Electoral polling stations for local government elections opened on Saturday in Georgia. Over 3,600 polling stations opened at 8am on October 21 across the country for municipal elections. Voters will be electing 2,058 members of 64 city councils (Sakrebulo) and 64 municipal mayors, Civil Georgia reports.
There are 3,440,123 voters eligible to cast ballot in the polls. A total of 9 546 450 ballot papers have been printed for them. Each voter will receive three ballot papers at the polling station: one is intended for party-list polls for Sakrebulo; second – for majoritarian Sakrebulo members, and third – for electing the city and municipality mayors.
22 political parties, 5 election blocs and 201 initiative groups are running in the elections.
369 mayoral candidates have undergone registration for the polls with 13 candidates registered in Tbilisi, home to roughly one-third of the total voter population. The number of registered majoritarian candidates across the country is 4,727 and Sakrebulo candidates through party lists – 12,902.
CEC has registered 20,641 observers from Georgian election monitoring groups and 581 international observers. 4,820 registered journalists will be covering the electoral processes. CEC said it would launch vote tabulation at 8pm, after polling stations are closed, and final vote tallies would be uploaded to a special website.
According to Civil Georgia, after casting ballot at one of Tbilisi’s polling station on Saturday morning, President Giorgi Margvelashvili said he has voted for three different electoral subjects.
“I want to call on the voters to be very active,” he told journalists outside the polling station. “The fate of a lot of issues will be decided today: most importantly, the municipal elections should address our everyday problems and needs. At these elections, we are making a choice for better self-government, a more engaged self-government, where people will have a much bigger say,” he added.
Responding to the journalist’s question on his specific choice, President Margvelashvili said he was given three different ballot papers and that he “marked three different subjects in the ballots.”
PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili, who chairs the ruling Georgian Dream - Democratic Georgia party, also cast his ballot on Saturday morning in Tbilisi. He told journalists at the polling station that he voted for “even better Tbilisi.” “I gave my vote to Tbilisi, where everyone is happy to live, where urban transport is better organized, which has green spaces so that our citizens breathe freely, where the education system is developed, where there is high economic growth, and where entrepreneurs are happy to start their businesses.”
As the head of the Institute for Strategy Management, Petre Mamradze, told to Vestnik Kavkaza there are no practical doubts that the candidates of the Georgian Dream will win both in Tbilisi and in the regions - and the point here is not that the ruling coalition essentially has improved its work over the past years, but because it has concentrated all possible administrative resources in its hands to promote its candidates to the key posts. Tbilisi with the probability close to 100% will be headed by the ex-head of the Ministry of Energy, Kakha Kaladze.
The head of the Center for Global Studies, Nana Devdariani, also drew attention to the significant resources of Kakha Kaladze as a candidate for mayor of Tbilisi. "Of course, nothing can be said with absolute certainty about the elections, but Kaladze's chances are certainly high - he is not a poor person." The last parliamentary elections in Georgia showed how much money the government spends on promoting its candidates, and one can expect the same at the municipal elections. In addition to money, Kaladze also has the huge administrative resources, the benefit of which one can not ignore, "she said.
A member of the ‘Expert Club of Georgia’ Vakhtang Maisaya also stressed that the elections are unlikely to cause serious interest on the part of the Georgian population. "This will be a kind of preparatory stage for more important elections, for example, next year in Georgia presidential elections will be held, and in three years - parliamentary elections," the expert said. At the same time he expressed doubt that the Georgian municipal elections would change anything in the political life of Georgia. "In general, the situation will be unchanged, but in some cases there may be surprises, especially in Tbilisi with former Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze. He has many influential rivals, primarily independent candidate Aleko Elisashvili, " the member of the ‘Expert Club of Georgia’ concluded.
A political scientist and the president of the Club of Independent Experts, Josef Tsiskarishvili, said that the current elections will be very interesting and even unpredictable for citizens. "A lot of observers arrived for the current elections. The pre-election campaign was active, so even our citizens, who were not interested earlier, have started to pay more attention to the elections," the political scientist said.
The expert recalled that the local elections in 2014 were accompanied by serious pressure from the Georgian Dream, which was not very experienced back then. "Now the Prime Minister says practically same things, but it is already clear that it will not be so easy for them to achieve almost a hundred percent result," Tsiskarishvili warned.
Political analyst Giorgi Nodiya, in turn, said that the only intrigue concerns the election of Tbilisi mayor, where the second round is quite possible. "The majority believes that the candidate of the ruling party, Kakha Kaladze, has an advantage, but that does not mean that he will win in the first round," the expert explained.
In his opinion, the turnout will not be high. "On the one hand, people are not very inspired by the Georgian Dream. On the other hand, they are not so angry at the government to come and vote against it," the political scientist said. Accordingly, the election is unlikely to change the situation in the country, the expert believes. "The only option is if Kaladze loses the elections in the second round," Nodia concluded.