| 21 May 2024, Tuesday |

Georgia ruling party takes lead in local voting amid political crisis

In local elections that have taken on national significance during a lengthy political crisis, Georgia’s ruling party has gained a commanding lead over the opposition United National Movement, which was formed by former President Mikheil Saakashvili.

The people voted on Saturday, a day after authorities detained opposition leader Mikhail Saakashvili, who had flown in from exile to mobilize support.

According to the Election Administration of Georgia’s tally of 85 percent of the votes thus far, the Georgian Dream party received 47.6% of the vote to the United National Movement’s 30.5 percent, leaving 48 other parties well behind.

The local elections in the country of around 3.9 million, including for the mayoralty of the capital Tbilisi, come after the main opposition party boycotted parliament for months following a disputed election last year.

That agreement collapsed after the ruling party pulled out, but political analysts say the vote could still trigger protests if Georgian Dream fails to reach the threshold and declines to call a parliamentary election.

Georgia’s domestic politics have been dominated for decades by accusations of Russian meddling in its affairs. Saakashvili was president in 2008, when Russia launched a military intervention.

The Kremlin said on Friday that questions about Saakashvili’s arrest were outside its competence.

Georgia’s current president, Salome Zourabichvili, said she would not pardon him and accused him of deliberately trying to destabilize the country.

Saakashvili’s lawyer denounced his arrest as a “political detention”. In a letter published on Saturday by his lawyer, Saakashvili blamed his arrest on false verdicts imposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, his long-time foe.

  • Reuters