On October 28, Georgian citizens will elect their fifth president for a six-year term, replacing incumbent President Giorgi Margvelashvili, who has been in office since October, 2013.
With the Election Day approaching, Civil.ge continues informing its readers on the upcoming polls. This time, we are offering you an elections guide, a brief compilation of election-related information on procedures, administration, candidates and presidential powers.
Key election rules and procedures
Some 3,600 polling stations across the country will open at 8 am and close at 8 pm on October 28. The voting process will be immediately followed by vote tabulation.
A candidate will be declared an outright winner if s/he garners more than half of all valid votes cast. The CEC has maximum 20 days after the Election Day to issue the final vote tally.
If no candidate garners more than half of the votes, a run-off between top two contenders will have to be held two weeks after the CEC announces final results of the first round.
There is a three-tiered structure of election administration – around 3,600 precinct commissions (PEC); 73 district commissions (DEC) and the Central Election Commission.
Commissions at each level consist of 12 members. Six members are appointed by political parties – three of whom are from the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia. The United National Movement, the European Georgia and the Alliance of Patriots have one member each.
The remaining commission members are certified election administrators, who are appointed by the Parliament or upper level commissions. Selection and appointment of CEC chair has a separate procedure; the incumbent, Tamar Zhvania, has been serving at the post since 2013.
There are 3,518,890 voters eligible to cast ballot in the October 28 elections, according to the Central Election Commission.
The most populous electoral district is Georgia’s second-largest city of Kutaisi with 156,051 voters, followed by Tbilisi’s Samgori and Gldani districts with 145,021 and 144,644 voters, respectively. Breakdown of voters by regions and districts is available here.
14,808 of all eligible voters are registered abroad. They will be served by 59 polling stations in 44 countries. Two additional polling stations will be opened in Afghanistan for Georgian troops stationed in the country.
New Presidential Powers
This will be the last time the head of state will be elected through direct ballot, completing the country’s transition from semi-presidential to parliamentary republic.
According to the new constitution, which will enter into force upon new president’s inauguration, the head of state will be elected by a 300-member Electoral College for a term of five years starting from 2024.
The new constitution will further reduce president’s executive powers, a process launched in the 2010 constitutional amendments and finalized in the 2017 constitutional changes. In the new constitution:
- President will remain the head of state, the commander-in-chief, and representative in foreign relations, but will no longer ensure “the functioning of state bodies within the scope of his/her powers granted by the Constitution;”
- President will lose the right “to request particular matters to be discussed at a Government sitting and participate in the discussion;”
- The National Security Council, which “organizes the military development and defense of the country,” and is led by the President under the current constitution, will no longer exist.
25 candidates are running in the October 28 presidential election. This is the largest number of candidates since Georgia held its first presidential election in 1991.
19 candidates were nominated by political parties, while the remaining six were named by the so-called initiative groups. Below is the list of candidates, together with their nominating electoral subjects and numbers on the ballot paper.
- Mikheil Antadze – State for the People (1)
- Davit Bakradze – European Georgia (2)
- Vakhtang Gabunia – Christian Democratic Movement (4)
- Grigol Vashadze – United National Movement (5)
- Shalva Natelashvili – Labor Party (10)
- Zviad Mekhatishvili – Christian‐Conservative Party (13)
- Giorgi Liluashvili – Sakartvelo (17)
- Akaki Asatiani – Traditionalists Party (18)
- Kakha Kukava – Free Georgia (21)
- Otar Meunargia – Industrialists Party (22)
- Irakli Giorgadze – Movement for Free Georgia (23)
- Davit Usupashvili – Free Democrats/Development Movement (25)
- Zviad Baghdavadze – New Georgia (27)
- Mikheil Saluashvili – Union for Restoration of Justice-Voice of the Nation: the Lord is Our Truth (28)
- Zviad Iashvili – National-Democratic Party (30)
- Tamar Tskhoragauli – Tavisupleba-Zviad Gamsakhurdia’s Way (31)
- Gela Khutsishvili – Political Movement of Armed Veterans and Patriots of Georgia (25)
- Zurab Japaridze – New Political Center-Girchi (36)
- Levan Chkheidze – New Christian-Democrats (40)
- Salome Zurabishvili – Independent/endorsed by the ruling party (48)
- Besarion Tediashvili – Independent (49)
- Giorgi Andriadze – Independent (51)
- Kakhaber Chichinadze – Independent (58)
- Vladimer Nonikashvili – Independent (62)
- Teimuraz Shashiashvili – Independent (65)
Davit Bakradze, 46, was nominated by the opposition European Georgia party, which split from the United National Movement in early 2017, following months of intra-party dispute. In his election campaign, Bakradze promises to be “an active” president, who will not be instructed by the government, but “who will be with the people, for the people and by the people.” As president, Bakradze promises to increase pensions by GEL 50, care for the socially vulnerable, expand presidential funding for study abroad programs and ensure legal employment for Georgian citizens living abroad. One of his priorities is also to “represent Georgia internationally in a due manner: to protect the country’s security, to de-occupy the country and to attract more investors for creating more jobs.” Bakradze was the Parliament Speaker in 2008-2012. This is the second time he is running for presidency; in 2013, he ran on UNM’s ticket and obtained 21.72% of votes.
Grigol Vashadze, 60, runs on behalf of the Strength in Unity movement, a newly-established political platform of eleven opposition parties led by ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement. In his election campaign, Vashadze promises to set early parliamentary elections and form a new coalition government. He also focuses on reduction of bureaucratic expenses and spending it on social needs, as well as increasing teachers’ salaries to GEL 1000. The candidate also takes a hard-line stance against the cannabis cultivation law, accusing the authorities of wanting to “grab” agricultural lands “by corrupt means” and turning Georgia, “the wine country,” into “a marijuana exporter.” Vashadze served as Georgia’s Foreign Minister in 2008-2012. In the 2017 municipal elections he ran for Kutaisi Mayor and garnered 27.04% of votes.
Shalva Natelashvili, 60, founder and leader of the Labor Party since 1995, is Georgia’s veteran opposition politician. In his election campaign, Natelashvili pledges to put an end to “the rule of oligarchs and drug dealers.” He also promises to be a president of the poor, and vows to abolish visa-free travel with Iran to curb their “demographic expansion.” The candidate also pledges to increase the presence of Georgian security personnel along the occupation line and to declare Sokhumi Georgia’s capital. Natelashvili ran in the presidential polls in 2013, and finished with 2.88% of votes.
Kakha Kukava, 42, presidential candidate of the Free Georgia is a long-standing opposition leader. He is backed by several small socially conservative opposition parties. Kukava criticizes both the GDDG and UNM leaders in his campaign, saying they “represent [two sides of] the same problem,” and calls for ending their “cohabitation.” The candidate capitalizes on the conservative sentiments, pledging to curb the immigration from Muslim countries. He also promises to increase social allowances for large families, to declare pawn shops illegal, and to work on “opening Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian markets” for Georgian alcoholic beverages. Kukava ran for Tbilisi Mayor in 2017 and obtained 1.25% of votes.
Davit Usupashvili, 50, leader of opposition the Development Movement runs on the Free Democrats ticket, a liberal political party and a former junior member of the Georgian Dream coalition. In his election campaign, Usupashvili criticizes both the authorities and the United National Movement, calling for ending the “Misha-Bidzina” confrontation. He insists “the Georgian Dream has to be changed, but the return of what was under the rule of the UNM is not acceptable.” Usupashvili led the Republican Party in 2005-2013. He was the Parliament Speaker in 2012-2016 as one of the leaders of the Georgian Dream coalition. In 2017, Usupashvili set up a new political movement and contested in the 2017 municipal elections, where he garnered 0.76% of nationwide votes.
Zurab Japaridze, 42, leads the New Political Center-Girchi (pine cone), a libertarian political party. The party was launched after Japaridze quit the UNM in 2015. In his election campaign, the candidate promises “to spend the next six years fighting for right policies and more freedom.” Girchi, which is trying to target young voters, is known for its witty, at times controversial, video clips, distributed through its social media platforms including in election campaign. Japaridze claims Girchi “is a party of people who never refrain from criticizing everyone, who criticize every center of political power, be it the Church, banks, the government and the opposition.” They also position as a pro-Western, socially liberal and fiscally conservative party, and stand in the forefront of a campaign for liberalisation of drug policy.
Salome Zurabishvili, 66, the country’s Foreign Minister in 2004-2005, is endorsed by the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party. As president, Zurabishvili promises to be a mediator between the state and the people, saying: “the new president has to be an idea-generator, rather than a veto-generator.” The candidate pledges to prioritize the issues of the disabled, elderly care and social housing. She also claims she will work for addressing the “growing” rates of gender violence, promote the return of emigrants and setting of temporary worker quotas for Georgian migrants. The candidate vows to protect “the Abkhaz language and identity, and the country’s territorial integrity.” At her campaign meetings, the candidate is accompanied by the ruling party leaders, with Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze and Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze emerging as her leading supporters. She tops the list of presidential candidates in terms of the amount of campaign donations. Zurabishvili’s campaign has been marred by public outcries over her controversial Russo-Georgian war-related remarks.