Tamaz Mechiauri, opposition mayoral candidate in Tianeti Municipality of Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, who is just four votes behind the ruling Georgian Dream - Democratic Georgia’s candidate, has challenged the election results in court.
Tamaz Mechiauri, GDDG’s former member and former chairman of the Parliament’s finance and budget committee, appealed against the October 22 ruling of the District Election Commission (DEC) in Tianeti, which recounted the previously annulled ballot papers in precinct No. 20 and considered five of the votes valid, putting the ruling party candidate Lela Kitesashvili ahead of her only opponent with 50.03% of votes.
Before the recount, Mechiauri was winning the mayoral race, making him the only opposition candidate to obtain victory in the October 21 municipal elections.
Mindia Shetekauri, who runs Mechiauri’s election campaign, said they have evidence - photo and video materials - depicting the ballot rigging process.
The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), whose representative attended the DEC session early morning on October 22, questioned the validity of the decision.
The organization said in a statement released on October 24 that the ballot papers were correctly annulled during the initial vote tabulation and that no observer or party representative, including the one from the ruling party, objected to this decision. Nonetheless, upon GDDG’s request, the annulled ballot papers were recounted, and valid ballot papers appeared in the sealed envelopes.
“It is unclear how five supposedly valid ballot papers appeared among the annulled ones. It is especially doubtful that the political party representative had not protested against the fact during the vote tabulation process,” ISFED said .
ISFED called for repeat elections in the precinct “to guarantee public trust and legitimacy of elections.”
Hours before the court hearing on October 24, Makhare Sisauri and Ramaz Gvaladze, who observed vote tabulation in the precinct and were to appear in court as witnesses, claimed that they were attacked by unidentified persons, who reportedly forced them to stop their car and threw a bottle with inflammable liquid at them that resulted in burning of their car. Commenting on the incident, Mechiauri said the attack aimed at “intimidating other witnesses,” who planned to give supportive testimonies in court.
According to media reports, investigation is underway under article 187 of the criminal code of Georgia, involving damage or destruction of property committed through arson, explosion or use of other hazardous materials.
Tamaz Mechiauri quit the ruling party several months before the 2016 parliamentary elections and established his own party “Tamaz Mechiauri - For United Georgia.” The party nominated party-list Sakrebulo candidates in Tianeti Municipality only.