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Live updates: Georgians go to the polls

2 October 2021
An election poster for Georgian Dream's Kakha Kaladze alongside a poster for Aleko Elisashvili’s Citizen’s Party. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

Georgians go to the polls today for municipal elections that are seen as a key test for the ruling Georgian Dream party after nine years in power and a series of scandals.

Read more on the elections:

 

03 Oct 2021, 11:38

We are closing our live coverage of the 2021 local election in Georgia, you can read our write-up of the results here: Preliminary results give Georgian Dream victory in local elections.

Don’t forget, if you appreciate our coverage you can help support us to continue with our journalism.

03 Oct 2021, 07:59

First results in from the Central Electoral Commission

The first electoral results from Georgia’s local elections have started coming in. Below are the results countrywide and for major municipalities. 

National proportional vote with 38.63% of the precincts counted:

Georgian Dream - 48.56%

United National Movement - 31.23%

For Georgia (Giorgi Gakharia) - 6.87%

Lelo - 2.6%

 

Proportional vote in Tbilisi with 21% of the precincts counted: 

Georgian Dream - 40.64%

 United National Movement  29.38%, 

For Georgia  (Giorgi Gakharia) - 8.49% 

Lelo - 3.37%

 

Batumi Mayoral Race with 32% of the precincts counted: 

Giorgi Kirtadze (UNM) - 42.34%

Archil Chikovani (Georgian Dream) - 41.49%

Irakli Mikeladze (For Georgia) - 10.48%

 

Poti Mayoral Race with 54% of the precincts counted: 

Beqa Vacharadze (Georgian Dream) - 47.73%, 

Giorgi Ugulava (United National Movement) - 37.44%, 

Giorgi Abesadze (For Georgia)  14.83%.

 

Kutaisi Mayoral race with 41.13% of the precincts counted: 

Khatia Dekanoidze (United National Movement) - 43.75%

Ioseb Khakhaleishvili (Georgian Dream) - 41.86%

Giorgi Goguadze (For Georgia) - 8.05%

 

Tbilisi Mayoral race with 41.61% of the precincts counted:

Kakha Kaladze (Georgian Dream) - 45.5%

Nika Melia (UNM) - 34.13%

Giorgi Gakharia  8.97%

Ana Dolidze - 4.35%

Ana Bibilashvili (Lelo)  2.41%

 

Rustavi Mayoral race with 47.73% of the precincts counted:

Davit Kirkitadze (UNM) - 44.53% 

Nino Latsabidze (Georgian Dream) - 44.34%

Beka Liluashvili (For Georgia) - 6.63%

02 Oct 2021, 23:17

Final Formula/Edison exit poll 

Formula TV/Edison Research have released the final nationwide exit polls for as of 20:00.

  • Georgian Dream: 46%
  • United National Movement: 33%
  • For Georgia: 6%
  • European Georgia: 2%
  • Girchi — More Freedom: 2%
  • Lelo: 2%

02 Oct 2021, 23:10

Final Formula/Edison exit poll for Tbilisi Mayor

Formula TV/Edison Research have released the final exit polls for the Tbilisi Mayoral race as of 20:00.

  • Kakha Kaladze (Georgian Dream): 44%
  • Nika Melia (UNM): 40%
  • Girotgi Gakharia (For Georgia): 7%
  • Ana Dolidze (For the People): 5%
  • Kekenadze (Third Force — Strategy Aghmashnabeli): 1% 
  • Giorgi Lomia (Alliance of Patriots): 1%
  • Ana Bibilashvili (Lelo): 1%
  • Arinze Richard Ogbunuju: 1%

02 Oct 2021, 22:24

Final turnout: 52%

The Central Election Commission (CEC) has announced that final turnout was 52%. In 2017 local elections, final turnout was 46%, while the October 2020 parliamentary elections saw turnout of 56%.

CEC also said the elections were held in a peaceful environment and that 366 complaints had been filed, mainly procedural violations.

02 Oct 2021, 21:38

As we wait for the results…

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02 Oct 2021, 21:29

South Ossetia calls for extradition of Mikheil Saakashvili

Dmitry Medoyev, Foreign Minister of South Ossetia, has said that South Ossetia has a right to demand the extradition of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili for his ‘past crimes’. 

He added that Saakashvili would get a ‘fair trial’ and an appropriate sentence in South Ossetia.

 For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.

02 Oct 2021, 21:20

Georgian Dream leaders declare victory

‘Today, we have ended the polarisation in the country. We have ended the era of hate and lies’, said Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili at a Georgian Dream rally held after polls closed. ‘The era of calm, development, and stability should start tomorrow.’

‘Ten years ago, when Bidzina Ivanishvili founded Georgian Dream, nobody believed in the first victory’, said Georgian Dream Chair Irakli Kobakhidze. ‘But since then, we claimed eight consecutive victories, and great victories are still ahead.’

‘What our country needs most today is peace’, said Tbilisi Mayoral incumbent Kakha Kaladze. ‘This is peace and stability.’ 

Kaladze also promised ‘rapid’ economic development so that ‘each citizen of our country feels prosperous’. 

He also said there would be no new elections until 2024.

02 Oct 2021, 21:13

Opposition claim victory in Tbilisi

UNM chair and Tbilisi mayoral candidate Nika Melia has claimed victory in the capital. 

‘Georgian Dream have clearly lost the political centre — the capital and the city council will be staffed by opposition parties’, Melia said.

Other opposition leaders have also claimed that the government had lost Tbilisi.

Elene Khoshtaria of the Droa Movement said ‘the capital had its say, the coalition defeated Georgian Dream’. 

Mamuka Khazaradze, the leader of Lelo, also claimed that the opposition had won Tbilisi.

‘Georgian Dream was defeated in Tbilisi, which means that the opposition has achieved its goal with today's election, the opposition got snap elections, a fully-proportional parliamentary election. The changes are beginning in Tbilisi’, he said following the exit polls.

‘I am convinced that in a short time, we will receive similar information throughout the country’, he said.

02 Oct 2021, 20:57

Preliminary results will arrive at ‘around 04:00’

Preliminary results are not expected until around 04:00 according to the Central Election Commission.

02 Oct 2021, 20:35

Formula/Edison national exit poll gives Georgian Dream 46%

Formula/Edison Research have released exit polls for the popular vote, with 14,660 people interviewed as of 18:00 and a margin of error +/- 2%.

  • Georgian Dream: 46%
  • United National Movement: 33%
  • For Georgia (Giorgi Gakharia): 6%
  • European Georgia: 2%
  • Girchi — More Freedom: 2%
  • Lelo: 2%
  • Third power — Strategy Aghmashnabeli: 1%
  • For the People (Anna Dolidze): 1%
  • Girchi — New Political Centre: 1%
  • Labour party: 1%
  • Alliance of Patriots: 1%
  • Citizens: 1%

02 Oct 2021, 20:18

Formula/Edison exit polls

Formula has released exit polls for the mayoral race in Tbilisi. The preliminary results as of 18:00 are as follows.

  • Kakha Kaladze (Georgian Dream): 43%
  • Nika Melia (UNM): 39%
  • Giorgi Gakharia (For Georgia): 7%
  • Ana Dolidze (For the People): 4%
  • Ana Bibilashvili (Lelo): 2% 
  • Giorgi Lomia (Alliance of Patriots): 1%
  • Arinze Richard Ogbunuju: 1%

02 Oct 2021, 20:15

Mtavari/Ipsos exit polls

Mtavari has released exit poll results from Tbilisi with 2,500 polled as of 17:00, and a +-3% margin of error. 

  • Georgian Dream: 38.6%
  • United National Movement: 33%
  • For Georgia (Giorgi Gakharia): 7.6%
  • Girchi More Freedom: 4.8%
  • Lelo: 4%
  • For the People (Anna Dolidze): 2%
  • Girchi — New Political Centre: 1.6%
  • Citizens: 1.1%
  • European Georgia: 1%
  • Labour Party: 1%
  • Alliance of Patriots - 0.9%
  • Third Power — Strategy Agmashenebeli: 0.8%

Mayor of Tbilisi: 

  • Nika Melia (UNM): 40.8%
  • Kakha Kaladze (Georgian Dream): 40.2%
  • Giorgi Gakharia (For Georgia): 8.7%
  • Ana Dolidze (For the People: 3.5%
  • Ana Bibilashvili (Lelo): 2.6% 

02 Oct 2021, 20:08

Exit poll by Imedi/Gorbi

National popular vote as of 18:00:

  • Georgian Dream: 47%
  • United National Movement: 27%
  • For Georgia (Giorgi Gakharia): 6.8%
  • Lelo: 2.8%

Tbilisi Mayoral elections as of 18:00:

  • Kakha Kaladze (Georgian Dream): 51%
  • Nika Melia (UNM): 34%
  • Giorgi Gakharia (For Georgia):  5.6% 
  • Anna Dolidze (For the People): 3.1%

02 Oct 2021, 19:56

Turnout 41% as of 17:00

Turnout as of 17:00 was 41%, compared to 37% during the 2017 local elections.

02 Oct 2021, 19:51

Patriarch Ilia II votes

The Georgian Orthodox Church has reported that the Patriarch of Georgia 88-year-old Ilia II, has made his choice in today’s local election after a voting box was delivered to him. 

‘We treat today's elections with a lot of hope. I think that the problems that our country faces today will be resolved positively’, Ilia II said after voting in the Patriarchate’s premises. 

02 Oct 2021, 18:28

Labour party member reportedly stabbed in Marneuli

The Georgian Labour Party has reported that their activist in a village in the Marneuli Municipality has been stabbed. Unconfirmed reports identify the alleged culprit as a member of Georgian Dream.

The Georgian TV channel Formula confirmed the victim as Eivaz Mamedovi and the village of Dashtapa as the location of the incident.

02 Oct 2021, 17:23

With only a few hours of voting to go, party leaders make last pitch to voters

With several hours left until the polls close, political leaders have started calling on voters to cast their ballots, each insisting that they have a lead in the polls. 

Nika Melia, mayoral candidate and the Chair of the United National Movement (UNM), the country’s largest opposition party, urged supporters of any opposition group to go out and vote.

'The opposition is winning in the referendum and is winning convincingly, especially in Tbilisi [...] Now it's important to use the remaining hours [...] to make the voice of Georgian people even clearer so that Georgian Dream can't have any influence on the election outcome’, Melia said in an address.

At 17:00, three hours before the end of the voting process, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili tried to mobilise Georgian Dream voters and made frequent references to the UNM. 

‘The UNM wants a referendum and they got a referendum: this day has become a referendum on the UNM and Georgian voters will serve their political verdict to them’, the Prime Minister said.

02 Oct 2021, 17:08

The strangest moments from the campaign

From an election ad in blackface to a concert for the security services, the pre-election campaign has seen its fair share of bizarre moments. Read our list of the Seven strangest moments from the 2021 Georgian municipal election campaign.

02 Oct 2021, 16:45

Turnout 33.18% as of 15:00

The Central Election Commission (CEC) has reported a 33.18% turnout as of 15:00, confirming a trend of higher participation compared to the 2017 local elections (29.84%). 

According to the CEC, District Election Commissions have so far received 175 complaints, mostly on procedural violations. 

CEC speaker Natia Ioseliani also confirmed the reports about partially filled-in summary protocols identified by various observers at the polling precinct 124 in Kutaisi and vowed to address the issue. 

02 Oct 2021, 16:03

Zurab Girchi Japaridze crashes Georgian Dream preparations for post-election rally

Leader of the Girchi - More Freedom party Zurab Girchi Japaridze crashed the ongoing post-election rally preparations of the ruling party Georgian Dream. He also brought his guitar. 

Following the reports that Georgian Dream was already preparing the stage for an election victory celebration in downtown Tbilisi today, Japaridze arrived on location with guitar in hand and demanded that the organisers ‘include him in the line up’. 

02 Oct 2021, 15:40

Deputy Minister accused of vote-buying

Khatia Dekanoidze, a local mayoral candidate from United National Movement who is also supported by several other opposition groups, and election watchdog group Civil Election Commission have accused Deputy Infrastructure Minister Koba Gabunia of engaging in vote-buying in the city of Kutaisi. 

'This is a crime and shame that a deputy minister sits [near the polling stations] and distributes money' to voters, RFE/RL quoted Dekanoidze saying.

Civil Election Commission reported that Koba Gabunia gave out money to voters outside precinct 95 of the Kutaisi Municipality.

02 Oct 2021, 15:38

ISFED reports numerous violations

Summing up the situation by 15:00, Nino Dolidze from the International Society for Fair Elections And Democracy (ISFED), a Georgia-based election watchdog, reported four cases of their election observers facing restrictions in carrying out their work, specifically in precinct 90 in Zugdidi, polling station 38  in Rustavi, precinct 21 in Mtatsminda District of Tbilisi, and at polling station 14 in Marneuli. 

ISFED also reported seven cases of violation of ballot secrecy, four cases of illegal campaigning. and eight cases —  something Dolidze called a ‘trend’ —  of voters being included in special lists in which they have ballot boxes delivered to their home (meant for people with illness or disability) which they never requested, something that precluded them from casting their ballots at voting stations. 

ISFED, also recorded four possible cases of vote-buying near precinct 5 in the city of Zugdidi, precinct 30 in Khelvachauri, precinct 64 in Kobuleti, and precinct 75 in Tbilisi’s Vake District. 

Nino Dolidze identified a group reportedly called ‘Green Earth’ in Kobuleti that was possibly engaged in vote-buying.

02 Oct 2021, 14:52

Transparency International Georgia files 14 electoral violation complaints

Based on what they have observed at polls from 8:00 until 14:00, Transparency International Georgia (TI) reports that they have filed 14 complaints so far.

Among the alleged violations witnessed, the organisation noted several instances of so-called 'carousel' voting, with individuals voting more than once. TI also filed a complaint about a person who allegedly bribed three people. 

The anti-corruption watchdog also noted cases in which the work of election monitors was disrupted or in which they were subjected to pressure in two districts in Marneuli and in Telavi.

They also reportedly witnessed instances of ballot secrecy being violated, with one voter, for example, being escorted into a voting booth.  

02 Oct 2021, 14:25

Pollster.ge: Georgian dream polling at 37% of the vote 

In their final forecast on 30 September, David Sichinava and Rati Shubladze from Pollster.ge estimated that Georgian Dream would win around 37% in the elections, significantly below the 43% symbolic threshold that the ruling Georgian Dream party had agreed they would need to win in order to avoid new parliamentary elections. Georgian Dream later withdrew from the agreement.  

Image: pollster.ge.

Twenty-seven percent of the vote has been forecast for the UNM and 9% for the For Georgia party. All other parties polled below 5%.

Pollster.ge calculated a weighted average of all publicly available opinion polls in the run-up to the vote.

Image: pollster.ge.

22 Oct 2021, 23:19

Police called to 72nd district in Gldani

Netgazeti has reported an incident at the 72nd precinct in Tbilisi’s Gldani neighbourhood. An activist from the Droa party reportedly tried to file a complaint with the district election head but was prevented from doing so, until journalists arrived to cover the incident. The district head then called the police to report interference with the election process. According to Netgazeti, police then forced the journalists to leave the precinct. According to Droa, the complaint was regarding an unidentified person who handing 'some papers' to election commission members through an open window.

An identified man at the precinct window. Photo: Droa.

02 Oct 2021, 13:54

US Ambassador: ‘Washington is watching’

Speaking to journalists in Marneuli today, US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan said America was watching today’s vote closely.

‘Washington is following it very closely. I’ve been getting a lot of requests from them, from my colleagues in Washington, including at the State Department, at the White House, in Congress, they’re following this closely as well’, she said.

‘We’re concerned about the reports of pre-election intimidation and violations and abuses, harassment. What I’m pleased to see is that the party leaders are calling for calm today.’

‘We’ve had some reports of locals observers at various precincts around the country, who don’t seem to know which NGOs they’re working for or what their roles are, that’s a little concerning, but that could also just be a lack of training. So we’ll continue to follow during the day events all over Georgia. [It’s a] very important day. I’d just encourage the voters, please, wear your masks, but come out and vote’, she said.

Commenting on Saakashvili’s arrest last night, the Ambassador said that ‘talking about yesterday isn’t as important as talking about going forward.’

‘We want people to be focused on the election, on the issues. I think Georgia needs more political stability and not more polarisation. 

‘Mr. Saakashvili’s case will be a test of the Georgian judicial system, and we’ll be watching to see if the case is handled impartially and in accordance with Georgian law and Georgia’s international obligations.’

02 Oct 2021, 13:43

Giorgi Gakharia: Choice between the past and the future

Former Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, who now heads the For Georgia Party, said today's vote was a choice between the past and the future. 

‘This is not just a municipal election, this is an election of renewal and we all saw, especially for the past month, what it means and where single-party rule can take us’, Gakharia said.

‘So we should all understand that there are two political powers which feed off each other and drag the country to the past. Of course, with the right choice by us, we can take the country forward.’

‘This is an election of principals, this is an election between the past and future. I truly believe that today each citizen of Georgia feels how much the country needs refreshing and they will make the choice, a smart choice, a heartful choice, which will take the country forward.’

02 Oct 2021, 13:40

Turnout 17.7% as of 12:00

Georgia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) has reported a 17.7% turnout nationwide as of 12:00. 

In the previous local elections in 2017, turnout was 16.5% at the same time.

02 Oct 2021, 13:23

President Zurabishvili votes for ‘depolarisation’

‘Polarisation has no place in local elections. I voted for depolarisation’, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili stated after voting in Mtatsminda District, Tbilisi.

02 Oct 2021, 13:16

Kaladze voted for ‘calmness and stability’

Tbilisi’s incumbent Mayor, Kakha Kaladze, said he voted for the Georgian Dream. 

Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze showing his ID to enter the polling station. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

‘I voted for calmness, stability, peace, development of the city, for bringing more life to each district’, he told journalists after casting his ballot. 

‘Only one party can do all of this — this is Georgian Dream. Accordingly, I voted for Georgian Dream so that there will be peace and stability in the country.’

02 Oct 2021, 13:04

UNM member reportedly attacked near Marneuli 

The UNM has claimed that Jeihun Choidarovi, a local majoritarian candidate from Georgian Dream, attacked party member Ajimurad Muradovi outside the 48th polling precinct in the village of Kizilajlo, in Marneuli Municipality. They said Choidarovi has been hospitalised.

Georgian Dream members outside the polling station accused the UNM of a ‘provocation’ after the opposition group claimed the ruling party was attemptng to organise carousel voting, a form of election fraud.

02 Oct 2021, 12:48

TV Pirveli crew robbed of their equipment in Batumi 

TV Pirveli has reported that members of Georgian Dream snatched equipment used for live broadcasting and took it to their vehicle after the crew tried to find out what they were doing outside the 64th polling station in Batumi. 

Pirveli reporter Teona Dolenjashvili called the police to report the incident and to get the equipment back. 

A man in the same van also hit the camera of local outlet Batumelebi.

Media outlet Kvira reported a similar attack outside the 60th polling station in Batumi.

02 Oct 2021, 12:41

Abkhazian authorities restrict movement to Georgia-controlled territory

Georgia’s State Security Service (SSG) have reported the closure of movement on the Enguri bridge by the Abkhazian authorities today. 

According to the SSG, exceptions are being made for those seeking medical treatment. 

Regional media outlets Livepress and Radio Atinati have confirmed the closure.

02 Oct 2021, 12:08

ISFED: quarter of polling stations not ready by 08:00

According to Georgian election watchdog the International Society for Fair Elections And Democracy (ISFED), 24.3% of polling stations were not ready to open by 08:00 throughout the country. 

ISFED Chair Nino Dolidze called it a ‘signification deterioration’ compared to the 2017 local elections, when 99.3% of polls were ready to receive voters as polls opened.

ISFED also reported the mobilisation of party activists outside polling stations who they suspected were keeping track of voters.

02 Oct 2021, 12:00

Turnout 7.4% as of 10:00

The Election Administration has released preliminary turnout figures: as of 10:00, 7.4% of eligible voters had cast their ballots.

This is up from the previous municipal elections in 2017 when turnout at the same time was 6.7% but is lower than for last year’s parliamentary elections, when turnout stood at 8.3%.

CEC identified the Racha-Lechkhumi region as having the highest turnout, at 11.2%, while Kvemo Kartli Region was the lowest, with 6.1%.

CEC Spokesperson Natia Ioseliani confirmed that Parliamentary Speaker Kakha Kuchava wearing a face mask with a party symbol on it was a violation. 

02 Oct 2021, 11:47

Melia thanks the media and challenges Imedi

UNM chair Nika Melia, who is running for Mayor of Tbilisi, has cast his ballot in Mtatsminda District before thanking the media.

‘Thank you so much for existing, media, thank you so much for supporting the future of the country. I hope you have been able and will be able to participate in the elections during the day, as it is usually difficult and you are not often given the opportunity to express your will because of your profession, but we should all be able to do that today’, he said.

Nika Melia casting his ballot. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

Melia was challenged by a journalist from Imedi who asked ‘how could you say all of us here present should support Misha [Saakashvili] when Saakashvili raided Imedi?’, referring to the 2007 raid on Imedi when Saakashvili was in office.

Melia responded that the raid was ‘one of the biggest mistakes’ of the UNM when in power.

‘Look over there, where the [TV] operators are standing. Lashkarava should be there among them’, he said. ‘Fourteen years later, don't you journalists of Imedi have any questions regarding 20 July, 5 July?’, he asked.

Aleksandre Lashkarava died a week after being attacked by a mob during the riots in Tbilisi on 5 July, when police in Tbilisi failed to act to prevent the violence.

Melia also said that many Imedi journalists supported the opposition despite the channel’s pro-government editorial line.

‘I know a lot of your employees and the political mood among them is different than you seem to be expressing here now’, he said.

02 Oct 2021, 11:10

Formula reporter threatened with a taser

A man reportedly identifying himself as Davit Kiria has threatened Salome Chaduneli, a journalist from TV Formula, and other reporters working outside an 84th polling station in Zugdidi with a taser. 

The man dangled the taser activating it briefly after being challenged by journalists to clarify if he was near the polling place to pressure voters.

Recently amended electoral regulations ban people from congregating closer than 100 metres outside polling stations in an effort to crack down on voter intimidation.

02 Oct 2021, 11:00

Saakashvili urges Georgians to vote from prison

In a written appeal from Rustavi Prison delivered via his lawyer, the third Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili called on Georgians to show up at polling stations and vote so that ‘no vote is lost’. 

‘Let’s all together defend the results of the referendum after that’. 

Most opposition groups have labelled today’s local elections a ‘referendum’ on whether Georgian Dream should call an early parliamentary vote in 2022, despite the ruling having already reneged on their promise to do so.

02 Oct 2021, 10:43

Speaker Kuchava votes with party symbol

The Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, Kakha Kuchava, voted in Tbilisi this morning wearing a protective mask with the Georgian Dream party logo and the party electoral number, 41, written on it. 

This could amount to campaigning during the election day, which is prohibited under Georgia’s Electoral Code. 

02 Oct 2021, 10:17

Bidzina Ivanishvili casts his vote

Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder of the ruling Georgian Dream party, has cast his vote in Mtatsminda, Tbilisi. 

He left the area surrounded by a heavy security detail without giving comments to the media. 

After retiring politics in January, Ivanishvili has kept silent, breaking it only once to condemn Giorgi Gakharia’s resignation as prime minister and his creating a new party.

02 Oct 2021, 10:16

All eyes on Tbilisi

The most significant individual race today will be in Tbilisi, where incumbent mayor Kakha Kaladze will hope to avoid a rerun as he faces off against UNM chair Nika Melia and former Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia.

Read more about the candidates vying for they mayorship in the capital: Who's who in the Tbilisi Mayoral election.

02 Oct 2021, 09:43

Saakashvili throws a spanner in the works

Today’s vote has been somewhat overshadowed by the dramatic return from exile and subsequent arrest of former President Mikheil Saakashvili last night. Saakashvili has been convicted in absentia on several counts of abuse of power in Georgia.

A smiling and handcuffed Saakashvili being escorted by police on 1 October.

After multiple broken promises to return since leaving the country in 2013, Saakashvili announced on 27 September that he would arrive on election day, even posting a photo of an airline ticket for that day. 

But the former Georgian President caught the country off guard on Friday after publishing a video allegedly shot in the western city of Batumi and claiming to have already arrived in Georgia.

Following his arrest, Saakashvili told the Public Defender he would go on hunger strike and insisted he was a political prisoner.

And there were more revelations throughout the night. At one point, a 30-year-old Ukrainian MP, Yelyzaveta Yasko, published a video on Facebook with Saakashvili purportedly recorded before his departure in which they announce they are starting a family together. Saakashvili is married and has two children with Sandra Roelofs.

Read more: Saakashvili arrested in Georgia on eve of election.

02 Oct 2021, 09:27

Khoshtaria casts her ballot

Elene Khoshtaria, who leads the newly formed Droa Party, has cast her ballot in Tbilisi’s Vake District. Khoshtaria was elected an MP last October for the European Georgia Party before renouncing her seat in protest over the conduct of the election.

During this election, Khoshtaria will be on the ballots to represent Gldani District on the Tbilisi City Assembly (sakrebulo).

After casting her vote, Khoshtaria called for people to come out and vote while playing up the idea of a future coalition government.

‘We have the opportunity and our citizens have the opportunity to make a choice in favour of a diverse opposition, in favour of a coalition. Maybe someone doesn't like me, doesn't like some other candidate — they have the choice to find a team of their own taste from the opposition, and then, according to their decision, we will have to form a coalition as decided by our voters.’

Khoshtaria said the elections would determine if the ruling party would ‘have the audacity to directly congratulate us on Bidzina Day’. Photo: Maraiam Nikuradze/OC Media.

With no opposition party polling high enough to challenge the ruling party alone, a possible coalition government has increasingly become a talking point among many in the opposition.

02 Oct 2021, 08:00

Polls open

Polling stations have opened for today’s municipal elections. Around 3.5 million Georgian’s will be eligible to vote to elect members of local councils and mayors of 64 municipalities.

The ruling party will be hoping to garner at least over 43% of proportional votes after earlier in April they committed to calling early parliamentary elections if they failed to pass this symbolic threshold.

Despite Georgian Dream’s change of heart on that promise, most opposition groups have claimed it is still an important threshold that could delegitimise the ruling party’s refusal to call the early election next year. 

The rejection of the April agreement by Georgian Dream is one of the several controversies that have sent Georgia’s relationships with the West to their lowest point in years, and has seen their domestic support slipping in opinion polls.

You can read more about the campaign and why these elections matter in Shota Kincha’s pre-election rundown: Georgians to cast their ballots in crucial test for ruling party.

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