Georgian Dream

Dream Realized

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Bidzina Ivanishvili’s political coalition Georgian Dream may have won the 1 October parliamentary elections, but it failed to win a two-thirds constitutional majority. That means the United National Movement (UNM) will have a strong oppositional presence in the new Parliament. Even before the final tabulation, President Mikheil Saakashvili conceded his party’s defeat and declared that the UNM would move into opposition.

Final election results released by the Central Elections Commission (CEC) showed the Georgian Dream with 54.97 percent of the vote (44 seats) and the United National Movement (UNM) with 40.34 percent (33 seats) by party list. No other political party was able to clear the threshold necessary to enter Parliament.

According to final tabulation, the Georgian Dream also scored a win in 41 of the 73 single-mandate districts with UNM holding on to 32 single-mandate seats. All in all, the Georgian Dream has 85 seats in the parliament against 65 seats of the UNM.

Voter turnout was very high, even unprecedented, according to various assessments of election monitoring organizations. The CEC reported that 59 percent of all registered voters turned out for the election; the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) put the number even higher – at 64 percent. By comparison, the turnout for the 2008 parliamentary elections was 53 percent nationwide and 48 percent in Tbilisi. In 2008, 1.5 million people cast their ballots for UNM – 200,000 more than UNM was able to muster this time.

Geography of Results

The Georgian Dream won every election district in the capital city by a wide margin, both by the party list and single-seat system. In total, the coalition received 67 percent of the vote in Tbilisi compared to 27 percent for UNM.

The Georgian Dream won by similarly large margins in other major cities – Rustavi, Kutaisi, Poti and Batumi. The opposition coalition, in aggregate, received 60 percent of the vote in those election districts. In all other regions, support for the Georgian Dream stood at 48 percent against 47 percent for UNM.

Significant differences were seen in results for the two political forces in the regions. In some regions, the Georgian Dream won all or

Polling station in Tbilisi
almost all of the election districts. Its widest margin of victory was in the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, where the coalition and its single-seat candidates won by a landslide in all three of the election districts.

Unanimous support for the opposition coalition was reflected in election results in the Western region of Guria as well. In Shida Kartli, the coalition won by a wide margin by party lists too – with a significant difference reported in Kaspi and Kareli and an insignificant difference reported in Gori and Khashuri.

The Georgian Dream margin of victory was also wide in the Imereti region, especially in Sachkhere, Chiatura and Zestaponi. The coalition won in four other districts of Imereti – Kharagauli, Samtredia, Khoni and Bagdadi, though by narrower margins. In that region, UNM claimed victory only in Tskaltubo and Vani.

Similar to the outcome in Imereti, the regions of Kakheti, Adjara and Racha-Lechkhumi showed divided voter loyalty. The Georgian Dream received the highest number of votes in Sagarejo in the Kakhati region and also won in Telavi and Akhmeta. It edged out UNM in Signagi and Dedoplistkaro by an insignificant margin, but UNM won the Lagodekhi district by a large margin and was also successful in Gurjaani and Kvareli.

Political priorities of voters in Adjara differed significantly. Georgian Dream won by a landslide in Batumi, Kobuleti and Khelvachauri, while UNM claimed victory in the mountainous Keda, Shuakhevi and Khulo districts.

In the Racha-Lechkhumi region, the Georgian Dream won in Oni and Ambrolauri whereas the UNM garnered the most votes in Tsageri and Lentekhi.

The UNM received significant support in three regions: Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti (excluding Mestia); Kvemo Kartli (excluding Rustavi) and Samtskhe-Javakheti (excluding Borjomi).

In the Samtskhe-Javakheti region, Borjomi was the only district to vote for the Georgian Dream. In other districts of the region, UNM won by large margins.

In Samegrelo, UNM won by a landslide in every district with its greatest showing in Tsalenjikha and Zugdidi.

According to CEC data, the Georgian Dream won in polling stations opened abroad – 53.43 percent to 41.92 percent for UNM.

Based on the experience of previous elections, the success of the opposition coalition in Tbilisi was predictable, as was the overwhelming support the ruling party received in the majority of districts of the Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli regions.

At the same time, a trend against UNM in the regions in Guria, Imereti and Adjara, observed in the 2010 local elections, intensified in the 1 October parliamentary election. There also was a major shift against UNM among voters in Mtskheta-Mtianeti, where the ruling party had received almost 80 percent of the vote two years ago.

It is noteworthy that UNM lost in almost every region in which the government has implemented wide-scale infrastructure projects and large public investments in the past two years – in Batumi, Kutaisi, Telavi, Mestia. The lone exception was Akhaltsikhe, which again gave the nod to UNM.

Preliminary Assessments and Conclusions

The election process was monitored by an unprecedented number of local and international observers – more than sixty thousand. An international observation mission comprised of OSCE/ODIHR, PACE, EU and NATO parliamentary assemblies monitored the election campaign, as well as the processes of voting and vote tabulation.

On 2 October, the international observation mission presented its preliminary assessment of the election campaign and the voting process. Representatives of the international organizations concluded that, despite an extremely polarized environment characterized by harsh rhetoric and other shortcomings, the Georgian people freely expressed their will at ballot boxes.

“Georgia’s parliamentary elections marked an important step in consolidating the conduct of democratic elections, although certain key issues remain to be addressed,” the international mission noted.

According to conclusions drawn by the international observation mission, the elections were conducted in a competitive but divisive and tense environment while the election campaign “often centered on the advantages of incumbency, on one hand, and private financial assets on the other, rather than on concrete political platforms and programmes.” In assessing the election campaign, the mission concluded that freedoms of association, assembly and expression had been respected overall, but it also observed instances of harassment and intimidation of opposition party activists and supporters which negatively affected the campaign environment. The election administration enjoyed a high level of confidence and the Central Election Commission operated transparently, the mission further noted. Election day itself was calm and peaceful countrywide and was assessed positively by the international observers, although they noted some procedural shortcomings too. The Central Election Commission began releasing preliminary results early in the morning hours following the election, contributing to the transparency of the process.

Luca Volontè, the Head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) delegation, asserted that: “The political forces elected to the new Parliament, both in the majority and opposition, should now take up their responsibilities and work together to address these shortcomings.”

“Yesterday’s elections highlight the role that key democratic institutions play when they act professionally and impartially,” said Nikolai Vulchanov, the Head of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) long-term election observation mission. He added that the legal framework needs to be improved and that ODIHR is ready to continue its cooperation with Georgia on that front.

President Saakashvili with his family at polling station
The observation mission of the U.S. National Democratic Institute (NDI) also assessed the elections favorably despite the divisive campaign: “[O]ctober 1 elections were the most competitive in a decade and mark an important step in establishing a pluralist legislature. Notwithstanding serious problems, primarily in the pre-election period, the electoral process allowed citizens to make informed choices and express their will at the ballot box.”

U.S. Congressman David Dreier, co-leader of the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) observation mission, said that Georgian voters participated in the most competitive and credible elections. According to the IRI observation mission: “The broad participation by enthusiastic, yet calm, Georgian voters greatly enhanced the quality of today’s balloting.”

The international observers’ final conclusions concerning the conduct of the 1 October parliamentary elections are expected to be published within several weeks.

Local observation organizations detected several routine violations in the voting process, including discrepancies between the number of ballot papers in the majority of polling stations and the number of voters registered there. However, they did not identify any instance that impeded the voting process. Observers also spoke of poor-quality ink devices; improper maintenance of documents; separate cases of ballots cast on behalf of persons other than the registered voter, as well as instances in which the work of observers was obstructed by representatives of election administrations.

At this stage, it is fair to say that the Georgian population was given the opportunity to express its will and to participate freely in the election. That was the observation of Transparency International Georgia, which also expressed concern about the mobilization of police and special forces at several polling stations on the night of the election although their presence did not interfere with the activity of any election commission.

Attempts to exert pressure on election commissions were observed on the part of Georgian Dream activists on the night of the elections as well as the following two nights. Representatives of the coalition claimed that they were trying to thwart an alleged plot to rig votes in a number of polling stations. For its part, the UNM declared that the Georgian Dream exerted psychological pressure on members of election commissions to force them to register results advantageous for the coalition. Such action by the Georgian Dream was later condemned by the Head of the EU delegation in Georgia, Philip Dimitrov, who called on Georgia’s political forces to act in accordance with the law.

The United States welcomed the election results. “We congratulate the Georgian people on the successful completion of their parliamentary election, which represents an historic milestone in Georgia’s democratic development. Yesterday’s elections mark a

victory for the Georgian people,” the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, Richard Norland, said in a statement. Norland congratulated both Mikheil Saakashvili and Bidzina Ivanishvili on the conduct of elections: “We congratulate President Saakashvili on presiding over another important stage in the maturing of Georgia’s democracy and on his statesmanlike handling of these events. We congratulate Bidzina Ivanishvili on Georgian Dream’s successful performance. The United States encourages both sides to work together to continue to build a better future for all the people of Georgia.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also issued a congratulatory statement: “This was an historic day for all Georgians and for Georgia’s democratic future.”

“We support the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission and its assessment that the Georgian people have freely expressed their will at the ballot box. And we urge the authorities to conduct the final count and appeals transparently and in accordance with the rule of law,” Secretary Clinton asserted, adding that the United States encourages all political parties to work constructively in the new Parliament for the advancement of Georgia’s democratic and economic development.

In a joint statement released on 2 October, Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, and Stefan Fule, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, said that “the generally positive conduct of parliamentary elections on 1 October, and the high level of voter participation, underscore Georgia’s commitment to its democratic path.” They congratulated the Georgian Dream on its victory in the elections, noting that “the Georgian people have now spoken.”

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen congratulated Georgia “on completing free, competitive and peaceful parliamentary elections.” Echoing other international sentiment, Rasmussen said: “This is an historic moment in Georgia's democratic development. Now it is important for all sides to come together for the good of the country and to further consolidate reforms and democratic institutions.”

 

This article has been updated since it first appeared in Tabula Georgian Issue #117, published 8 October 2012.

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