Georgian Dream has lost an appeal against the victory of an ex-member in Tianeti’s mayoral race. Tamaz Mechiauri has been declared the victor by Tbilisi Court of Appeals who upheld a judgement from a lower court to overrule the Tianeti District Commission’s approval of 5 annulled ballots in favor of Georgian Dream’s candidate.
The Initial count by Tianeti District Commission gave Mechiauri a lead of a single vote over Georgian Dream’s Lela Kitesashvili. The commission then approved 5 annulled ballots in favor of Kitesashvili, which the courts ruled against.
Mechiauri may now be the only mayor in Georgia not from the ruling party. Georgian Dream won mayoral races in 57 of 64 cities and municipalities outright on 21 October. The party’s candidates also came first in the remaining five municipalities and the city of Kutaisi, but these will go to a runoff as they failed to garner over 50% of the vote.
The appeal against Mechiauri’s victory was brought by four plaintiffs: the 19th electoral District of Tianeti, Georgian Dream, non-governmental group the International Centre for Democratic Initiatives (ICDI), and Kitesashvili.
The election in Tianeti has been embroiled in scandal. On 24 October Mechiauri reported that the car of a group observing the election process was set on fire after leaving his office. An investigation is ongoing.
After the District Commission awarded victory to Kitesashvili, Mechiauri accused Georgian Dream MP Zakaria Kutsnashvili of falsifying election results in Tianeti.
The feud brought into question how Mechiauri was chosen by Georgian Dream as an MP, with Kutsnashvili claiming he helped get Mechiauri selected, because they are relatives.
After entering Parliament, Mechiauri’s behaviour brought shame to the party, Kutsnashvili says.
‘All of his statements were shameful. I’m sorry, but I shouldn’t have made this mistake. All he does now is scorn us in Tianeti’, said Kutsnashvili.
Mechiauri, who used to head parliament’s Budget and Finance Committee, left Georgian Dream in mid 2016 after making controversial statements about Georgia’s foreign policy.
While Georgian Dream openly declares a commitment to NATO and the EU, Mechiauri has expressed scepticism about this approach, with some accusing him of being ‘pro-Russian’ as a result.
After leaving Georgian Dream, Mechiauri created his own party, Tamaz Mechiauri for United Georgia, to pursue an independent political career.