Ruling party holds lead in Georgian elections

The ruling United National Movement is winning the municipal election in Georgia, with 60% of vote, according to exit polls done by the U.S. Edison Research.

Voters in 73 polling districts of Georgia have cast ballots to choose the members of local legislative bodies on Sunday. The capital of Georgia, Tbilisi, has elected the new mayor of the city.

Fourteen political parties and three electoral blocs were running in the election. Members of Sakrebulo – legislative assemblies in Georgia – have been chosen using two systems: the majority vote and the proportional vote. According to the Central Electoral Commission, over 3.5 million voters were registered to cast a ballot.

The election was initially scheduled for autumn 2010. However, as a result of numerous opposition rallies with demands for Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili’s resignation, the head of the country had to call an early election.

A number of changes have been made to the country’s Constitution and electoral legislature to ensure a fair vote.

This is the first time the mayor of Tbilisi has been elected through a direct vote. Before the mayor was elected by the deputies of the local council from its members, which is the practice across Georgia. Nine candidates were registered to run for the post, among them the current mayor of Tbilisi, alongside eight representatives from different opposition parties.

Sunday’s election was viewed as a rigorous test for the country’s opposition parties. They say they are ready to take to the streets if the election is rigged and warn the government against any falsification.
A number of opposition parties, among them Democratic Movement–United Georgia headed by the ex-speaker of parliament, Nino Burdzhanadze, have boycotted the election, claiming it will not change the overall political situation in the country. The opposition is instead calling for a peaceful struggle with the intention of forcing an early presidential election and a change of power at all levels. Currently the parliamentary vote is scheduled for 2012, and a presidential election is to be held in 2013.

Approximately 10,000 local inspectors along with 1,500 international watchdogs were monitoring the election.