21/05/2008 - Results
The United National Movement for a Victorious Georgia led by President Saakachvili made a landslide victory in the general elections that took place on 21st May in Georgia. According to the initial results he won 63.09% of the vote. The New Rights Bloc led by David Gamkrelidze and the National Council of United Opposition that rallies seven parties won 13.25%; the Christian Democratic Party led by former Imedi TV presenter, Giorgi Targamadze came third winning 8.4% and the Labour Party led by Shalva Natelashvili, 6.1%. Only four political parties succeeded in rising above the 5% threshold necessary to be represented in the Georgian parliament. The United National Movement for a Victorious Georgia is due to take 2/3 of the 150 seats.
The Republican Party led by David Usupashvili won 3.4% and together the other blocs and parties won under 1%.
Turn out rose to 55%, i.e. -8.93 points less than that recorded in the last general election on 28th March 2004.
"The general elections were free and fair and I hope that the international observers will acknowledge this," maintained Mikhail Saakachvili after the first results were announced adding, "I am amazed by the high level of support we received during these elections." "Democracy in Georgia is truly alive. The country is a real model for many others in the region and we expect it to stay that way in spite of pressure placed on us from abroad," he declared when he went to vote with his Dutch wife who was voting for the first time as a Georgian citizen. "These are only preliminary results but the gap is so wide that it is highly unlikely that the situation will change radically," said former Foreign Minister David Bakradze who led the United Movement list. "Whether we have the absolute majority or not we are not planning for and we shall not approve any constitutional amendments without the opposition. Everyone can be sure of this. We shall not meddle with the fundamental principles of the country whatever our weight in Parliament. We shall do our best so that the opposition has control in government and that it can find expression and take part in drawing up the law," said President Saakachvili on 22nd May in a televised interview.
As for the opposition the speeches and reactions were totally different. "I would like to congratulate Georgian society, the opposition won everywhere in Georgia. The authorities have lost the battle completely," declared New Rights leader, David Gamkrelize as soon as the results were announced. "The exit poll is the first sign that the elections were fixed," stressed Levan Gatchetchiladze, the leading candidate of the "New Rights-National Council of United Opposition" bloc. He said that the opposition had won over 40% of the vote in Tbilisi in comparison with 32% for the United Movement.
The opposition is totally unwilling to acknowledge the United Movement's victory and has denounced several incidents and the occurrence of many infringements; they say that several of its supporters were beaten up and that one was even killed in the west of the country – a murder that has no link with the elections according to the authorities. The latter also then accused the rebels of Abkhazia of having shot at voters who were going to ballot in the separatist part of the Republic controlled by Georgia.
Before the election Levan Gatchetchiladze had called on the opposition forces to rally on the evening of the vote to challenge the results saying there would be 100,000 demonstrators. On 21st May only 2000 people met in the streets of Tbilisi in protest against the victory declared by the United National Movement. Some of the crowd watched the final of the Champions League between the British clubs Manchester United and Chelsea on a big screen. The opposition called for more demonstrations over the next few days. "The fight continues. Our aim is to free Georgia of this regime," said David Gamkrelize. "We need time to set out our strategy. Many sleepless nights await us, the battle goes on," added Levan Gatchetchiladze.
Central Electoral Commission spokesperson, Zourab Kachkachishvili, said that the elections had been declared void in 13 polling stations because of ballot stuffing, damage cause to electoral equipment and the expulsion of the observers who were supposed to be ensuring that the election went off correctly. He also said that the cancellation of the vote in nine other stations was expected. Three organisations who were responsible for monitoring the democratic nature of the election (the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, the Young Lawyers' Association and Transparency International) maintained that they had witnessed pressure being put on voters and several incidents during which observers were thrown out of polling stations, together with the refusal to accept complaints.
Over the days prior to the election during the electoral campaign President Saakachvili repeated: "the general elections will be the most democratic the country has ever known, not to please the West but for the future of Georgia." The Head of State also gave instructions to several local administrations not to interfere with the voting. A committee responsible for the centralisation of complaints was created. "It is vital for Georgia for these elections to be really free and fair. We must show the world that we are a democratic country," declared David Bakradze.
Although Mikhail Saakachvili's party's victory seems unquestionable it is not however certain that this will suffice to bring peace back to Georgia. In a bid to unite the population the President of the Republic will have to find the words and acts over the next few months to heal the divisions that run deep throughout society.
General Election Results of 21st May 2008 in Georgia
Turn out: 55%