Georgia’s opposition present 'evidence' election was rigged

Georgia's opposition have presented what they claim is evidence that the presidential election was rigged, saying they will go to court to appeal the results. EU observers insist the vote was democratic. Preliminary results suggest Mikhail Saakashvili has

 In the days following Georgia's presidential election, events overtook information. Mikhail Saakashvili made a victory speech before any official results were announced. The opposition is sending a delegation to the country's Election Commission to discuss what they say are irregularities.

Most notable among them are claims that the number of ballots received by the Central Election Commission does not match the numbers from various polling stations.  The number of voting papers cast at polling stations was earlier published on the internet by the Commission.

Speaking to journalists, opposition members said preliminary results posted on the CEC’s website did not reflect the number of votes cast.

The percentage they have, says David Bardavelidze, opposition representative and CEC member, “is mostly fake and they have no right to make it public”.

“The numbers are totally different. They just make up the vote rates,” he said.

The Election Commission says it has an explanation as to why the numbers could be different. So if the opposition is satisfied with it, they will call the rallies off.

Mikhail Saakashvili speaking on TV
Mikhail Saakashvili speaking on TV

Saakashvili has been endorsed by most of the international observers and received congratulations on his victory from the US and EU. However, some counties – notably Britain – have issued warnings that the level of campaigning has to be watched, with Parliamentary elections coming up.

More than 50%

Nobody is contesting the results as such. And Saakashvili made a speech on Monday saying that these elections were the most competitive in Georgian history. He also congratulated himself on the emergence of a civil society in the country.
 
With more than 90% of the ballots counted, Saakashvili has around 52% of the votes. The counting continues, but Saakashvili’s share of the vote is unlikely to drop total below 50%, the point at which a run-off would be required.   

His closest rival, United Opposition candidate, Levan Gachechiladze, trails a long way behind at 25%.

However, Mikhail Saakashvili argues his main opponent has nothing to complain about.

“For an opposition candidate to get around 30 % is very unusual in this part of the world. And again, is it a failure? No, it’s a big achievement of Georgian democracy. That means that we are a democracy,”  he said. 

Some serious shortcomings: monitors

As thousands of Saakashvili's supporters celebrated, his main rival Levan Gachechiladze said the party was premature.

“According to our information today we have won in almost every part of the country. I was planning my first statement today in the Georgian media to address our voters, but I was blocked by these three governmental channels, which means that the media terror has started against us,” claimed United Georgia’s opposition candidate, Levan Gachechiladze.

Gachechiladze's supporters are threatening to hold further rallies in the capital Tbilisi on Tuesday.

Opposition rally on Tbilisi's central square
Opposition rally on Tbilisi's central square

With more than ten thousand people gathered to celebrate his performance, Gachechiladze believes that the election victory is being snatched away from them.

Throughout the campaign, the opposition claimed Mikhail Saaskashvili would try to rig the election. Their doubts increased during the long wait between the end of the vote and the announcement of the results.

Opposition CEC member David Bardavelidze said all the news about Saakashvili’s victory in the election are “absolute disinformation”. 

“Society is being gradually prepared for the idea that Saakashvili is the winner. But no single Central Election Commission worker has such information. Our preliminary data is quite different,” he added.

The OSCE election monitors highlighted some serious shortcomings with the election, but said the result generally reflected the will of the Georgian people.

European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, urged a full investigation into alleged violations, though did say the vote was “truly competitive”.

This contrasts with the view of Russia's Foreign Ministry, which says the campaign was marred by numerous violations.

Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission reports that, according to election observers, results from 40 polling stations should be annulled due to gross violations.

Christmas truce

Levan Gachechiladze at Christmas service
Levan Gachechiladze at Christmas service

The Orthodox Christmas in Georgia has drawn some of the heat from what had the potential to be a combustible political process. Although there have been some demonstrations on Sunday, on Monday many people have preferred to stay home and celebrate with their families.

Mikhail Saakashvili and Levan Gachechiladze joined thousands for the Christmas service at the country’s main cathedral.

Not all were able to make it inside, but those subjected to the uncommonly low temperatures still retained their optimism.

Christmas has given Georgia some respite from the active election battles, but even right now, in this city momentous political events are taking place and plans for the future of the country are being drawn up.