The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has generally given high marks to the October 21 municipal elections in Georgia.
The OSCE said on October 22 that "candidates were able to campaign freely" and that "fundamental freedoms were generally respected" in the election, seen by many as a key test for the ruling Georgian Dream coalition ahead of next year's presidential vote in the Caucasus country.
It added, however, that there were "some irregularities and difficulties in completing results protocols."
Final preliminary results indicate that Georgian Dream candidates were elected mayors of Tbilisi, Batumi, Poti, and Rustavi in the first round, negating the need for runoffs in those contests.
In the capital, Tbilisi, former AC Milan soccer player Kakha Kaladze received 51.1 percent of the vote, the Central Election Commission said on October 23, followed by independent Aleko Elisashvilithe with 17.48 percent and the United National Movement's Zaal Udumashvili with 16.57 percent.
Georgian Dream candidates also gathered more than 50 percent in Batumi, Poti, and Rustavi.
In Kutaisi, Georgia's second-largest city, the coalition's candidate, Giorgi Chigvaria, led with 48.75 percent, indicating that a runoff will be necessary.
The election commission said nearly 1.6 million people voted, representing a turnout of 45.64 percent in contests for 58 municipal and district heads, and mayors in Tbilisi, Batumi, Kutaisi, Poti, and Rustavi. Voters also chose 2,058 members for 64 local councils.
The OSCE, in its statement, said the country's media, although partisan, were "increasingly free and active" and helped foster "greater political debate."
"We have observed an election process where contestants had the opportunity to campaign freely, and in which fundamental freedoms of assembly and expression were generally respected," the OSCE's Corien Jonker said.
The OSCE said the Central Election Commission and other election commissions "worked in a timely, efficient, and professional manner."
It did say, however, that "there were a few violent incidents. Along with the cases of pressure on voters, cases of the misuse of state resources were also reported."
It added that there were "instances of hate speech, threats, and tensions" directed toward some of the 1,200 national minority and women candidates.
With reporting by Koba Liklikadze, Civil.ge and Agenda.de