Georgian opposition accuses electoral fraud
TBILISSI: Georgian opposition parties on Sunday shouted scandal over the municipal elections held after the arrest of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili on his return from exile, exacerbating a protracted political crisis in the Caucasus nation.
With 85 percent of constituencies counted, the ruling Georgian Dream party garnered nearly 48 percent of the vote in Saturday’s election, compared to 52 percent for all opposition parties, according to official results.
As part of an inter-party deal brokered by the EU in May, the ruling party pledged to hold early parliamentary elections if it wins less than 43% of the vote on Saturday.
Georgian Dream said in a statement that the closely watched elections “were conducted to the highest democratic standards.”
But opposition parties said on Sunday that widespread irregularities had undermined the credibility of the elections, which took place in a tense atmosphere after the arrest of Saakashvili, the main opposition leader and former president of the country.
“The election results were falsified. We have witnessed voter intimidation and corruption before the elections, multiple votes on election day, “Giori Baramidze, a leader of the United National Movement of Saakashvili, the main opposition force, told AFP. from the country.
“The credibility of the elections has already been undermined by the fact that the leader of the opposition was first forced into exile and then arrested,” he said, referring to Saakashvili.
“We will use all legal means to reverse the forgery.”
Badri Japaridze, leader of the opposition Lelo party, said: “The elections were marred by intimidation and large-scale voter corruption, seriously affecting election results.
Saakashvili, 53, returned secretly to Georgia on Friday after leaving Ukraine – where he heads a government reform agency – ahead of the elections and was quickly arrested for abuse of power.
The flamboyant pro-Western reformer and president in 2004-2013, denied any wrongdoing, denounced a six-year prison term as politically motivated and went on a hunger strike.
His imprisonment exacerbated the political crisis that ravaged Georgia last October when opposition parties denounced the parliamentary elections as rigged, refused to take their seats in the newly elected legislature and staged mass protests to demand polls. anticipated. –AFP