In Tbilisi, Georgia, thousands gathered in the street outside Georgia’s national parliament building on Sunday to protest municipal election results. Those results showed that the country’s ruling party nearly swept all positions.
After candidates of the Georgian Dream party secured 19 of the 20 municipal elections in runoff votes this past Saturday, the opposition claimed fraud as they filled the streets in protest to the results. Offices reportedly won by the Georgian Dream party included mayoral seats in the country’s five largest cities: Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Rustavi, Batumi, and Poti.
Nika Melia is the head of the main opposition party called the United National Movement. Melia, who was also a mayoral candidate in Tbilisi, said that “the victories gained by the opposition in many municipalities were taken away…like they never happened.”
The elections came after former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, the founder of the United National Movement, was arrested on October 1. Saakashvili had left the country in 2013, but while he was gone, he was convicted of abuse of power and sentenced to six years in prison.
He left his home in Ukraine to return to Georgia in hopes of boosting the United National Movement in the first round of voting. Instead, he was arrested within a day and imprisoned. No candidates in the elections won an absolute majority in the first round on Oct.2, which led to the Saturday runoff elections.
“Voting and counting were overall assessed positively despite some procedural issues, particularly during counting,” said an election observer of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
“The persistent practice of representatives of observer organizations acting as party supporters, at times interfering with the process, and groups of individuals potentially influencing voters outside some polling stations were of concern,” the OSCE observers continued in a statement.
The protest crowd closed down the capital’s main avenue. Melia told the crowd that opposition leaders would be sent to other cities in order to gather supporters to go to Tbilisi for an even bigger rally on Nov. 7.
ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: JOURNALNOW.COM
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