continues publishing its weekly election digest, a news compilation covering the political party campaigns, election procedures and other pre-election developments, as well as related political happenings, ahead of the October 21 municipal polls.
The sixth digest covers the developments of past week (October 9-15).
Race for Tbilisi - Kaladze continues presenting his priorities; Udumashvili and Elisashvili name municipal department heads; Imedi TV hosts first TV debates; opposition flexes muscles before elections:
- Georgian Dream’s Tbilisi mayoral candidate, Kakha Kaladze continues presenting his electoral program. On October 9, he held a presentation of the education, culture and sports policy. On October 15, he also met young voters and introduced them with his youth-specific initiatives;
- Two opposition candidates - United National Movement’s Zaal Udumashvili and independent Aleko Elosashvili - presented their team members, who they plan to appoint as heads of the municipality departments;
- On October 10, Imedi TV hosted the first debates between Tbilisi mayoral candidates. Seven candidates participated in the debates, among them Aleko Elisashvili (independent candidate), Elene Khoshtaria (European Georgia), Kakha Kukava (Democratic Movement – Free Georgia), Zaal Udumashvili (United National Movement), Irma Inashvili (Alliance of Patriots), Giorgi Vashadze (Unity – New Georgia) and Kakha Kaladze (Georgian Dream). The participants answered citizens’ questions on a range of issues, including on traffic jams, transport and air pollution. Imedi TV refused to invite Labor Party’s mayoral candidate, Giorgi Gugava, justifying its decision by “insulting statements” against the television channel made by Shalva Natelashvili, the party leader. The absence of Tengiz Shergelashvili, Tbilisi mayoral candidate from the Development Movement, was explained by the TV channel as “a misunderstanding;”
- On October 10, the United National Movement held a rally outside the Tbilisi Sakrebulo building against the transfer of land plots to the companies affiliated with Bidzina Ivanishvili, former Prime Minister of Georgia. On October 15, the party organized a march from the Rustaveli Metro Station towards Ivanishvili’s residence. “The main Parosana [Georgian word for brown marmorated stink bug], who has invaded Georgia and takes the country’s lands and territories, lives here … Tbilisi will not allow grabbing of its historical part by the person, whose house is full of money that belongs to the citizens of this country,” Zaal Udumashvili addressed the supporters outside Ivanishvili’s residence. Nika Melia, the United National Movement’s Sakrebulo chairmanship candidate made critical statements against the former Prime Minister: “Do not dare to rig the October 21 elections. Do not dare to raid the polling stations. Do not dare to steal the votes of the Georgian population, including in Tbilisi. If that is the case, we will go neither to Mr. Kvirikashvili nor to the Sakrebulo, Narmania or Kaladze, we will come here on October 21,” Melia said;
- Georgian Dream leaders responded to UNM’s protest rallies with counter-criticism. Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said: “You all saw today what was happening outside the Sakrebulo building. But rest assured that we have enough power to maintain stability, protect the achievement we secured in 2012 under the leadership of Bidzina Ivanishvili.” Kakha Kaladze spoke on the rallies as well, slamming the United National Movement as “a bankrupt, marginal political party;”
- The European Georgia, which also rallied against the Sakrebulo decision on October 10, held a final campaign event at the new Sport Palace in Tbilisi. The party leaders - Gigi Ugulava, Elene Khoshtaria and Davit Bakradze - spoke at the gathering. “We are coming (to power) to ensure that a pensioner no longer has to think how to buy medications. I have seen this with my eyes and I know for sure that it must not happen so. Therefore, during the first 100 days, pensions will increase by GEL 50; we will remove money from the bureaucracy and give GEL 70 to all socially vulnerable citizens. In the following four years we will create 35 000 new jobs … Tbilisi will no longer be the city of damaged houses. It will be a rehabilitated and a European city,” Tbilisi mayoral candidate Elene Khoshtaria told the supporters;
- A final campaign event was also convened by Davit Usupashvili, leader of the Development Movement, and Tengiz Shergelashvili, the party’s Tbilisi mayoral candidate. “The Development Movement has a very serious political ambition in Georgian politics… We are fighting for victory in Gori, Chokhatauri. We are fighting for serious results in Tbilisi. The Development Movement will build its success during the presidential elections on the results obtained at the municipal elections, and in 2020 we will surprise Georgia,” Davit Usupashvili said. Shergelashvili addressed the supporters as well. “We will create the municipality, which will be oriented to its citizen. To achieve this, we will have a municipality presence in 25 districts, instead of the current 10, and the people will be able to have direct contacts with these institutions. We will use new technologies, which turn the solution of problems of Tbilisi residents’ into the municipality’s key task,” he said.
Party Presentations - PM Kvirikashvili presents mayoral candidates in Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Tbilisi Sakrebulo chairmanship candidate:
- On October 10, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili presented the ruling party’s mayoral candidates in Mtskheta, Dusheti, Tianeti and Kazbegi Municipalities. Only one woman is among the candidates, Lela Kitesashvili, who will compete for Tianeti Mayor’s position against Tamaz Mechiauri, GD’s former member and former chairman of the Parliament’s finance and budget committee;
- PM Kvirikashvili named Giorgi Tkemaladze, incumbent member of the Tbilisi Sakrebulo as the ruling party candidate for Sakrebulo chairmanship. “Giorgi Tkemaladze is a professional and an experienced politician and I am sure that in his capacity as the chairman he will make a significant contribution to the Tbilisi Sakrebulo’s successful operation,” PM Kvirikashvili said in a statement released on October 15.
Election Monitoring and Violations - UNM, EG candidates withdraw; Development Movement candidate’s banner fired at in Dmanisi; non-parliamentary opposition concerned over “discriminatory” election environment; GD leading in terms of donations:
- It was reported last week that opposition party candidates withdrew from electoral race in some municipalities citing pressure on them. Due to the refusal of its candidates’ to run in the elections, the European Georgia’s party list was abolished in Tetritskaro Municipality. Four non-governmental organizations condemned the fact. “Similar facts are unacceptable and if confirmed, they will cast a shadow over peaceful, equal, fair and competitive election environment. Moreover, since these reports also involve apparent signs of criminal offences, they require immediate reaction,” reads the statement released by the organizations. Alleged facts of pressure were also reported in Gardabani Municipality against the European Georgia candidate. It was also reported last week that four candidates nominated by the United National Movement in Zugdidi Municipality also refused to run in the elections;
- The Development Movement expressed concerns over the reported violations observed in Dmanisi Municipality. Davit Usupashvili, the party leader, said that a shot was fired at the banner depicting the party’s mayoral candidate in Dmanisi, Gogi Barbakadze. Earlier, the party reported that the Georgian Dream party coordinators exerted pressure on ethnic Azerbaijani voters in one of the villages of Dmanisi Municipality. The Development Movement’s mayoral candidate is an incumbent Gamgebeli (head of local municipality) of Dmanisi, who quit the Georgian Dream shortly before the municipal elections and joined Usupashvili’s electoral team;
- A group of thirteen non-parliamentary opposition parties expressed concerns over the “uneven and discriminatory pre-election environment,” and called on the international and local observer organizations to consider that in their assessments;
- According to the filings with the State Audit Office, which is in charge of the political finance monitoring, the ruling Georgian Dream is leading in terms of the amount of donations fundraised in September. Out of GEL 4.5 million donated to political parties, the ruling party received over GEL 4 million (88%). The European Georgia party is the second largest recipient of donations with GEL 335 964. The United National Movement comes third with approximately GEL 36 000.
Election Administration - CEC presents interim report; over 9 million ballot papers to be printed:
- On October 13, Chairperson of the Central Election Commission, Tamar Zhvania, presented an interim report on the municipal elections to the representatives of local election observer organizations, election subjects and media outlets. According to CEC, Zhvania spoke on the organization’s activities in raising the qualification of election administration members, election process organization, civic and voter educational programs, inclusive electoral environment, cooperation with electoral stakeholders, information campaign and other related issues;
- The ballot paper printing process was launched on October 14. According to CEC, a total of 9 546 450 ballot papers will be printed. On October 21, each voter will receive three ballot paper at the polling station: one is intended for party-list polls for Sakrebulo; second – for majoritarian Sakrebulo members, and third – for electing the city and municipality mayors.