Friday, August 26, 2016

Caucasus Report

Tbilisi Ex-Mayor's Arrest Compounds Georgia Election Tension

Georgia's former ruling party says the arrest of campaign coordinator Gigi Ugulava, formerly Tblisi mayor, is politically motivated.
Georgia's former ruling party says the arrest of campaign coordinator Gigi Ugulava, formerly Tblisi mayor, is politically motivated.

Predictably, the Georgian local elections last month have served to exacerbate the antagonism between the ruling Georgian Dream coalition and the opposition United National Movement (ENM) that it defeated in the parliamentary ballot of October 2012.

The ENM has not only accused the authorities of resorting to deliberate intimidation and fraud, but argues that the July 1 arrest and subsequent detention in custody of former Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava, the coordinator of the ENM's election campaign, on new charges of misuse of public funds constitutes political persecution.

In addition, the ENM claims that the Central Election Commission violated the law when setting the date for runoff votes for the post of mayor in eight towns and cities and the heads of 13 regional councils (of a total of 59). Electoral amendments enacted in March raised to 50 percent the minimum vote a candidate for the post of mayor or regional council head must garner for an outright win.

The initial voting on June 15 evinced a clear preference for Georgian Dream among the 43.3 percent of the electorate motivated enough to cast ballots. (In the 2010 local elections, turnout was 49 percent). Georgian Dream polled marginally over 50 percent of the vote nationwide, followed by the ENM with 22.41 percent; the United Opposition comprising former parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze's Democratic Movement-One Georgia and Jondi Baghaturia's Kartuli Dasi (Georgian Group) (10.23 percent); the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia (4.71 percent); the Labor Party (3.45 percent); the Nonparliamentary Opposition bloc (2.25 percent); and Georgia's Way (1.21 percent). None of the remaining 17 parties and blocs received more than 1 percent of the vote.

In Tbilisi, one of the eight towns where the mayoral race went to a second round, Georgian Dream candidate David Narmania polled 46.09 percent of the vote, followed by Nikanor Melia of the ENM with 27.97 percent and Dmitri Lortkipanidze, representing the United Opposition bloc, with 12.81 percent. 

By contrast, in an opinion poll conducted in mid-April on behalf of the U.S. National Democracy Institute, 48 percent of those questioned said they planned to vote for Georgian Dream and just 12 percent for the ENM. By the same token, 39 percent of respondents planned to vote for Narmania, 10 percent for Melia and 9 percent for Lortkipanidze.

Both the election campaign  and the voting were overshadowed by numerous allegations of foul play. The Tbilisi embassies of the United States, Britain, and the Netherlands, which jointly fielded 95 observers who visited 600 polling stations in 23 electoral districts, nonetheless characterized the actual voting as "successful and well-administered," and as demonstrating "the growing pluralism in Georgian democracy." 

The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), however, registered a high number of void ballot papers and irregularities in drawing up final vote-summary protocols in hundreds of precincts, and called on June 23 for a vote recount in hundreds of polling stations.

Having assessed over 80 separate formal complaints lodged either by election watchdogs or the ENM and United Opposition, the Central Election Commission annulled the results at 14 polling stations and scheduled repeat voting on June 29.

Turnout for the repeat voting was even lower than on June 15: 36.63 percent. This time, ISFED registered only what it termed "minor technical flaws" that precinct officials sought to redress as they occurred. The NGO Fair Elections similarly described the voting as proceeding "quietly and in an organized fashion." The Central Election Commission said the following day that it had not received any complaints from organizations that monitored the vote.

The ENM nonetheless continues to accuse the authorities of creating unfair conditions for the runoff vote. On July 1, ENM representatives walked out of a session of the Interagency Task Force for Free and Fair Elections to protest what ENM's Zurab Chiaberashvili termed the body's "practice of justifying illegal actions or the inaction of law enforcement agencies" and its alleged failure to investigate violent clashes in the run-up to the June 15 vote or violations on polling day. One week earlier, Deputy Justice Minister Aleksandre Tabatadze had informed the Interagency Task Force that the commission had investigated all the complaints received and that for the first time ever, a criminal case had been opened in connection with malpractice.

The ENM has also played up the fact that the Central Election Commission, whether deliberately or inadvertently, apparently violated the law when scheduling for July 12 the runoff vote in the eight towns and cities and 13 regions where no candidate for mayor of district council head polled the minimum 50 percent of the vote on June 15. Ugulava had urged Central Election Commission Chairwoman Tamar Zhvania on June 23 to announce the runoff date at the earliest opportunity in order to give candidates the maximum time to prepare. Zhvania responded immediately that setting the date was not within her competence and could not be done until all complaints about the first round of voting had been resolved.

The commission duly endorsed the final results of the June 15 voting on July 3 and immediately scheduled the runoff for July 12. The ENM protested that decision, pointing out in a seeming inconsistency that the runoff date should not have been announced until July 9, and that a ruling adopted by the Central Election Commission on June 19 stipulated that a minimum of 10 days should elapse between the announcement and the vote. The party construed that glitch as further evidence that "the Central Election Commission is not serious about holding the second round."

Burjanadze's Democratic Movement–One Georgia, which qualified for the municipal runoffs in Tianeti, Tkibuli, Akhmeta, and Martvili, claimed the constitution required that runoffs should be announced 14 days in advance.

The Tbilisi Municipal Court has nonetheless upheld the Central Election Commission ruling.

ENM parliament member and former Deputy Justice Minister Giorgi Vashadze posited a direct link between the scheduling of the runoffs and Ugulava's arrest, which, Vashadze said, will put his party at a major disadvantage.

Meanwhile, Melia, the ENM's candidate for Tbilisi mayor, has finally agreed to his rival Narmania's proposal to hold televised debates in the run-up to the July 12 vote.

-- Liz Fuller

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 08, 2014 13:49
Finally an informative article on this web-site. This is also an interesting topic to follow for today's rulers of Ukraine: look at all those guys who came to power in Georgia by means of a coup in 2003. Quite a few of them are in prison today for the crimes they committed against the people of Georgia.
Por, Yats and Turch and a few others today are using military aviation to bomb civilians in the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. This is a war crime, similar to the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by the German nazis in 1937, for example. Just look at this guy Ugulava and his friends: they never came even close to committing such heinous war crimes like the ones that the Kiew junta is comming today. And they also thought that "the US will help" them in the case if...
But no, no one helped the criminals and Por, Yats and Turch will end the same way as Ugulava and his friends.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 08, 2014 18:27
By the way, guys, Israel appears to be preparing another war in Gaza. Kind of reminds me 1956: back then the UK and France sent troops to the Suez Channel for a few days, and the Soviet Union used the uproar created by this military action in order to send its own troops to Hungary to put things in order there. So, let's see how Russia will use the uproar that will be created by the Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2014...
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 09, 2014 05:20
And in Afghanistan - after 13 (!!!) years of the Beavuses "installing democracy" there - the country is again (what a surprise!) about to fall apart and the war is about to continue.
And once again: so what are the results of the US bombing of children and women in this country with US drones? What are the results of US soldiers urinating on corpses of civilians murdered by these soldiers? Really, the Beavuses are such a nation of inept, mediocre and incompetent f...-ups and nothing else.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 10, 2014 17:32
And in the meantime, life in Ukraine is becomming ever better: according to Ukrainian media, the Naftogas started today (Thursday) to turn off natural gas supplies to the companies that provide the populations of Kiew and Kharkiw with hot water and heating (because they - what a surprise! - have no money to pay for the gas).
And it's happening already now - in July. Just wait until the month of Novermber - when Ukraine will have run out of the gas it has stolen from Russia previously - and when Gasprom discuntinues its gas supplies through the pipeline that goes through Ukraine.
This coming winter is going to be a cold one, guys, I am telling you...
Source on the discontinuation of natural gas supplies:
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los ASngeles
July 22, 2014 05:42
Can anybody reply to this gloating big mouth of Nazi Russia?
He was and is a part of 1954 pact of Russian Varag-Prussak
"Union of Russian People" with Brits and Bechtel, resurrect
colonial empires.
He lie about non-Russian nations and bringing to them suffering and death.
He lied about me on RFE, writing anti-American anD threats,
than replied that it was I that wrote it in his name, when I was
saving my mother from last number of infections and poisoning
by Russian spies.
Other Russian spies, in USA hospitals, threatened murder my mother, as they did, because Eugenio presented me on internet as "Red", as was insisting a big skinhead Russian Levite "morda" from Russia, protégé of Brits in CIA, showing
his boss forged by Eugenio posts, as did staffed by Russians
CIA in my apartment building.
All of that just because I helped to stop Russia to conquer
and genocide whole Georgia in 2008
(for which I was shot by a modified Bulgarian "boll", that spring back to floor, my leg was swelled and it took three days to wash it out with antibiotics, my leg is still black - it was executed by team of Belorussia and symbolic Ossetia girl with two young Ossetia men, slaves of Russian vivisection with "lepard" shaped noses).
It is who Eugenio is!
One of those that since end of WW2 were murdering non-Russian children and youngsters, about 2-3 millions, one in each 7-th grave in Jewish Cemeteries, one in each 10-th Georgian grave, one in each 12-th grave of other nations.
And now this guy systematically gloat, justify and prepare
genocides and vanishing non-Russian nations all over post
Soviet and East European space!
It is your Russian "Pleshivyiy Stervyatnik", Eugenio, Monarchist and Bolshevik, with their Embassies, that brought
Hitler to power, sold him Messershmidts, bombed Guernica,
Poland, USSR and forged "Cristal Night" both in Germany and
USSR, disarmed Soviet armies, refused fight in 1941, betrayed and destroyed non-Russian military units that stopped Germans in 1941 with help of Germans, like Ukrainian and Polish armies at Donetc, Leselidze Division in "Malaya Zemlya" and so on...
It is non-Russian nations that saved the World, including Ukrainians that being disarmed by Russians hold 2/3 of invading Germans for several month, brought their best USSR industries East and von the war!
Georgia and Ukraine invaded by genocide-"Stervyatnik",
not unlike you and your partners they trying save population and merciful even to invaders, which are bestial like "Bess"!

by: Mamuka
July 09, 2014 14:43
United National Movement is still figuring out how to be an opposition party and the ruling party (Georgian Dream) is still figuring out how to allow an opposition.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.