With most of the votes counted, candidates from the ruling National Movement party lead in all five single-mandate constituencies, where MP by-elections were held on Saturday, Chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) Gia Kavtaradze announced on October 2. Local election watchdog organizations have hailed the elections as fair, despite some problems related with voter lists.
By-elections were held in the Adjarian towns of Kobuleti, Batumi and Shuakhevi; the western Georgian town of Tkibuli and Tbilisi’s Isani district to fill five vacant seats in the Georgian Parliament. The National Movement party’s MP nominations were competing with four opposition parties - New Rights, Conservatives, Freedom and Labor Party - which banded together and chose single candidates for each of the constituencies through primary elections.
The early results of the by-elections are as follow:
Tbilisi’s Isani Constituency:
Bidzina Bregadze of the National Movement - 53.4% of votes;
Giorgi Mosidze of the New Rights opposition party – 35.6%;
three other candidates received 8.2% altogether.
Pavle Kublashvili of the National Movement - 80%;
Nino Kvariani of the New Rights party – 16%.
Jemal Inaishvili of the National Movement - 74.9%;
Jumber Tavartkiladze of the opposition Conservative Party – 15.78%;
Four other candidates were able to garner less than 6%.
Koba Khabazi of the National Movement - 69%;
Jimsher Jincharadze of the Conservative Party – 29%;
Non-partisan Avtandil Mikeladze - 2%.
Elguja Makaradze of the National Movement - 69.8%;
Eduard Nizharadze of the New Rights party - 26.9%;
Non-partisan Vladimer Mumladze – 2.8%.
“I want to focus on one fact. Elections were held in five constituencies, but the complaints have been filed in only one – Kobuleti – election district. I think this is a very important fact. This complaint has been filed by the opposition Conservative Party. The appeals will be considered by the district elections commission, but I can say that these complaints can not change the results of the elections,” Chairman of the CEC Gia Kavtaradze said at a news conference on October 2.
Election watchdog organization International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), which had monitors in every precinct, hailed the elections as fair and democratic.
“We can say that the election procedures were conducted in full accordance with the law and the October 1 by-elections can be assessed as fair. But at the same time, we should not forget those minor irregularities which were observed during these elections and, first and foremost, problems related with the voter lists,” Tamar Zhvania, head of the ISFED, said at a news conference on October 2.
Another election watchdog organization New Generation-New Initiative also hailed the elections as fair. Koki Ionatamashvili, the head of the organization, said that those minor violations which were observed during the elections will not affect the final results of the polls.
“So we have all the reasons to announce that the elections were fair,” Ionatamashvili told Civil Georgia on October 2.
President Saakashvili, who is currently in the Adjara Autonomous Republic, expressed satisfaction with the ruling party’s success and said on October 2 that the elections demonstrated Georgian voters’ “high standard of political culture.”
He described yjr October 1 by-elections as a huge success for the authorities and said that the opposition parties suffered “catastrophic results” in the polls. “The opposition had catastrophic results… [The opposition] has been defeated in all five constituencies… This means that the weakness of the opposition is a fact. This is not good. Every government, even the most successful, needs a strong, constructive and responsible opposition,” Saakashvili said.
The opposition New Rights and Conservative parties condemned the by-elections as unfair, but hailed the cooperation which took place between the four opposition parties on the eve of the polls.
“These were shameful elections… There were cases of erasing registers voters form the lists, hence they were deprived of the right to vote… We have already filed a complaint to the district election commission regarding these cases in the Kobuleti constituency,” MP Koba Davitashvili, the leader of Conservative Party, told Civil Georgia on October 2.
But he said that these elections were a useful experience, first of all, from the cooperation point of view. “We [four opposition parties] are now co-fighters and plan to continue this cooperation. This cooperation will further develop for the upcoming local elections [next year].” Koba Davitashvili added.
“The authorities used all their administrative and financial resources in order to prevent the victory of even one opposition candidate,” MP Pikria Chikhradze, one of the leaders of the New Rights party, told Civil Georgia on October 2.
“Violations were especially observed in Adjara [by-elections were held in Adjara’s three constituencies]. There were cases of intimidation, bribery and erasing [of voters] from the voter lists,” she added.
MP Chikhradze also noted that these elections marked the launch of a very fruitfully cooperation, “which I hope will continue.”
These five seats in the Parliament, which will be occupied by the ruling party nominations, cannot change the balance of power in the legislative body, which is dominated by the National Movement, but these elections were largely regarded as a key indicator of current public opinion towards the government’s policies.