Georgia’s Ruling Party Wins Parliament Election, Results Show

  • Georgian Dream 49.3%, UNM 26.5% with regional runoff likely
  • Monitors declare ‘positive election’ amid isolated incidents

Georgian Dream won parliamentary elections, retaining power by edging the party of former President Mikheil Saakashvili, according to preliminary results from the Central Elections Commission.

The party received 49.3 percent of the vote in the Black Sea country with 26.5 percent for United National Movement, according to the commission website. The Alliance of Patriots of Georgia party exceeded the 5 percent threshold to qualify for seats. For districts where no candidate won a majority in the Saturday vote, a runoff is likely in two weeks. The commission had counted 82.6 percent of ballots by Sunday afternoon.

Giorgi Kvirikashvili hugs Bidzina Ivanishvili during a rally in Tbilisi on Oct. 8.

Photographer: Sergei Grits/AP

“Strongly competitive and well-run, yesterday’s elections offered an opportunity for voters to make informed choices about their options in a pluralistic but polarized media environment,” said Ignacio Sanchez Amor, special coordinator and leader of an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observer mission. “The unacceptable isolated incidents of violence we’ve seen had an impact but, thankfully, did not undermine an otherwise positive election.”

The OSCE mission will remain in Georgia to monitor the run-off. The group said that while the nation’s media is pluralistic, individual outlets are perceived as polarized and some broadcasters weren’t balanced in coverage of news and current affairs.

Rose Revolution

Georgian Dream swept to power in 2012, six months after being formed by reclusive billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, ending the UNM rule that began in the 2003 Rose Revolution. In the past year, the government struggled to contain a currency crisis, which kept voters focused on the economy that reeled from the impact of the Ukrainian conflict and Russia’s slide into recession.

Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, who took office less than 10 months ago, is promising to accelerate growth in the next decade.

“I am sure victory is on our side and the official results will be on our side, we promise the development,” Kvirikashvili told reporters after the polls closed and his party gathered to celebrate late Saturday.

Amid persistent tensions with Russia after a 2008 war, both Georgian Dream and the UNM back membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union for the former Soviet republic of 4.5 million people. An agreement late last year giving Georgians visa-free travel to the EU has repeatedly stalled.

Three Leaders

Georgian Dream won 85 of parliament’s 150 seats in a bloc with five other parties in 2012. Ivanishvili was prime minister for a year before handing over to Irakli Garibashvili, then Europe’s youngest premier at age 31. Garibashvili resigned in December as the government sought to shake off unpopularity over the economy.

Georgia’s lari fell to record-low 2.5 to the dollar in February after declining 21 percent in 2015. While it’s recovered since, pre-election tensions are adding to volatility that’s prompted the central bank to intervene in the past month to help stabilize the currency.

Kvirikashvili, a former economy minister, bet on his business-friendly reputation to sway voters. He’s forecast economic growth averaging 7 percent to 8 percent a year to 2026, more than double the present rate, as infrastructure improvements particularly in transport and tourism draw in foreign investment.

Georgia reached a free-trade agreement with China last month. Work also began on a new $2.5 billion seaport on the Black Sea coast at Anaklia that Kvirikashvili has said could become “one of the world’s great trading hubs” along the historic “Silk Road” linking Europe and China.

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