|Georgian Local Vote Shows Progress, Shortcomings|
|May 31, 2010|
By Helena Bedwell
May 31 (Bloomberg) -- Georgia’s municipal elections yesterday revealed progress in the former Soviet republic’s fledgling democracy though irregularities were reported, said election observers including the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation.
“Considerable progress in respect of democracy, rule of law and local self government” was exhibited in polling, said Guenter Krug, the vice president of the Chamber of Regions of the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, at a press conference today in Tblisi, the nation’s capital.
In the main contest, Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava, an ally of President Mikheil Saakashvili, received 54.6 percent of the vote in defeating opposition leader Irakli Alasania, according to preliminary results. More than 980,000 people were registered to vote in the capital. Alasania has accepted the defeat.
Since sweeping to power in the Rose Revolution in 2003, Saakashvili has faced opposition from former allies, who have blamed him for Georgia’s five-day war with Russia in 2008 and called for his resignation. The National Council, an opposition umbrella group, vowed to contest the election results.
The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights said on its website, that “The election administration organized these elections in a transparent, inclusive and professional manner, but with systemic irregularities.”
Krug also pointed out the lack of female candidates, incidents at local polling stations and expressed concern whether media ownership in Georgia ensured objective reporting of the elections.
“Much can change and much will depend on other factors, like the economy, the continued poisonous relations with Russia, and how the constitutional reforms will develop, since President Saakashvili’s term is limited,” said Lawrence Sheets, a senior analyst and Caucasus program director with International Crisis Group.
“I wish the winner the success and delivering the promises made, while I am continuing my fight” Alasania told reporters in Tbilisi today.
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