Voting process at one of the polling stations, 2016. Photo: Guram Muradov / Civil.ge
On October 21, Georgian citizens will head to polls to elect 2058 members of 64 city councils and 64 municipal mayors.
With the Election Day approaching, Civil.ge starts 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.
The first digest covers the developments of past week (September 4-10), as well as major electoral developments before the reporting period.
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May 27 – September 4
Race for Tbilisi Mayorship - election campaign launched:
- The election campaign was officially launched on August 22, but the parties started naming Tbilisi mayoral candidates earlier, in late May;
- The Movement for Liberty - European Georgia was the first political party to name MP Elene Khoshtaria as its Tbilisi mayoral candidate on May 27. Before the official launch of the election campaign, several other parties also named their mayoral nominees, among them Zaal Udumashvili of the United National Movement; Kakha Kaladze of the Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia; Aleko Elisashvili nominated by an independent initiative group; Tengiz Shergelashvili of the Development Movement; Irma Inashvili of the Alliance of Patriots; Kakha Kukava, joint candidate of the Democratic Movement – United Georgia and the Free Georgia.
Political Ratings - NDI’s July Survey:
- Asked on Tbilisi mayoral race, 37% of likely voters said GDDG’s Kakha Kaladze would be their first choice as the mayor of the capital city, followed by independent candidate Aleko Elisashvili with 22%, UNM’s Zaal Udumashvili with 16% and European Georgia’s Elene Khostaria with 5%;
- According to the survey, GDDG has 27% support among the likely voters, followed by the United National Movement (UNM) – 8% and the European Georgia – 3%. 7% of likely voters named other parties.
Legislative Developments - number of self-governing cities reduced:
- Upon its resolution approved on June 15 and the consequent amendments to the Local Self-Government Code on June 30, the Parliament of Georgia merged the seven self-governing cities – Mtskheta, Telavi, Gori, Akhaltsikhe, Ambrolauri, Zugdidi and Ozurgeti - into the neighboring municipalities, reducing the number of self-governing cities from twelve to five. In the October municipal polls, voters in the merged municipalities will elect already joint Sakrebulos and mayors. The amendments were endorsed amid the presidential veto and civil society criticism.
Party Campaigns/Presentations - September 21 deadline for party list submissions:
- September 21 is the deadline for submitting the party lists to the election administration for the proportional elections;
- The European Georgia and the Republican Party have already held party list presentations in Tbilisi;
- The United National Movement and the European Georgia were actively campaigning in the regions, presenting their candidates for mayoral and Sakrebulo elections;
- The ruling party started to present its candidates for municipal elections in early September, with Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili naming majoritarian candidates for the Tbilisi Sakrebulo on September 1, and in the following days, its mayoral candidates in Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti regions.
Violations - UNM initiates anti-fraud campaign; GYLA releases pre-election report; election administration member allegedly threatened:
- On August 4, the United National Movement set up an anti-fraud election headquarters aimed at investigating the violations and facts of violence observed during the pre-election period;
- According to the report released by the Georgian Young Lawyers Association in late August, there have been several cases of physical altercations, interference with agitation, alleged pressure on political grounds and alleged dismissal on political grounds between June 1 and August 1. “The cases of violence and physical retaliation targeted representatives of the United National Movement,” the report reads. The monitoring also documented increases in the budgets of local self-government bodies;
- CEC also reported a number of violations. In a statement released on September 2, CEC said the chairperson of Akhalkalaki district election commission was threatened.
September 4 – September 11
Race for Tbilisi Mayorship - eight candidates on board:
- Number of Tbilisi mayoral candidates has increased to eight. The New Unity for Georgia, a political union gathering four non-parliamentary opposition groups, named Giorgi Vashadze as its mayoral candidate in Tbilisi.
Electoral Programs - Kaladze lists priorities:
- On September 4, Georgian Dream’s Tbilisi mayoral candidate, Kakha Kaladze, who runs the campaign under “The City Full of Life” slogan, held a presentation of his electoral program. He outlined seven major priorities, including urban development policy; transport policy; environmental policy; economic policy; education, culture, sport and youth policy; social policy and management policy.
Party Campaigns/Presentations - GDDG, UNM, EG continue candidate presentations:
- The Development Movement, led by former Parliamentary Chairman Davit Usupashvili, named its Sakrebulo candidates in Gldani and Chughureti single mandate constituencies in Tbilisi.
- The Georgian Dream continued presenting its mayoral candidates in the regions. Last week PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili presented mayoral candidates in Kakheti and Guria regions. A group of civil society organizations united in the working group for Women’s Political Participation in Georgia expressed concerns over the fact that among 61 mayoral candidates named by the ruling party, only two were female.
- The United National Movement named ex-Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze as its mayoral candidate in Kutaisi, Georgia’s second largest city. Mayoral candidates were also presented in six municipalities in Adjara, western Georgia.
- The European Georgia named its mayoral candidates in the municipalities of Adigeni, Aspindza, Borjomi and Kaspi in eastern Georgia.
Electoral Blocs - UNM, CCP, NDP join forces:
- The United National Movement set up an election bloc for the October 2017 municipal elections. The bloc involves the UNM and two minor political parties - the Christian-Conservative Party and the National-Democratic Party.
Violations - ISFED reports on disinformation campaign against opposition candidates in Tbilisi:
- The International Society for Free Elections and Democracy (ISFED) released its election monitoring report on September 8, where it noted that the election campaign is being held in a calm environment. However, several facts of physical altercations, pressure, alleged dismissal on political grounds, and interference with observers’ activities were reported in the period between July 24 and September 5;
- ISFED also focused on disinformation campaign in social networks targeting Tbilisi mayoral candidates – Elene Khoshtaria, Zaal Udumashvili and Aleko Elisashvili. ISFED suspects the campaign is financed from illegal donations.
Election Administration - precinct commissions assembled; voters’ list verification process underway
- On September 8, CEC unveiled the results of the competition for the precinct election commission membership. 21 758 precinct election commission members where identified in 3 634 polling stations. Repeat competition will be announced to fill 46 remaining seats. ISFED reported a number of shortcomings in the process. Some of the selected candidates were subject to disciplinary liability during the 2016 parliamentary elections, ISFED also noted;
- The Central Election Commission continues the voters’ list verification efforts. For this purpose, CEC is carrying out an information campaign “Find Yourself – Find Your Polling Station.” The deadline for voters’ list verification expires on October 3.