Almost half of Georgia’s 3,429,748 voters are eligible to go to the polls on July 12 for the second round runoffs of local elections in 21 localities.
1,525 polling stations opened at 8am local time without a delay in those constituencies where runoffs are held, CEC chairperson, Tamar Zhvania, said.
Total of 1,715,514 voters are registered at these polling stations.
Mayoral offices in 8 cities, including in Tbilisi, and posts of gamgebeli (head of municipality) in 13 municipalities are for grabs in the July 12 runoffs.
In rest of the 46 municipalities and 4 self-governed cities elections were decided in the first round on June 15 in which candidates from ruling Georgia Dream (GD) coalition won outright victory. GD has also won majority of seats in all 71 local councils (Sakrebulo).
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Apart of Tbilisi second round of elections for mayoral offices are held in following seven self-governed cities: Batumi, Rustavi, Telavi, Gori, Mtskheta, Ozurgeti and Poti.
Races for gamgebeli posts went into second round in following municipalities: Kvareli; Telavi; Tianeti; Akhmeta; Terjola; Khoni; Tkibuli; Martvili; Kobuleti; Bagdati; Gori; Lanchkhuti and Khulo.
Candidates from GD ruling coalition have won the place in runoffs in all of these 21 localities.
UNM candidates were runners-up in the first round in mayoral races of four cities – Tbilisi, Rustavi, Batumi and Telavi.
Candidates from the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia are facing GD’s candidates in the mayoral runoffs in two cities – Poti and Ozurgeti.
A candidate from ex-defense minister Irakli Okruashvili’s party won place in the runoff for mayoral race in Gori, and Green Party’s candidate is facing GD’s candidate in Mtskheta.
UNM candidates were runners-up in the first round in five municipalities – Kvareli, Kobuleti, Terjola, Telavi and Khoni; UNM’s candidate in Khoni, who is a former gamgebeli of the same municipality, is in a pre-trial detention since February.
Candidates nominated by Nino Burjanadze-led United Opposition coalition won place in the runoffs in four municipalities – Akhmeta, Tianeti, Martvili and Tkibuli.
Candidates from Alliance of Patriots of Georgia were runners-up in two municipalities – Lanchkhuti and Khulo.
Candidates from Georgia’s Way, party founded by ex-foreign minister Salome Zourabichvili, and ex-defense minister Irakli Okruashvili’s Georgian Party won the place in runoffs in Bagdati and Gori municipalities, respectively.
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Georgia’s largest election observer group, said that campaigning by the parties in run-up to the second round was less active than ahead of first round.
ISFED said that Ugulava’s arrest and pre-trial detention was a “negative” development and represented violation of moratorium on legal proceedings against politically active persons in the election campaign period, declared by the government in April.
UNM MP Giorgi Baramidze said on July 11, that ex-PM “oligarch Ivanishvili” decided to “intimidate” UNM and the society in a whole by arresting Gigi Ugulava. “Please go to polling stations and vote for your favorite [candidate] and for better election program. Show to everyone once again that it is impossible to intimidate our people,” MP Baramidze said.
PM Irakli Garibashvili, who chairs GD ruling coalition, said on July 10 that he’s confident that GD candidates will win in runoffs in all the localities.
“If you want to again become victim of sabotage, then vote for [UNM’s Tbilisi mayoral candidate Nika] Melia. If you want development, then you should vote for [GD’s Tbilisi mayoral candidate] Davit Narmania – and the same goes for other constituencies as well,” PM Garibashvili said, referring to his allegations that Tbilisi municipal government, now controlled by UNM, was deliberately obstructing some of the municipal projects and services.
Much of the focus during the campaign in run-up to second round elections was made on calls for high voter turnout.
Nationwide voter turnout in the first round of local elections on June 15 was 43,31%; in capital Tbilisi 37.3% of voters turned out at the polling stations.