The ruling Georgian Dream party claimed victory on October 30 as polls closed in Georgia's runoff vote across the nation's five largest cities — Tbilisi, Batumi, Kutaisi, Poti, and Rustavi. The local elections were held in an environment of protracted political crisis since October 2020, when opposition groups contested the ruling Georgian Dream Party's victory in the parliamentary elections. Preliminary results announced on October 31, by Central Election Committee showed the ruling Georgian Dream party secured 19 out of 20 mayoral seats. The opposition parties have made allegations of rigged ballots.
Following the announcement of election results, opposition parties protested outside the parliament in the capital, Tbilisi. Addressing the crowd of opposition supporters, the leader of the United National Movement, Nika Melia, said, “The government thinks in vain that it won yesterday. The Georgian people, will win very soon.” Melia, also called for mass demonstrations on November 7 “different from all previous demonstrations”. “The whole world will watch the large scale demonstration, that will be held on Freedom Square on Rustaveli Avenue on Sunday [November 7],” vowed the leader of the opposition party.
The demonstration was then rescheduled to November 6.
The first round of elections, held on October 2, was criticized by the EU Delegation, as well as the joint observation mission from the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) observers. In a statement issued by the Delegation of the European Union in coordination with the embassies of the Member States, the group concluded that although the elections were “generally administered,” they were also “characterized by hardened polarization.”
In a new statement issued on October 31, Carl Hartzell, the EU Ambassador to Georgia, said, “while elections were generally well administered,” the statement criticized the ruling government for “an escalation of negative rhetoric, persistent allegations of intimidation and pressure on voters and sharp imbalances in resources, which benefited the ruling party and tilted the playing field.”
Albert Jónsson, who heads the ODIHR election observation mission, said, “While these elections were well organised and transparent, there were a number of shortcomings that became evident in the run-up to the second round as the tone of the political debate became increasingly confrontational and claims of pressure and intimidation continued.”
The US Embassy to Georgia also issued a statement commenting on violence saying they were “troubled by credible reports of violence against election observers and the media during both rounds of the election.”
The Ministry of the Interior has launched several investigations into incidents of violence observed on October 30.
The rerun vote, took place at a time, when Georgia's former president, Mikheil Saakashvili awaits trial behind bars. The former political leader has been on hunger strike since October 1. Despite reports of his health deteriorating, the ruling government refuses to move him to a medical facility for treatment. “I want you to know that the prolongation of my life is entirely tied to the choice that you are going to make tomorrow,” Saakashvili wrote in a letter sent through his lawyer ahead of the vote according to OC Media.
Two days ahead of the vote, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili reportedly said, the former president “had the right to commit suicide,” in a late-night televised interview. In the same interview, the Prime Minister also alleged that the opposition has made plans to assassinate several opposition leaders.
Although the opposition plans to contest results in some of the precincts, in courts, the focus now appears to be on the streets wrote journalist Joshua Kuchera in his Eurasianet piece, with several scheduled rallies across the country.