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PM's Take on Local Election Results
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 18 Jun.'14 / 16:57

PM Irakli Garibashvili dismissed as “absolutely exaggerated” suggestions that the June 15 local election results should be a “warning” for the Georgian Dream (GD) ruling coalition and claimed, mainly based on results in majoritarian single-mandate constituencies, that the United National Movement (UNM) is not a party with second-best results.

UNM said that GD’s attempt to interpret election results as if UNM is no longer the main opposition party signals authorities’ intention to launch a new “wave of persecutions.”

In a statement on June 18, UNM said that this attempt by the GD to misrepresent election results “is not yet another whim” of former PM Bidzina Ivanishvili and PM Garibashvili, but instead has a very specific political goal to prepare ground for new “wave of persecution” against the opposition party.

Many political pundits and opposition politicians say that nationwide party-list vote results for GD (50.83%), which is lower compared to votes received by GD’s presidential candidate in election eight months ago (62.12%), as well as failure of GD mayoral candidates to win outright in Tbilisi and in seven other cities, should be a wake-up call for the ruling coalition. Commentators also suggest that low voter turnout in local elections show many voters’ frustration with GD and political parties in general.

Speaking at a government session early on June 17, PM Garibashvili said without specifying that despite “convincing victory”, elections showed to the ruling coalition its “shortcomings, which we should definitely rectify”. Speaking at a news conference later on the same day, GD coalition leader said that “regrettably” there was lower turnout in some districts, which, he suggested was partly because of GD’s “shortcomings”, saying that “we should have been more active.” He also claimed that GD’s result would have probably been “over 75%” in case of higher voter turnout. “I explain it by the fact that the public has complete trust in us,” Garibashvili said.

“Speculation that it is a certain signal or message to our authorities, that it is a certain warning, is absolutely exaggerated. Not a single political force has ever gained such results in such democratic conditions,” Garibashvili said.
 
“[The United] National Movement, which still has an ambition of being the opposition party with second-best [result in elections] – and that is a complete lie and a deliberate attempt to mislead the public, has only 64 seats” in majoritarian single-mandate constituencies, Garibashvili said and added: “UNM, which tries to portray itself as main competitor [to the ruling coalition], has failed to win any majoritarian seat in any of the [12] self-governed cities, including in Tbilisi.”

GD said it won 811 out of 1,049 single-mandate constituencies and 128 seats were won by independent candidates.

Speaking at the government session earlier on June 17, Garibashvili tried to validate his assertion made ten days before the local elections that UNM had only 5-6% support by bringing figures of majoritarian contest in 1,049 single-mandate constituencies across the country. He said that UNM majoritarian candidates won only 64 single-mandate seats, accounting for about 6.1% of 1,049 seats, which were up for grabs in the June 15 elections under the first-past-the-post winner-takes-all system.

“That’s what we were speaking about – their real rating is 6%,” Garibashvili said.

UNM’s nationwide vote result in party-list contest is second best with 22.4% - almost the same its presidential candidate, Davit Bakradze, garnered in the election eight months ago (21.72%).

UNM said PM’s assertions that GD’s support has not declined and his attempts to diminish UNM’s results in the local elections are “ludicrous.”

In a statement on June 18, UNM said that this attempt by the GD to misrepresent election results “is not yet another whim” of former PM Bidzina Ivanishvili and PM Garibashvili, but instead has a very specific political goal to prepare ground for new “wave of persecution” against the opposition party.

“Just for the purpose of launching new phase of repressions against our political team the Georgian Dream needs high level of legitimacy (which it has failed to receive in these elections) on the one hand, and on the other hand it needs to portray the United National Movement as if being so week that persecution against [UNM] is impossible to be of political nature,”

UNM said that these attempts to provide distorted picture of election results, as well as attempts “to destroy the only opposition party” are “doomed to a failure” and instead of fighting against UNM.

“The only thing that such actions by the government can cause is to damage our country,” UNM said.

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