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Georgia’s 2021 Elections Live Blog: GD Calls UNM a Radical Anti-Church Group

Georgia is heading to polls on October 2 to elect local self-government bodies for a four-year term. Recent surveys show public mood is somber ahead of the election and that ruling Georgian Dream, its arch-rival UNM and ex-PM Gakharia’s For Georgia parties enjoying the highest popular support. Much of the opposition frames the election as a “referendum” over holding snap parliamentary elections in 2022, as the EU-brokered April 19 agreement envisages snap polls the next year if GD fails to garner 43% of votes on October 2. The GD abandoned the deal in July, citing UNM’s refusal to join it, and now rules out holding any snap elections, while UNM signed the accord on September 2, after it perceived the GD’s rejection of EU loan as open rejection of pro-western foreign policy. 

Friday, October 22

16:00 UTC+4 — GD Calls UNM a Radical Anti-Church Group

Georgian Dream aired another video collage on its Facebook page captioned “Being a Natsi [a derogatory term for United National Movement] is shameful.” Calling the UNM a “radical anti-Church group,” the video narrator stressed: “Let us end Natsis, Let us finish Bolshevism!”

Video contains footage of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili and Poti mayoral hopeful Gigi Ugulava, as well as media personalities. Clips included footage of Giorgi Gabunia and Nika Gvaramia of Mtavari Arkhi and Misha Mshvildadze of Formula, both government-critical TV networks.

15:30 UTC+4 — Opposition Coalitions Kicks Off Tbilisi Campaign Meetings

Tbilisi mayoral hopeful Nika Melia of the United National Movement, accompanied by deputy mayoral hopefuls of his shadow cabinet – Mamuka Khazaradze of Lelo, Zurab Japaridze of Girchi – More Freedom, Elene Khoshtaria of Droa, and Irakli Abesadze – kicked off campaign meetings in Tbilisi. Melia said the coalition will hold impromptu meetings with the Tbilisi electorate ahead of the runoffs. “We do not plan to defeat Georgian Dream, we plan to win,” said Melia. 

Thursday, October 21

13:51 UTC+4 — Kaladze Says Melia’s Shadow Cabinet ‘Ridiculous’

Incumbent Tbilisi Mayor, running for reelection, Kakha Kaladze of the Georgian Dream party called mayoral hopeful Nika Melia’s presentation of a shadow coalition cabinet “a political performance.” Noting the announcement was “ridiculous,” Kaladze pointed out that Deputy Mayors and heads City Hall Department shall be approved by the Tbilisi City Council, where GD’s elected members are set to hold a majority.

Wendesday, October 20

11:00 UTC+4 — Incumbent Tbilisi Mayor Unveils Social Initiatives

Tbilisi Mayor Kaladze, running for reelection, during a City Hall cabinet meeting announced GEL 500 voucher program for socially vulnerable retirees to buy medicines. The program would cost GEL 20 million and target 40,000 citizens. He also said that from 2022 the City Hall will provide housing for 400 families categorized as homeless. “Politics consumed social issues to an extent that many do not even remember this issue,” he noted.

Tuesday, October 19

17:30 UTC+4 — Melia Slams Kaladze, Calls for a Debate

Tbilisi Mayoral hopeful Nika Melia of the United National Movement slammed his rival incumbent Kakha Kaladze of the ruling Georgian Dream party for “hate-campaigning instead of talking about problems in the capital city.” He challenged Kaladze to an open debate “anytime, on any network.” “Let’s publicly introduce Tbilisites our plans and our solutions to their problems!” he urged the incumbent mayor. Melia also plans to introduce Tbilisi’s “shadow coalition program” tomorrow.

14:15 UTC+4 — MEPs to Observe October 30 Runoffs, MP Bochorishvili Says

MP Maka Bochorishvili of the Georgian Dream party said the Members of the European Parliament would observe the run-off municipal elections on October 30. “Our European partners expect that the second round of elections will conclude in a peaceful environment and per international standards,” she added.

12:25 UTC+4 —  Government Handed 198 Plots of Land to IDPs

Georgian Government gave 198 IDPs ownership of 198 plots of land they possessed adversely at a symbolic price of one GEL (USD 0.32) in Gori and Kareli municipalities. PM Garibashvili noted that supporting the IDPs, improving their living conditions is one of the important priorities of the Government of Georgia.

Friday, October 15

15:10 UTC+4 — For Georgia talks Batumi Sakrebulo with CSOs

Members of Ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia met with local CSOs. They discussed the new Batumi Sakrebulo representation as the majority of seats are shared between opposition parties United National Movement, For Georgia, and Lelo. Irakli Mikeladze, For Georgia’s local leader, said their party position is to “learn to work together.”

12:00 UTC+4 — Police Probes Alleged Attack on European Georgia Member

Police are probing an alleged attack against a European Georgia member under Article 260 of the Criminal Code, involving violence. European Georgia’s Gigi Tsereteli said Vakhtang Kebadze, chair of the party’s Rustavi office, was attacked by broomstick-toting counterprotesters on October 14. The counterprotesters were present throughout the day in several Georgian towns, meeting supporters of jailed ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili en route to the rally in the capital. (MORE). Footage showed Kebadze’s car after eggs and brooms were supposedly thrown at it. Pointing accusatory fingers at the Georgian Dream, Tsereteli said it “is alarming that the government organizes violent groups amid the [election] campaigns with runoffs ahead.”

Thursday, October 14

20:48 UTC+4 — Ruling Party in Talks With Elected Sakrebulo Members of For Georgia 

Sozar Subari, ruling Georgian Dream party MP, told Palitra News that GD is, “naturally,” in talks with elected Sakrebulo members from ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia party. Both GD and the United National Movement need freshly-founded For Georgia’s backing for either to form a majority in several Sakrebulos, including in Batumi and Rustavi cities. “If they want to create an alliance with the UNM, they can,” said MP Subari. “Then there would be two-three opposition[-led] Sakrebulos. So what?”

Wednesday, October 13

16:00 UTC+4 — Khoshtaria Says Court Refused Recounts

Elene Khoshtaria of Droa party said the Tbilisi City Court “very swiftly, in one day” refused the party’s appeals for recounting the results of 184 polling stations. Khoshtaria said the recounts were refused previously by District Election Commissions as well. 

13:30 UTC+4 — Social Justice Center Talks Ethnic Minority Representation in Local Councils

Social Justice Center, a local advocacy group, reported that following the October 2 polls the representation of people from ethnic minority groups increased “slightly” in the Marneuli and Bolnisi Municipal Councils of the Kvemo Kartli region, as well as in Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda Councils of Samtske Javakheti region. It said, however, a decrease was observed in Kvemo Kartli’s Dmanisi and Bolnisi municipalities. 

Ahead of the elections, as well as on the polling day, the watchdog reported violence, intimidation, and pressure on voters and opposition candidates. The advocacy group also said there were irregularities in the work of precinct election commissions with “non-local observers” guiding the election process. It also observed an “excessive presense” of State Security Service and the police around the polling stations.

11:00 UTC+4 — Kaladze Unveils Plans to Rehabilitate Vera Park

Incumbent Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, running for reelection, announced the City Hall will rehabilitate downtown Vera Park in cooperation with the Asian Development Bank. He said a pre-project study will be carried out, and a detailed design project developed. Afterward, rehabilitation works will commence. Mayor noted design works will cost GEL 700,000 (USD 220,000) and conclude in a year.

Tuesday, October 12

22:40 UTC+4 — Lelo Endorses For Georgia’s Mayoral Candidate in Tsageri

Mamuka Khazaradze, Lelo party chair, said his party endorses For Georgia’s mayoral candidate Besarion Bendeliani in the run-offs in Tsageri Municipality “with a sole reason to end one-party rule in Georgia.” The decision was made without consultations with ex-PM Giori Gakharia’s party, Lelo had no preconditions either, Khazaradze said. 

Members of the Lelo and For Georgia parties have previously traded accusations. Khazaradze has also accused then-Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia of “blackmail” and “threats” before the launch of the TBC Bank money laundering case. MORE

11:25 UTC+4 — Opposition Tsageri Mayoral Candidate Talks Voter ‘Intimidation’ 

Tsageri mayoral candidate Besarion Bendeliani from Ex-PM Gakharia’s For Georgia party accused local authorities of spreading “disinformation” that if the opposition candidate wins the runoff “all economic or social projects will be stopped, pensions and social assistance will no longer be issued and all public servants will be fired.” Mayor hopeful argued this is “a lie,” and an attempt by the government “to exert influence over the population and win the elections through intimidation.”

Sunday, October 10

18:30 UTC+4 — CEC Says Recounts Led to ‘Minor’ Changes 

The recounts of October 2 local elections in 812 (of 3,664 total) precincts led to “minor” changes to outcomes recorded in 121 polling locations, but this “did not affect the overall results of elections,” the Central Election Commission said. MORE

Tuesday, October 5

17:50 UTC+4 — Dolidze Cautious Over Runoff Endorsements

Anna Dolidze, who landed fourth in the race for Tbilisi Mayor with 4.59% of votes, has announced about holding “broad consultations,” both with party members and supporters before making the second round endorsements. MORE

12:00 UTC+4 — U.S. Senator Risch Says October 2 Polls ‘Incredibly Disappointing’

U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-ID), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the October 2 local elections in Georgia were “incredibly disappointing and a dramatic departure” from the 2012 parliamentary elections he observed. MORE

Monday, October 4

21:40 UTC+4 — European Council President Calls for Focusing on Reforms

“I commend all Georgians who made their voices heard in the first round of the local elections,” tweeted European Council President Charles Michel. “Essential that the country’s focus now return to in depth structural reforms, as set out in the 19 April Agreement, notably in the rule of law and judicial spheres.”

20:21 UTC+4 — UNM’s Melia Talks Runoffs

Opposition United National Movement’s Tbilisi Mayoral hopeful Nika Melia talked about his chances of winning the second round of the mayoral race, slated for October 30. “Considering that the government completely lost [to the opposition as a whole], there are chances for us to win on October 30,” Melia told Mtavari Arkhi. The mayoral hopeful also indicated he wished to debate Kaladze on “all major TV networks” and vowed to introduce a shadow coalition government, composed of multiple party members and non-party figures, ahead of the second round. MORE

20:00 UTC+4 — Kobakhidze Confident GD Forms Sakrebulo Majorities, Wins Runoffs

Georgian Dream Chair Irakli Kobakhidze expressed confidence the governing party will form majorities in all municipal and city councils (Sakrebulo), and that its candidates will win mayoral runoffs, to be held in 15 municipalities and self-governing cities of Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi, Rustavi and Poti on October 30. MORE

19:41 UTC+4 — For Georgia Won’t Back GD, UNM in Runoffs

For Georgia leader, ex-Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said he will not “insult” his supporters by calling on them to vote for either the United National Movement or the Georgian Dream in the runoffs. He did not discuss whether For Georgia would agree to form a majority with either of the parties in the contested municipal and city councils. MORE

13:40 UTC+4 — EU Delegation on October 2 Elections

The EU Delegation to Georgia, along with the EU member states’ Embassies, seconded preliminary findings of international observers, according to which elections were well administered but marred by allegations of violations. The joint statement emphasized the need to address all ODIHR recommendations and reform the judiciary to increase trust in the handling of electoral complaints. The missive also stated they “expect credible and swift investigations of all complaints, including reported intimidation and violence against journalists.” MORE

11:30 UTC+4 — US Issues a Statement on Georgia’s Elections

In a strongly worded statement, the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi said it shared OSCE/ODIHR’s initial assessment, also noting that “while voters were able to cast their votes in a largely calm environment on October 2, the election process is about more than Election Day.” Highlighting reports of pressure against public sector workers, the U.S. Embassy said “there is a dangerous risk that these and other recurring elections violations are becoming accepted as inevitable.  Georgian voters deserve a higher standard of integrity in their election process.” MORE

Sunday, October 3 

20:20 UTC+4 — Saakashvili Calls for ‘Stronger, Unceasing Offensive’ in Runoffs

In a letter penned in jail and addressed to United National Movement chair and mayoral hopeful Nika Melia, ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili called for “an even stronger, unceasing offensive” in the runoffs. “We shouldn’t slack off like the 2018 [Presidential] runoff,” the jailed UNM leader stressed.

19:00 UTC+4 — Key Local Watchdogs Assess Municipal Elections

Key local CSOs, The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), and Transparency International Georgia, issued preliminary summaries of their observation on the election day of October 2 local elections. MORE

17:15 UTC+4 — Lelo to Back Opposition Candidates in Runoffs

Lelo leader Badri Japaridze said the party will back opposition mayoral candidates that are heading to runoffs. 

16:55 UTC+4 — President Evaluates Elections 

“Despite the difficult political and polarized electoral environment, it can be said that the local elections in Georgia were held in a calm, fair, secure, and competitive environment, without significant violations,” said President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili during a special press briefing. She said “the Georgian people showed by their participation in yesterday’s elections that their choice is peace, stability, and not unrest, not confrontation, not violence and polarization. If there is a need for change, this path is precisely for it – the path of elections. Voters made it clear to everyone.” The President also asserted that “multi-party system has been established, confirmed. Small parties will be represented in the Sakrebulos [Councils], but it would be desirable for smaller parties to be given more chances, more resources, more means, because defeating depolarization down the line will be possible only with small parties, with third forces.” 

16:23 UTC+4 — UK Backs International Observers’ Statement

15:35 UTC+4 — Int’l Observers: Polls Competetive, Marred by Allegations of Violations

Elections observers of the OSCE/ODIHR, Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the European Parliament said October 2 local polls were competitive and technically well administered, but marred by widespread allegations of electoral violations, vote-buying, and an unlevel playing field. MORE

ELECTION DAY: Saturday, October 2

22:00 UTC+4 — Reports: Girchi Member beaten by GD Representatives

Ahmed Imamkuliev, European Georgia mayoral candidate in Marneuli, Kvemo Kartli, was quoted in media as saying that Irakli Kveladze, District Election Commission member from Girchi party, was hospitalized after being beaten by Georgian Dream representatives in Marneuli’s Kizilajlo village. Media later also quoted the doctor who said that Kveladze suffered brain concusion and remains in hospital.

21:30 UTC+4 — CEC Responds to Allegations about Power Cuts in the Kutaisi Precincts

Central Election Commission said the information about organized mass power outages in larger precincts of the Western Kutaisi town was not true and could in fact be “an attempt at intentionally damaging the election process.” CEC explained that electricity went out only for a few minutes in two precincts in Kutaisi, while technical issues caused power cuts in two precincts in Rustavi. “The Rustavi precincts are already supplied with electricity generators and continue work as usual,” it added.

19:35 UTC+4 — TI Georgia Demands Canceling Vote in Marneuli Precinct over ‘Carousel’

Transparency International (TI) Georgia said in its 19:30 update that the watchdog demands canceling of vote process at one of the Marneuli Districts (#13) over alleged occurrence of ‘carousel voting,’ after reports and video evidence that at least two persons voted more than once at the same precinct. Other trends identified by the watchdog included alleged case of vote buying, Interfering and pressuring observers, breaches of secrecy of vote, presence of unauthorized persons in the precinct, violations of the 100-meter radius from the precinct by party coordinators, etc.

19:30 UTC+4 — Labor Party Supporter stabbed by alleged GD Activist in Marneuli

Labour Party candidate in Marneuli alleged Georgian Dream activist stabbed one of their supporters outside the N52 Marneuli Precinct in the village Dashtapa. Interior Ministry said an argument between the intoxicated perpetrator and the victim turned into a physical fight, which led to the stabbing. The Ministry added they are currently “taking all procedural and investigative measures” to arrest the man for intentional infliction of grave injury under Article 117 of Georgia’s Criminal Code.

19:10 UTC+4 — UNM’s Dekanoidze: Light Went Out at Traditionally Opposition-Leaning Precincts in Kutaisi

According to Khatia Dekanoidze, opposition candidate in Kutaisi, Imereti, the electricity was cut at Kutaisi’s several large, traditionally opposition-leaning precincts.

19:00 UTC+4 — ISFED Demands Results Annulment for 2 Marneuli Precincts

In its 3rd voter day briefing, International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) listed certain trends of violations, including breaches of vote secrecy, with voters allegedly showing open ballots at the polling station (for example, at one of the precincts in Abasha, Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti, 15 voters demonstrated to the commission members that they have voted for Georgian Dream); Also, the watchdog observed multiple cases at two precincts in Marneuli, Kvemo Kartli, of people voting without personal IDs, along with other election violations. ISFED demands annulment of voting results at these precincts.

Further trends identified by the watchdog include voter identification and passing their personal data to the third parties in and around the polling stations; obstruction of ISFED observers; “suspicious assemblies of persons” observed within 100 meters of 20% of precincts, and in 8,3% outside the 100 meters; multiple mobilization/transportation of voters were also observed by ISFED outside 18,3% of polling stations.

18:40 UTC+4 — Lelo Tsalenjikha Candidate Alleges “Carousel”

Lelo Tslenjikha Mayoral Candidate Tamar Belkania alleged a “carousel voting” in the #28 polling station in Sachino village, citing the recorded number of distributed bulletins exceeding the number of voter signatures.

17:36 UTC+4 — PM Garibashvili Says Georgian Dream ‘Winning Convincingly’

“As per existing data, our party and candidates are winning convincingly and with a wide margin in every municipality,” said Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili. “But we need the votes of every one of you to solidify this victory, and for the political force built on hatred and lies to fail.”

17:21 UTC+4 — For Georgia Files 150 Complaints

MP Ana Buchukuri of ex-Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia party said the group has filed up to 150 complaints across Georgia. She claimed an employee of the legitimate Abkhazian government in exile, Aleksandre Chikvaidze handed out alcoholic beverages at the N14 polling station in Senaki village of western Samegrelo region. She also said violations were observed with mobile ballot boxes across Georgia, and that in several cases people on the list for the mobile boxes voted at polling stations as well. MP Buchukuri said in some cases there was a disparity between the number of voter signatures and the number of ballot papers handed out at precincts.

17:10 UTC+4 — PMMG: Cases of Repeated Voting at Several Marneuli Precincts

Public Movement – Multinational Georgia (PMMG), a watchdog focusing on minority-settled regions, particularly stressed growing aggressive atmosphere in Marneuli, Kvemo Kartli, including incidents of physical violence and multiple cases of obstruction of observers. The watchdog said it requested cancellation of voting at three precincts in Marneuli (#48, #79, #88) over cases or attempts of repeated ballot casting by same voters.

17:00 Lelo’s Natsvlishvili Suspects COVID-19 Portable Box Fraud “Scheme”

Ana Natsvlishvili of Lelo claimed alleged vote buying in Sagarejo’s #6 polling station, Kakheti region, adding that law enforcers have been ignoring dozens of vote buying allegation throughout the day. Natsvlishvili also suspected a “scheme” of misuse of portable boxes introduced for COVID-19 patients, citing multiple cases when persons went to polling stations to find out that someone had already voted for them from the list of portable ballot box service.

16:30 UTC+4 — GYLA says Voters’ Will Controlled Around Polling Stations, Observers Forced to Leave Precincts

GYLA said control over the voter’s will “actively continues” around precincts perimeters. In 14 instances, GYLA observers called police to respond to citizen mobilization close to polling stations. According to the watchdog, the police did not arrive at N63 and N90 Kutaisi precincts, while in some cases the police did not react to the crowd outside the stations. Georgia’s Election Code prohibits any gatherings within a distance of 100 meters from a polling station on the election day.

GYLA also reported that several of their observers are pressured and are not allowed to carry through with their work. In precincts across Georgia, GYLA monitors were threatened (N44 Batumi Precinct), insulted (N16 Chughureti Precinct in Tbilisi), or forced to leave the polling locations after they had pointed to or tried to document violations in the precincts (N64 Isani and N4 Vake Precincts in Tbilisi, and in N90 Zugdidi Precinct), the watchdog said.

In the N7 Marneuli precinct, they also said, several envelopes were tossed into the main ballot box (GYLA could not yet confirm if the envelopes contained ballots).

16:25 UTC+4 — The Ambassadors of Norway, the Netherlands and Latvia visit GYLA

GYLA briefed Ambassador Helene Sand Andresen of Norway, Ambassador Maaike van Koldam of the Netherlands, and Ambassador Ingrīda Levrence of Latvia on their election day work during the envoys’ visit to the watchdog’s headquarters.

16:16 UTC+4 — Melia Says Opposition ‘Winning Convincingly’

“According to our information, the opposition is winning the referendum, and it is winning convincingly. It is winning convincingly, especially in Tbilisi, both in the referendum status and in the Tbilisi mayoral election,” said United National Movement chair and mayoral hopeful Nika Melia. “This is not an election to defeat anyone. You have to win, we have to win, we all have to win together, and we are winning.”

16:10 UTC+4 — Dekanoidze claims Deputy Infrastructure Minister Partakes in Vote-Buying

Kutaisi Mayoral hopeful Khatia Dekanoidze of the UNM held a press conference where she claimed deputy Infrastructure Minister Koba Gabunia was working closely with ruling Georgian Dream party election coordinators and was seen mobilizing financial resources for GD and distributing money. She alleged Gabunia had been tasked by GD to “oversee” voting in Kutaisi. 

16:05 UTC+4 — Interior Ministry Reports on Election Day 

The Interior Ministry said it launched an investigation on unlawful interference with the professional activities a journalist at the 84th polling station in Zugdidi. It said police are also investigating violence outside 48th polling station in Marneuli, where a United National Movement representative was reportedly attacked by a Georgian Dream municipal council candidate. Interior Ministry said police also reacted to around 30 instances of alleged violations of the rules prohibiting gathering within 100-meter vicinity to the polling stations, registering the voters and placing campaign materials around 25 meters of the precincts.

16:00 UTC+4 — Filled-out Summary Protocol Found in Kutaisi 

MP Khatia Dekanoidze of the UNM, who is running for mayorship in the Western city of Kutaisi, shared a photo of a filled-out summary protocol, a paper that should be complete only after precinct votes are counted. The Central Election Commission has confirmed that the protocol was “partly filled out” and signed by 14 members of the precinct election commission in violation of the law at Kutaisi’s N124 precinct. CEC said the Kutaisi District Election Commission will respond “appropriately” to the breach.

15:00 UTC+4 — ISFED Makes 2nd Briefing, Speaks Trends

In a second press briefing on the voting day, International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) listed at least 3 cases of pressure/interference with observers, 7 cases of breach of vote secrecy, 4 cases campaigning inside the polling station, 3 cases of voter identification inside the precinct, 3 breaches of election documentation, and problems with arrangement of polling station and ballot packs. The watchdog also spoke of a “trend” with 8 cases of problems with voters’ lists, including voters being registered at special lists without them applying for it, restricting them from voting in majoritarian races.

From the observation of the 100-meter-radius outside the precincts, ISFED recorded cases of illegal placing campaign materials  within 25 meters of the polling stations, 3 cases of party coordinators mobilizing outside precincts, alleged cases of vote buying, 6 cases of voter identification and 6 cases of suspicious assemblies. The watchdog observed attempts of voter control outside the 100 meter perimeters as well, though not regulated by law.

14:55 UTC+4 — UK Ambassador Visits GYLA

UK Ambassador Mark Clayton visited the GYLA office, where he was briefed on the main findings of the CSO’s observation mission.

14:40 UTC+4 — US Ambassador visits ISFED

US Ambassador Kelly Degnan visited ISFED to learn about the organization’s observation mission and their work on the polling day.

14:00 – TI Georgia: Voting “in Largely Peaceful Environment,” up to 100 Breaches Recorded

Delivering observation update on the voting day period from 07:00 to 14:00, Transparency International Georgia said that the voting is largely conducted in a “peaceful environment,” while the watchdog so far identified up to 100 “insignificant or relatively serious” violations, including: alleged “carousel” voting in Marneuli, Kvemo Kartli, when an observer registered at another precinct cast a ballot twice and was interrupted by commission members during a third attempt; a case of alleged vote buying in Dusheti (Mtskheta-Mtianeti); cases of pressuring and interfering with TI observers in Marneuli and Telavi (Kakheti); breaches of vote secrecy in Poti (Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti), Dmanisi (Kvemo Kartli), and Telavi; and various cases of violations of 100-meter radius restriction outside the precincts by party coordinators.

13:55 UTC+4 — ISFED Says Observer Forced to Leave Precinct

International Society for Fair Elections And Democracy (ISFED) said their observer, who reported several violations, was unlawfully forced to leave Zugdidi’s N90 Precinct. Their mobile observation group member, who went to the polling location to learn about the situation, was attacked and insulted, then ejected, according to Nino Dolidze, the executive director of ISFED. The Precinict election commission is not managed by its chair, but by a man from an organization unfamiliar to ISFED, she added.

13:07 – Norwegian, Estonian Ambassadors Visit ISFED

Norwegian and Estonian Ambassador to Georgia, Helene Sand Andresen and Riina Kaljurand, respectively have paid a visit to ISFED, key georgian election watchdog. Ambassador Andresen said she “strongly believe[s] in the importance of civil society engagement in electoral process.”

13:04 — U.S. Ambassador Says Washington Follows Georgian Polls Very Closely

U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, Kelly Degnan made remarks to media after observing Georgia’s municipal elections in southern Marneuli municipality. U.S. diplomat said “Washington is following [these elections] very closely, I’ve been getting lots of requests from them, from my colleagues in Washington, including at the State Department, at the White House, in Congress: they’re following this closely as well.” “We are concerned by the reports of pre-election intimidation and violations and abuses, harassment,” the U.S. Ambassador went on, adding that “what I’m pleased to see is that the party leaders are calling for calm today.”

12:20 — GYLA Says Observer Threatened

GYLA reported that in Batumi’s N44 Precinct their observer, responsible for keeping an eye on the situation outside the polling station, was threatened by an unidentified man present on the precinct perimeter.

12:18 – GD Accuses Media of Stirring Up Hype Near PECs

MP Shalva Papuashvili, the Georgian Dream Public Relations Secretary accused media of attempts to stir up hype outside polling stations. MP Papuashvili called on media representatives “not to bother” people, including party agitators, present 100 meters away from the precincts. New changes to the Election Code brohibits assemblies, voter registration, or physical obstruction of voters’ mobility within 100 meters of the polling stations on the voting day. In the previous version of the law, only part of these actions was restricted within a 25-meter radius of the building. 

12:06 – EU Ambassador Visits ISFED

EU Ambassador to Georgia, Carl Hartzell has met with Nino Dolidze, Head of ISFED, at the CSO office. “Transparent monitoring is important for democratic and fair elections. The EU supports this essential work,” the Ambassador tweeted. 

11:35 – GYLA Says At Several PECS GD Representatives Record Data About Voters

Delivering update about developments by 10:00 AM, GYLA said at almost all precincts, the polling procedures started on time without significant irregularities. Nevertheless, the CSO said it identified the problems concerning the control over the will of voters inside, and near the polling stations. The watchdog asserted tha it observed a tendency at several precincts, with the ruling Georgian Dream party representatives standing behind PEC members responsible for regulation of the flow of voters and recording data about the voters. 

11:31 — SSG Says Abkhaz Authorities Restricted Travel to Georgia Proper

State Security Service of Georgia said Kremlin-backed Abkhaz authorities have unlawfully restricted travel of all residents, besides those in need of medical assistance, to Georgia proper.

11:27 — CEC Says Parliament Speaker Violated Election Code 

CEC said the Parliament chair Kakha Kuchava violated the rule against campaigning at the polling station by arriving with the party symbol face mask at the polling station.

11:00 –Journalist Threatened with Taser in Zugdidi

Governement-critical Formula TV footage shows a taser-wielding citizen, self-identifying as former footballer Davit Kiria, threatening their journalist Salome Chaduneli in western Zugdidi town, traditionally one of the most bitterly contested constituencies in Georgian elections. Kiria was seen being taken away the journalist by some other men. The journalist said the incident followed after she covered earlier incident between the man and other journalists.

10:00 — ISFED Makes First Briefing

Nino Dolidze of ISFED, key election watchdog, made the first brief regarding the developments at the polling stations. Dolidze said based on updates they received from 99% of PVT precincts, their observers were allowed to 99.7% of polling stations without any obstacles (similar figure to 2017 local elections). 15 to 17 PEC members were present at 57.9% of precincts, 9-14 members at 42% of PECs, while 1 to 8 members were at 0.1% of polling stations. The set-up of 99.6% of PECs, both inside and outer spaces, allowed observers to properly monitor precinct developments. ISFED chief also noted that only 75.7% of precincts were ready to receive first voters at 08:00, marking “significant deteroiration” compared to 2017 municipal elections (99.3%). Further 24.1% were ready by 08:20, she said. ISFED also observed three instances of violation of observers’ rights, three violations of the rules of casting lots by PEC members, two instances of improper handling of bulletins by PEC member,  two violations while filling log-books, one issue regarding voters list, one instance of unidentified persons recording voters near precinct in western Khobi municipality. 

Thursday, September 30

12:53 UTC+4 — For Georgia Says Gakharia Hair Follicle Drug Test Negative

For Georgia party published the results of Tbilisi mayoral hopeful ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia’s hair follicle drug screening. The party reported that Vienna’s FTC-Forensisch-Toxikologisches Labor found Gakharia tested negative on cocaine, amphetamine, opioids, benzodiazepines, MDMA, THC, and others. Gakharia has recently faced accusations from the Georgian Dream over alleged cocaine use.

12:20 UTC+4 — Public Defender Talks Pre-election Period Violations 

Public Defender Nino Lomjaria presented “Human Rights Violations” during the pre-election period. She said 59 opposition candidates, out of which 52 were from ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia party, 6 from the UNM, and 1 from Third Force, were allegedly pressured and intimidated to make them withdraw their candidacies. 69 people have been allegedly dismissed or harassed at work on political grounds, and 24 alleged offenses were committed against representatives of the media. Public Defender sent 5 cases of alleged vote-buying to General Prosecutor’s office, 4 cases of physical confrontation, and 44 cases of alleged pressure and illegal dismissal on political grounds to relevant law enforcement agencies.

Wednesday, September 29

17:40 UTC+4 — Saakashvili Slams MEP von Cramon

Georgia’s ex-President Saakashvili criticized MEP Viola von Cramon-Taubadel in a social media post, saying that “calling on someone not to come back to his country is immoral, to say the least.” Referring to her statement, which said the EU had no desire to mediate in Georgia again, he urged her to first “finish the business with the first mediation from which [Georgian Dream founder Bidzina] Ivanishvili walked away.”

14:45 UTC+4 —MEP von Cramon Criticizes Saakashvili’s Announced Return 

“Mr. Saakashvili’s intention to return to Georgia on the day of the [October 2] elections will not serve the interests of Georgia,” said MEP Viola von Cramon-Taubadel. The move “will further deepen the crisis, create unnecessary tension, and damage precarious political processes as well as the democratic image of the country,” she stated. Adding that the EU has no “resources and desire” to mediate another political crisis in Georgia, she said her position is “widely” shared by other EU institutions.

16:40 UTC+4 — Gakharia Dismisses Imedi-Commissioned Poll

For Georgia leader Giorgi Gakharia, running for Tbilisi mayor, said he cannot “perceive seriously” the pro-government Imedi TV-commissioned public opinion poll. The ex-PM claimed the Gorbi Research Institute, which carried out the fieldwork, had averaged the ratings of Georgian Dream leaders in its 2020 poll instead of reporting them individually. 

13:00 UTC+4 — IRI, NDI Expert Teams Arrive in Tbilisi

Expert teams of the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) have arrived in Tbilisi ahead of the October 2 municipal elections. They have called on “all political parties to uphold democratic principles by participating actively and in good faith during the elections and in the post-election period.” 

The NDI and IRI experts are set to meet with government representatives, leaders of the ruling and opposition parties, as well as citizen election observers, international missions observing the election and the diplomatic community prior to the polls.

Tuesday, September 28 

20:40 UTC+4 — New Poll Shows Kaladze (53.6%), Melia (27.7%), Gakharia (6.5%) Top Tbilisi Mayoral Candidates 

According to a new public opinion poll, commissioned by Imedi TV, if October 2 local elections “were held today,” citizens in Tbilisi would vote for:

  • Kakha Kaladze (GD) – 53.6%;
  • Nika Melia (UNM, backed by EG, Droa, Girchi – More Freedom) – 27.7%;
  • Giorgi Gakharia (For Georgia) –  6.5%;
  • Giorgi Lomia (Alliance of Patriots) – 3.5%;
  • Ana Bibilashvili (Lelo) – 3.5%;
  • Anna Dolidze (For People) – 1.5%;
  • Others – 3.7%.

Asked the same question, the Georgian public would cast their vote for:

  • Georgian Dream – 49.6%;
  • The United National Movement – 25.9%;
  • Ex-PM Gakharia’s For Georgia – 5.3%;
  • The Alliance of Patriots – 4.1%;
  • European Georgia – 2.7%;
  • Lelo – 2.6%;
  • Third Force – Strategy Aghmashenebeli – 2.2%;
  • Girchi – More Freedom – 2%;
  • Labor Party – 1.8%
  • Citizens – Alexander (Aleko) Elisashvili – 1.5%;
  • Girchi – 0.9%;
  • Others – 1.4%.

The poll was commissioned by Imedi TV and carried out by Gorbi Research Institute between September 10 – September 19. 2000 persons over 18, eligible to vote in the district they were surveyed in, were interviewed in-person. Only responses from people, who confirmed they were going to vote in the upcoming elections, were considered. The margin of error, Imedi TV said, stands at plus, minus 2.5% for the results pertaining to Georgia as a whole, and at plus, minus 3.4% for Tbilisi.

18:20 UTC+4 — CEC Rules “Bloody” Billboards not Part of Election Program

Central Election Commission concluded that the controversial “bloody” billboards that display some prominent opposition leaders and media personalities are not to be considered as part of the election program and thus do not violate the Election Code. The CEC said the person behind the billboard is not affiliated with or a donor of any party, and has not printed and placed the banners with party funding either.

14:30 UTC+4 — Mtavari Arkhi TV Crew Confronted in Abasha

Mtavari Arkhi journalist Ema Gogokhia, who tried to interview Culture Minister Tea Tsulukiani on her visit to the Marani village of Abasha Municipality, was confronted by unidentified men. Mtavari Arkhi TV released footage showing a man in the crowd pushing Gogokhia and insulting her. The same man is also seen grabbing the lens of a camera. Police officers were also present at the incident. Mtavari Arkhi alleged the men were members of the local Georgian Dream team. Gogokhia and Minister Tsulukiani were involved in a quarrel over a microphone this summer after the Minister grabbed her mike and refused to return it.

13:30 UTC+4 — Watchdog Says Patriarchate Manipulates with Church’s Authority

Democracy Research Institute, a local watchdog, criticized the Head of the Public Relations Department of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Archpriest Andria Jagmaidze, for saying that the church might consider “clearly” telling its parish what to do in the elections. According to the DRI, the remarks attempt to “manipulate with the church’s authority,” and violate Georgia’s Election Code, as well as the Holy Synod’s 2012 decree that prevents the clergy from participating in political campaigns.

11:30 UTC+4 — New Road Connecting Imereti, Racha Regions Completed

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili attended the opening ceremony of a new 51 kilometers long road that will connect Sachkhere Municipality of Imereti region to the Oni Municipality of Racha region. PM said the project, worth GEL 110 million (USD 35 million), will reduce the traveling time from capital Tbilisi to Racha by 1.5 hours to 3 hours total.

Monday, September 27

23:30 UTC+4 — New Poll Shows Kaladze (43%), Melia (30%), Gakharia (12%) Top Tbilisi Mayoral Candidates 

According to a new public opinion poll, commissioned by Formula TV, if October 2 local elections “were held today,” the Georgian public would vote for:

  • Georgian Dream – 36%;
  • The United National Movement – 27%;
  • Ex-PM Gakharia’s For Georgia – 11%;
  • Labor Party – 4%;
  • Lelo – 4%;
  • Girchi – More Freedom – 4%;
  • European Georgia – 2%;
  • Girchi – 2%;
  • Third Force – Strategy Aghmashenebeli – 2%;
  • The Alliance of Patriots – 2%;
  • Droa! – Elene Khoshtaria – 1%;
  • For People – Ana Dolidze – 1%;
  • Citizens – Alexander (Aleko) Elisashvili – 1%;
  • Others – 3%.

Asked the same question about Tbilisi mayoral candidates, the electorate of the capital named:

  • Kakha Kaladze (GD) – 43%;
  • Nika Melia (UNM, backed by EG, Droa, Girchi – More Freedom) – 30%;
  • Giorgi Gakharia (For Georgia) – 12%;
  • Anna Dolidze (For People) – 6%;
  • Ana Bibilashvili (Lelo) – 3%;
  • Others – 6%.

The poll was commissioned by Formula TV, a government-critical channel, and fieldwork was carried out by Edison Research during September 12 – September 25, via face-to-face interviews with 1,500 persons over 18. The margin of error, Formula TV said, stands at plus, minus 3% for 95% confidence level. 

14:45 UTC+4 CEC Says Pressure on District, Precinct Election Commission Members Intensified

“Instances of pressure on the members of the District and Precinct Election Commissions have increased recently,” said today Natia Ioseliani, the spokeswoman for the Central Election Commission. According to her, this includes a break-in into a Precinct Election Commission, insults, threatening phone calls and hate speech directed at commission members, as well as attempts to interfere and obstruct their activities, and efforts by some observers “to overstep their authority and stage a provocation.” “These actions hinder the activities of election commissions and deliberately damage the election process,” she underscored.

14:02 UTC+4 — Gakharia’s Party Demands Probe into Cocaine Use Accusations

Ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia party has addressed the Prosecutor’s Office to investigate Georgian Dream chair Irakli Kobakhidze’s cocaine use allegations against Gakharia. For Georgia members demand the prosecutors to question MP Kobakhidze, and if the accusations prove wrong to hold him accountable for libel, as shown in a letter published by the party’s Deputy Chair Natia Mezvrishvili.

12:30 UTC+4 — PM Comments on Gakharia Drug Use Allegations

“Whoever is accused must prove whether he is a drug addict or not,” told PM Irakli Garibashvili reporters inquiring about accusations by ruling Georgian Dream party leaders against ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia on alleged cocaine use.

Sunday, September 26

20:00 UTC+4 — New Poll Shows GD (35%), UNM (30%), For Georgia (9%), European Georgia (4%) Top Parties

According to a new public opinion poll, commissioned by Mtavari Arkhi TV, if October 2 local elections “were held tomorrow,” the Georgian public would vote for:

  • Georgian Dream – 35%;
  • The United National Movement – 30%;
  • Ex-PM Gakharia’s For Georgia – 9%;
  • European Georgia – 4%;
  • For People – Ana Dolidze – 4%;
  • Lelo – 3%;
  • Third Force – Strategy Aghmashenebeli – 3%;
  • Labor Party – 3%;
  • Girchi – More Freedom – 2%;
  • The Alliance of Patriots – 2%;
  • Droa! – Elene Khoshtaria – 1%;
  • Citizens – Alexander (Aleko) Elisashvili – 1%;
  • Others – 3%.

Asked the same question about Tbilisi mayoral candidates, the electoral of the capital named:

  • Kakha Kaladze (GD) – 41 %;
  • Nika Melia (UNM, backed by EG, Droa, Girchi – More Freedom) – 36%;
  • Giorgi Gakharia (For Georgia) – 13%;
  • Anna Dolidze (For People) – 4%;
  • Ana Bibilashvili (Lelo) – 2%;
  • Others – 4%.

The poll was commissioned by Mtavari Arkhi TV, a government-critical channel, and fieldwork was carried out by IPSOS-Global during September 21 – September 25, via face-to-face interviews with 1,500 random selectees. An average margin of error, Mtavari Arkhi TV said, stands at plus, minus 3%. The survey did not report on the percentage of undecided voters, and instead used the allocation approach used in polling to allot the uncertain electorate based on three additional questions on their attitudes.

Saturday, September 25

16:15 UTC+4 — CEC Releases Revised Voter List

3,497,345 citizens in total are eligible to vote in the upcoming October 2 local polls, according to the revised figures released by the Central Election Commission. 1,002,900 million people are registered to vote in the capital – Tbilisi. 41,314 voters in Tbilisi’s Krtsanisi district will cast their ballots using electronic voting technology instead of pen and paper.

12:50 UTC+4 — Reports: Shots Fired at Empty Car of For Georgia’s Tsageri Mayoral Candidate

Natia Mezvrishvili of ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia party told reporters their mayoral candidate in Tsageri, Beso Bendeliani had found out in the morning that gunshots were fired at his empty car parked outside his house. Mezvrishvili laid responsibility on the Georgian Dream, accusing governing party chair Irakli Kobakhidze, Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze and PM Irakli Garibashvili of “justifying violence” and “encouraging hate speech.” Media quoted Interior Ministry as saying that the investigation has been launched into the case under Article 187 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, involving damage or destruction of one’s property. Mezvrishvili also alleged today that their candidate Salome Gongadze, running for Lagodekhi Sakrebulo in eastern Kakheti region, found her car tires cut. Civil.ge is trying to reach out to the GD party for comment.

Friday, September 24

17:00 UTC+4 — Dolidze Ready to Assist Gakharia in Lawsuit on Drug Use Allegations

Anna Dolidze, the leader of For People party and Tbilisi mayoral hopeful, said she is ready to provide legal support to her mayoral rival Giorgi Gakharia of For Georgia party to launch a lawsuit about the allegations of drug use by Georgian Dream chair Irakli Kobakhidze. She also called on the Prosecutor’s Office to interrogate MP Kobakhidze, arguing his claims indicate he hid the information about Gakharia’s alleged drug abuse from the law enforcement.

14:51 UTC+4 — Khoshtaria Accuses GD of Organizing Attack Against EU Embassy

Elene Khoshtaria of Droa party accused the Georgian Dream of organizing an “attack and blockade” against the EU Embassy. The Sakrebulo Chair candidate, backed by the United National Movement and others, said that half an hour after the altercation between UNM’s Melia and GD’s Kobakhidze outside the EU Embassy (MORE) the governing party brought its “muscle” in front of the building. She argued the safety of EU envoy Carl Hartzell could not be ensured hours after the incident “despite the Ambassador’s communication with the GD.”

Thursday, September 23

21:30 UTC+4 — Gakharia on Melia, Kobakhidze Altercation 

Ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia slammed  Nika Melia of UNM and GD Chair Irakli Kbakhidze, saying “one irresponsible politician was deceived into provocation by another irresponsible politician.” He said MP Kobakhidze has the duty to the country to be patient, but he “succumbed to this provocation and we got the circus.”

20:21 UTC+4 — PM Denounces Violence, Threats 

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has denounced violence and threats “coming from any person, group or a party.” As the October 2 local elections draw nearer “we can see emotions are running higher,” said PM Garibashvili. He highlighted that Georgian people “deserve” an election campaign that will confirm “that our nation is loyal to the idea of democracy.” PM Garibashvili called on all sides, “especially the radical opposition,” to refrain from provocations. The statement comes after attacks on a United National Movement supporter in Rustavi city, as well as stabbing of two UNM supporters in Gantiadi village of Dmanisi municipality.   

15:54 UTC+4 — Kobakhidze, Melia in Heated Exchange

Georgian Dream chair Irakli Kobakhidze and United National Movement leader Nika Melia traded insulting remarks outside the EU Embassy in Tbilisi, in a heated exchange that began after the opposition leader confronted his rival over the Dmanisi municipality stabbingsMORE.

11:00 UTC+4 — ISFED Releases Second Monitoring Report

The watchdog said in its second interim pre-election monitoring report that the “nature of violations observed” in the run-up to the October 2 local polls is becoming worse, pointing to the recent attacks against opposition supporters. MORE.

Wednesday, September 22

23:00 UTC+4 — Ex-Envoy to EU Says Georgia Still Governed by Soviet Methods, Loses Friends

Former long serving Georgian envoy to the EU, Natalie Sabanadze, who now works as an advisor to ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia, spoke to Formula TV about the alleged spying on foreign diplomats, as well as the EU summoning her successor over the alleged surveillance. Sabanadze said “it is very hard to see that even today, thirty years since the collapse of the USSR, the Georgian state is governed by Soviet methods. The Soviet Union was an oppressive state, using brute force over its citizens by intruding into their private space, by surveillance, accusing them of being enemies of people, planting narcotics… This style of governance has not been demolished in Georgia.” “We are losing friends,” former Ambassador went on, adding that “a big crack” has appeared in Georgia’s relations with the West. 

10:00 UTC+4 — Dekanoidze Says Georgian March Disrupted Opposition Campaign Event

United National Movement Kutaisi mayoral candidate Khatia Dekanoidze said she and Zurab Japaridze of Girchi – More Freedom were verbally harrased by ultranationalist group Georgian March during a campaign event in Kutaisi. Dekanoidze claimed that the State Security Service of Georgia had tasked Georgian March with disrupting the campaign event.

Tuesday, September 21

23:25 UTC+4 — Gakharia Asks Kaladze Over GD’s Allegations Over Drug Addiction, Saakashvili Ties 

Ex-PM Gakharia asked his former party colleague Kakha Kaladze, whether he shares Georgian Dream allegations about Gakharia being narcotics addict, “traitor” and having ties with ex-President Saakashvili. Kaladze said “nobody accused Giorgi Gakharia of being a drug addict.” [GD Chair Kobakhidze referred to Gakharia as “some cokehead” editor’s note]. Kaladze said he did not like Gakharia’s decision in February about resignation, but refused to go into details. “I always try my best to be reserved when the question arises regarding Giorgi Gakharia,” Kaladze went on, adding that “In the first place, I am a man, then a politician.”

23:18 UTC+4 — Debates: Gakharia Accused of “Selling” Namakhvani Lands to Turkey 

Giorgi Kutateladze of Sakartvelo (Georgia) party asked ex-PM Gakharia a “heartbroken” question about the solution for Namakhvani HPP project, claiming “Turkish red flag is flying in a picturesque Rioni River ravine,” and that “Mr Gakharia and his team handed over these lands to Turkey.” In response, Gakharia called “handover of lands to Turkey” an ordinary lie, noting the lands are on lease and that he served as Interior Minister, not as PM, when the terms with the investor were agreed. Gakharia cautiously advocated for building the HPP, however, noting the country needs hydro energy. “We need energy for these people” protesting in Rioni Valley, he said. 

23:01 UTC+4 — Kaladze Speaks of Green Spaces, Faster Public Transport

Building up on Bibilashvili’s question, Kaladze spoke of green and recreation spaces created during his tenure, kindergartens, and renewed public transport (pledging to completely renew microbuses by the end of the year). He said public transport should be “fastest and most comfortable” and that bus lanes should be added where possible to ensure faster transit. Bibilashvili replied that Kaladze spoke of “parallel Tbilisi.” 

23:00 UTC+4 — What is the Difference Between Kaladze and Gakharia? Bibilashvili Wonders, Sparks Joy

Journalist gave a minute to Ana Bibilashvili to voice question to one of her opponents. Lelo’s candidate said she has question to GD, and that Kaladze and Gakharia could themselves choose who answers, because the two represent the same Georgian Dream force that “betrayed the people.” Gakharia remarked that “there is no difference between you two, you both call me a traitor.” Bibilashvili finally chose Kaladze as respondent, who replied: “Giorgi [Gakharia] is thinner than me,” and  dismissing the question as “unserious.” 

22:52 UTC+4 — Dolidze Says People Tired of Polarization

Ana Dolidze said “voters are tired of polarization,” tired that during pre-election campaign the ruling party does not talk about its accomplishments, but rather about UNM. And this is done on purpose, as the governing party, in fact, does not have anything to tell people about courts, poverty, education, agriculture, Dolidze noted. Where were my colleagues when I fought against the UNM, for free courts, for environment – against Namakhvani HPP, for cheaper medicines, for women’s rights? Dolidze appealed to the viewers. 

22:50 UTC+4 — Kaladze Slams “Destructive” Melia, UNM, Calls for Ending Polarization

Accusing Melia and UNM of having “destruction” as their handwriting, Kaladze said “it would certainly not please me if Melia runs away when he loses elections on October 2. On the contrary, we should end polarization and people with all of the different political views should be able to live in this country, without any problems. This country and the city belongs to all.”

22:42 UTC+4 — Gakharia Says GD, UNM Start to Resemble Each Other

Gakharia said he is participating in these elections for citizens to have “right to elect,” noting there is a shrinking space for political forces, as the two biggest parties – GD and UNM – start to rapidly resemble each other. Ex-PM also asserted his party is trying to bring fresh, young faces to politics.

22:35 UTC+4 — Tbilisi Debate: Labor Candidate Says Kaladze Part of Elite Unable to Feel Tbilisites

Labor Party candidate Mikheil Kumsishvili said Tbilisi Mayor today is not living the life ordinary Tbilisites live. 40 thousand socially vulnerable are fed with food worth of Gel 1.18, while 30 thousand disabled people cannot leave their homes due to the lack of adapted city infrastructure. Kaladze cannot feel these problems, he is part of the elite, Kumsishvili said. 

22:00 UTC+4 — 16 Tbilisi Candidates Live on Debate

The Georgian Public Broadcaster is hosting the first ever TV debate between 16 Tbilisi Mayoral hopefuls. In their one minute introduction, some of the key candidates focused on:

Tamar Kekenadze of the Third Force said the Georgian Dream government brought Georgia to collapse during the past 9 years and destroyed the country’s future. She focused on ending polarization of GD and its arch-rival UNM. Kekenadze named jobs, raising average salary and helping small and medium businesses as top issues. 

Nika Melia of the UNM, the largest opposition party and backed by three other opposition party of European Georgia, Girchi More Freedom and Droa, said the debate format does not help having a real debate. He said GD Secretary General and Tbilisi Mayoral candidate, incumbent Kakha Kaladze and his GD colleagues are “immoral,” “corrupted,” and putting aggression against political opponents; Noting that Kaladze is “endlessly corrupted” and directing and saving criminals, with whom he cannot imaging sharing the stage, Melia quit the debate. 

Giorgi Lomia of the Kremlin-friendly Alliance of Patriots regretted unfair election environment and slammed GD over stripping AoP of having representatives at election commissions.

Ana Bibilashvili of Lelo for Georgia alluded to GD and UNM forgetting real needs of people, and addressing to divisive campaign. “I am the only candidate whose profession is the city and its needs,” said Bibilashvili, architect by profession.

Labor Party candidate Mikheil Kumsishvili said the public is tired of seeing the same political figures, who cannot change anything. Kumsishvili, 28, accentuated anti-elitist discourse. “We should definitely end the rule of elites,” he said, also promising to strengthen the middle class. 

Arinze Richard Ogbunuju,  Nigerian-born candidate focused on Georgia’s traditions and the country being “a phenomenon in the Caucasus”  

Ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia also said this is not a real debate, hinting at lage number of candidates present at the stage. Electing Tbilisi Mayor will mark the beginning of change throughout the country, he said, adding that there is a lack of fair and free pre-election environment. He said the UNM and GD are dragging the country to the past. 

Lawyer Zaza Khatiashvili of Free Georgia said GD founder “Bidzina Ivanishvili’s regime” has dragged the country into the swamp of corruption and criticized the judiciary. I want to return smile on the face of Tbilisites, he said, also noting that he aims at protecting the interests of ordinary Tbilisites from the current city hall authorities.

Kakha Kaladze, GD incumbent stressed he has vision for the city, and listed his 6-point-plan, including urban, environment, transport, healthcare, education, culture, sports and youth and infrastructure policies. 

Ana Dolidze, For People leader thanked the broadcaster for enabling “1,8 million women voters” to listen to all candidates, including women hopefuls. Citing Vazha-Pshavela, revered writer, Dolidze said Georgia is the country of Aluda Ketelauri’s values, and that candidates shall respect their opponents. Stressing that she was born and raised in the capital city, Dolidze said she has seen better Tbilisi, andthat  she also witnessed narcotics addiction overwhelming the city and claiming lives in 90s. She said she is seeing Tbilisi without identity, that could change with her election.

Giorgi Gachechiladze of the Green Party  – credited his party of having roots in anti-Soviet national-liberation movement and of giving rise to ecological policy in the country. Gachechiladze also alleged and recalled Saakashvili-era attempts to destroy his party. 

19:00 UTC+4 — GD Chair Condemns Dmanisi Stabbings, Says UNM Encourages Violence

Responding to the incident in Gantiadi village of Dmanisi Municipality, where allegedly local GD majoritarian candidate’s son stabbed two opposition supporters earlier today, Georgian Dream chair Irakli Kobakhidze told reporters that “a perpetrator must be punished. There is no justification for the grave action that we have seen in Dmanisi… It does not matter who commits such action, member of which party…” Asked to comment on allegations that the ruling party encourages violence against the opposition, MP Kobakhidze pointed accusatory fingers at the United National Movement, noting that the UNM is the very force “encouraging violence.” 

17:10 UTC+4 — 40 Families Receive Houses with Batumi City Hall Program

Head of Adjara Government, Tornike Rizhvadze and Acting Mayor of Batumi Lela Surmanidze provided apartments to 40 families under the Batumi City Hall’s GEL 4.7 million (USD 1.5 million) affordable housing project. The families were selected by the company that carries out the project, while the apartments were assigned by lottery.

17:00 UTC+4 — MP Okriashvili Says Two Persons Stabbed in Dmanisi Brawl

Kakha Okriashvili, member of the United National Movement-led bloc Strength in Unity, claimed that 20 to 30 Georgian Dream supporters descended on a meeting with the UNM’s local mayoral candidate Giorgi Tatuashvili in Village Gantiadi near Dmanisi town. He also alleged that the son of Georgian Dream’s local majoritarian candidate Davit Dautashvili stabbed two of their supporters. The footage aired by Mtavari Arkhi TV shows a brawl supposedly between GD and UNM activists. Interior Ministry has not yet commented on the development.

12:00 UTC+4 — UNM Says Supporter Assaulted in Rustavi

United National Movement Rustavi mayoral candidate Davit Kirkitadze said a man was fired a few days ago from a publicly-funded agency under Rustavi City Hall, threatened and subsequently assaulted outside his house yesterday for supporting the opposition party. “This is the handwriting of the Georgian Dream,” Kirkitadze said. Georgian Dream’s Rustavi mayoral hopeful Nino Latsabidze denied the accusation as “absurd.”

Monday, September 20

18:50 UTC+4 — Melia Warns Growing Influence of Criminal World

At a campaign event to present Batu Kutelia, Droa’s majoritarian candidate in Vake district, also backed by UNM, European Georgia and Girchi More Freedom parties, the four parties’ joint candidate for Tbilisi Mayor, Nika Melia allaged close ties between thieves and the ruling Georgian Dream party. “What I have seen in Gldani [district] the last year during five months, was unimaginable. One ‘thief in law’ rules Mukhiani [neighborhood], the second one rules Gldani, while the third one holds sway over Avchala [neighborhood],” said Melia, who fought for Gldani majoritarian in 2020 parliamentary elections. He went on that “We have no right not to win… [If we lose on October 2], it will be impossible for any force to win any future election, even locals, without a deal and close [links] with the criminal world… I feel their influence is growing… If I had right to informally conduct a search and go down at Barnovi Street [in Vake], to stop every tenth vehicle randomly, firearms will be found from car cabins, car boots, and jeans [pants].” 

18:00 UTC+4 — Georgian Dream Launches Podcast

The Georgian Dream party has launched an English-language podcast hosted by MP Tamar Taliashvili, Deputy Chair of the parliamentary Education and Science Commmittee. In the first episode, she hosted party chair Irakli Kobakhidze, discussing the nearing October 2 local elections and the draft constitutional amendments, among others.

15:50 UTC+4 — Lelo Mayoral Candidate Says Tbilisi ‘Losing’ Dighomi Forest Park

Lelo party Tbilisi mayoral hopeful said residents of the capital city are losing Dighomi Forest Park while the country is “involved in political strife.” Bibilashvili highlighted that part of the 75-hectare park has been privatized, with a permit for constructing a four-story trade center on a 12,000 square meter plot already approved. “This private property is protected under the Constitution of Georgia… But when the interests of the city and the private property intersect, the City Hall should have a stance,” Bibilashvili noted.

15:45 UTC+4 — CEC Advisory Group Disbanded after Members Quit

The Advisory Group of the Central Election Commission tasked to ensure organizational, legal, and technical support of elections and referenda was disbanded after seven of its members quit the group. Letters of resignation were submitted to CEC on September 16-17 soon after Civil Election Commission, a recently established election watchdog co-founded by Shame Movement, published information on alleged financial ties between CEC and some of the organizations involved in the advisory group. According to Giorgi Santuriani, the head of the legal department at CEC, the Election Code mandates the advisory group to be composed of at least nine and a maximum of fifteen members; the resignations lowed the number [from 12 to 5] beyond the legally required threshold. The Advisory Group had been staffed without two of the key election watchdogs in August, Transparency International and International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, both of which refused to join. 

Sunday, September 19

19:40 UTC+4 ISFED, Khoshtaria Appeal CEC over “Bloody” Billboards

International Society for Fair Elections (ISFED) and Elene Khoshtaria of the Droa party have lodged separate appeals over billboards that showed some prominent opposition leaders and media personalities on a bloodsoaked background. Both argued the “bloody” billboards violated Article 41 (6) of the Election Code that stipulates printed campaign materials shall specify the names and addresses of organizations that manufactured and ordered them, as well as information of circulation, sequence number, and date of issue.

16:00 UTC+4 — GYLA Head Denies Kobakhidze’s Accusations

Nika Simonishvili, Head of Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, slammed as “nonsense” Georgian Dream Chair Irakli Kobakhide’s claim that the watchdog’s appeal to the Constitutional Court over majoritarian district boundaries of the self-government elections aimed to obstruct the upcoming polls. Simonishvili pointed out the Court ruling on the matter will not be out either before the Election Day or shortly after. He asserted the complaint is only aimed at ensuring the votes of the citizens all have equal weight.

15:30 UTC+4 — GD Chair Implies GYLA Appeal Promotes ‘Revolutionary Scenario’

Ruling Georgian Dream party chair Irakli Kobakhidze accused the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association of attempting to obstruct the local elections two weeks ahead of the polling day with an “absurd” constitutional appeal. MP Kobakhidze compared the complaint, which argues that current boundaries of majoritarian districts are unconstitutional, to a 2016 appeal by the United National Movement. He said it is “concerning” that a CSO is doing something previously “attempted” by the UNM to promote a “revolutionary scenario.”

Saturday, September 18

17:50 UTC+4 — Gakharia Says GD Turns Natsi-like

Responding to accusations by Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili yesterday over then Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s “eye-gauging” handling of June 20, 2019 anti-occupation rally dispersal, ex-PM Gakharia said “I know already that today [Georgian] Dream is not Georgian, Dream has become Natsi-like [derogatory term for the UNM  editor’s note].”

13:00 UTC+4 — New Billboards Targetting UNM, Gakharia, Journalists Stir Controversy

Now-traditional anti-UNM posters pre-election billboards, this time including image of ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia too, as well as TV Pirveli’s Nodar Meladze and Director General of Mtavari Arkhi TV, Nika Gvaramia, have appeared around Tbilisi overnight. MP Tamar Kordzaia of UNM-led coalition slammed the GD government, saying “these banners are made to show that [Tbilisi] turned into the city full of hate and death, not life” – alluding to GD’s election slogan. Georgian Dream leaders denied they are behind the campaign. GD chair Irakli Kobakhidze said however that putting up banners is protected under the right to freedom of expression. “This is, apparently, gift by grateful people to that opposition that distingusihed itself with addressing most cruel methods during nine years,” he said. GD’s Tbilisi Mayoral candidate, incumbent Mayor Kahka Kaladze said he does not like the billboards, yet addressed government-critical TV reporters: „You don’t like the [posters], do you? The same way I don’t like that campaign that your party is implementing with using your TV stations.” Rustavi 2 TV talked to businessman Mikheil Gabriadze, who assumed responsibility on the billboards, saying “I am apolitical in general, but people, youths should remember that they [UNM] should not come to power again.”

‘No to natsis [derogatory term for UNM], no to evil, no to treason,” reads the banner against UNM and ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia. The latter had been dubbed “traitor” by GD leaders. The billboard shows: the first line, left to right – GD-turned-UNM MP Gubaz Sanikidze, UNM’s Nika Melia, ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili and Gakharia. On the second line, left to right – TV Pirveli journalist Nodar Meladze, European Georgia’s Giga Bokeria, Mtavari Arkhi TV director general Nika Gvaramia and Girchi-More Freedom party’s Zurab Japaridze. Gakharia’s image is printed with dark circles under his eye, alluding to recent GD accusations against him over cocaine use. Screengrab from Rustavi 2 TV video.

10:00 UTC+4 Watchdog Appeals Majoritarian Districts Boundaries

Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) launched a lawsuit in the Constitutional Court demanding recognition of current boundaries of majoritarian districts established for the local self-government elections as unconstitutional. The lawsuit stipulates that, currently, a constituent’s vote in a small district has more influence on the outcome of an election than a voter’s ballot in large districts. “The number of registered voters in Saburtalo is 134,582, and in Mtatsminda – 53,884. As the number of voters living in Saburtalo is 2.5 times higher than their number in Mtatsminda, the weight of a single vote in the Saburtalo district is 2.5 times less prominent than the weight of a vote in Mtatsminda,” GYLA explained.

Friday, September 17

23:46 UTC+4 — Gakharia Says Tests Negative on Drugs

Former PM Giorgi Gakharia, who recently faced cocaine addiction accusations from his former Georgian Dream colleagues, published the results of the urine and blood drug screening in Vienna’s Rudolfinerhaus Clinic, showing negative on narcotics consumption. Ex-Prime Minister also said hair follicle drug test results are also coming from the same hospital.

22:15 UTC+4 — Garibashvili Says GD Political Vegetarians, UNM Cannibals

“[People like] Megis Kardava, [Bacho] Akhalaia, Vano Merabishvili, [Giga] Bokeria, all of these Goebbelses, and sadists, led by [Mikheil] Saakashvili, this mafia banda – like someone said – these political cannibals, are disliking our vegetarian menu. We are political vegetarians compared to them,” PM Irakli Garibashvili told Rustavi 2 TV, comparing the Georgian Dream to its arch-rival, the United National Movement party.

16:40 UTC+4 — Girchi – More Freedom Members Released from Custody

Two Girchi – More Liberty members, Nika Mosiashvili and Boris Kurua, temporarily detained after smashing their own Škoda Octavia – the preferred vehicle of law enforcement agencies – in protest over alleged State Security Service wiretappings, were released from custody on parole.

16:40 UTC+4 Mezvrishvili Accuses Police of Distracting from Campaign

Deputy Chair of Gakharia’s For Georgia party Natia Mezvrishvili tweeted today that the police is distracting her amid an active pre-election campaign. “I was summoned to police in Kazbegi, 150km away from Tbilisi, on 4 cases of political persecution, in a procedure unforeseen by legislation,” she wrote, underlining that the police overlooks “the systemic nature of over 100 cases [of persecution].”

14:30 UTC+4 Cocaine Accusations Against Gakharia “Russian Handwriting,” Says Saakashvili

Ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili of the United National Movement has called Georgian Dream’s accusations against Tbilisi mayoral hopeful Giorgi Gakharia over his alleged drug abuse “a typical Russian handwriting.” “They have been saying the exact same thing for years about me,” he added.

11:44 UTC+4 420 IDP Families Receive Apartments in Tskaltubo

The Government of Georgia has provided apartments in Tskaltubo town to 420 IDP families, that had lived in Tskaltubo sanatoriums for years. “The Government decided to allocate GEL 37 million (USD 12 million) to build the new residential complex,” PM Irakli Garibashvili said. In 2020, some 140 families were also resettled. 

Thursday, September 16

22:18 UTC+4 MP Kobakhidze Hints Gakharia a “Cokehead”

“Better if we speak about some other topic, rather than waste 15 minutes on some cokehead,” said ruling Georgian Dream chair Irakli Kobakhidze referring to former Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia in an interview with the Georgian Public Broadcaster. “As far as we know, this is a recent problem for him,” added Kobakhidze when pressured by the journalist if he had suspected Gakharia abused drugs when he was in the GD government.

20:25 UTC+4 Initial Tbilisi Mayoral Candidate Backed Out after Pressure, Gakharia Says

Tbilisi mayoral hopeful Giorgi Gakharia, leader of For Georgia party, said their “well-respected,” “much better” mayoral candidate was pressured not to enter the race for the capital in October 2 local polls – a “red line” that, according to Gakharia, prompted his run for the post instead.

16:06 UTC+4 — PM Says Saakashvili a Drug User, Hints Gakharia Might Be Too

“We have seen several drug-addicted leaders, such as Saakashvili, who is still an active narcotics user,” said Prime Minister Garibashvili today. He also claimed his predecessor, Tbilisi Mayoral candidate Giorgi Gakharia is “probably scared” to take in Georgia the drug test called for by incumbent Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, also running for re-election.

13:50 UTC+4 —  Mtavari Arkhi Camerman Discharged from Hospital 

Mtavari TV Camerman, that was reportedly assaulted at GD’s regional office, suffering pelvic and hip fractures, was discharged from a hospital this morning. He was transferred to Tbilisi for medical examination from Kareli, a small town in Shida Kartli, following the incident.

13:00 UTC+4 — Interior Minister Meets EU, Member State Ambassadors

Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri discussed the October 2 local polls on a virtual meeting with EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell and envoys of the 27-member-bloc member states, the Interior Ministry reported on September 16. MORE

Wednesday, September 15

22:30 UTC+4 — UNM Rustavi Mayoral Candidate’s Initiatives

Rustavi city mayoral hopeful Davit Kirkitadze of the United National Movement unveiled several initiatives to implement if he wins the race. The largest opposition party candidate said he aims to distribute state-owned land surrounding the city to up to the families of Rustavi. He also pledged to give legal ownership to current tenants of illegally constructed residences, as well as car garages.

21:45 UTC+4 — GD’s Mdinaradze Says Cameraman Tripped and Fell

Georgian Dream MP Mamuka Mdinaradze denied Mtavari Arkhi TV reports, arguing instead cameraman Ablotia tripped on the railing of a staircase connecting to the balcony and “fell over.” According to MP Mdinaradze, the cameraman did not fall two stories either. He also denied that people at the GD office attacked the TV crew, and dubbed Mtavari Arkhi’s version of the story a “dirty speculation.”

The Interior Ministry has not yet released a statement on the incident.

21:00 UTC+4 — Additional Details on the Incident

Mtavari Arkhi TV reporter Beka Korshia said that he and cameraman Levan Ablotia were attacked by four or five persons who drove them out of the office to its balcony. He said he was hit during the scuffle as well. Mtavari Arkhi Director Nika Gvaramia said Ablotia is not in a severe condition but has suffered a broken hip. Other possible injuries not identified yet due to insufficient technical means at the regional hospital, according to Gvaramia.

19:30 UTC+4 — Mtavari Arkhi Crew Reportedly Assaulted at GD Regional Office

Mtavari Arkhi TV reporter Beka Korshia said the channel’s operator “was thrown” two stories out of the Georgian Dream’s office in Kareli town. Korshia said a scuffle erupted at the office after the crew arrived seeking a comment from GD’s Kareli mayoral candidate Zaza Guliashvili. According to the reporter, the cameraman was transferred to a hospital and is injured but conscious. Mtavari Arkhi TV has not yet disclosed the name of the cameraman, or additional details on the development.

19:00 UTC+4 — Shame Movement Denies MP Kobakhidze’s Accusation

Shame Movement slammed MP Irakli Kobakhidze’s accusation as a “lie,” noting the movement has never had such a discussion with the United National Movement. “Unlike the Georgian Dream, we know the price of human life,” the Shame Movement added.

17:00 UTC+4 — MP Kobakhidze Claims UNM Mulling over Murder 

Citing supposedly leaked insider information from the United National Movement, Georgian Dream chair MP Irakli Kobakhidze claimed the party members had said “hiring a killer and taking out one of their own would cost 1/10” of what they are spending on their “party and party[-owned]  televisions.” According to the GD chair, one of the members of the Shame movement was asked “to test this idea in several chats.” MP Kobakhidze claimed “the radical opposition” are discussing carrying out grave provocations “more and more actively.”  

13:00 UTC+4 — CEC Received List of Potential Voters

Public Service Development Agency handed over the list of 3,540,609 potential voters to Central Election Commission. The deadline for the CEC to release final/corrected data on the total number of voters and their breakdown by electoral districts is September 27. MORE

Tuesday, September 14

23:20 UTC+4 — Saakashvili Meets MEPs

Ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili of the United National Movement has held a meeting with MEPs, including Marina Kaljurand (S&D, Estonia), Sven Mikser (S&D, Estonia), Andrius Kubilius (EPP, Lithuania), Michael Gahler (EPP, Germany) and Petras Auštrevičius (Renew Europe, Lithuania). MEP Kaljurand tweeted  that she urged Saakashvili to refrain from “provocations and use his political capital to help to depolarize pre-election situation in Georgia and respect OSCE/ODIHR decision after Georgia’s local elections on October 2.”

15:50 UTC+4 — Labor Party Mayoral Candidate Pledges Improving Agrarian Markets

Labor party mayoral candidate Mikheil Kumsishvili met with traders at one of the open-air agricultural markets in Tbilisi. Kumsishvili pledged to improve the infrastructure of all Tbilisi markets, making them comfortable, clean and tidy, where “the interests of both: traders and buyers will be protected.”

14:35 UTC+4 — ISFED Presents First Interim Report on Pre-Election Social Media

ISFED, a key election watchdog, presented its first report on pre-election social media, analyzing 1,126 public posts during August 2-22. Watchdog identified pages attempting to discredit the ruling Georgian Dream party, as well as the opposition. ISFED’s monitors also found that 52 civil servants had publish 118 possible election agitation posts during working hours. MORE.

12:44 UTC+4 — PM Proposes Import Substitution

“[Government] seeks to gradually develop local production and replace imported goods,” said PM Irakli Garibashvili on a campaign rally introducing GD’s Vakhtang Maisuradze as a candidate for upcoming mayoral elections in Kaspi, a small town in central Georgia. “It requires very consistent, accurate work and stability,” he added.

12:40 UTC+4 — GD Accuses Critical Channels of Spreading Disinformation 

Ruling Georgian Dream MP Shalva Papuashvili accused three government-critical TV networks – Mtavari Arkhi, TV Pirveli and Formula TV – of undertaking “deliberate disinformation and hate campaigns” against the Government and its officials. “Attempts to discredit the Prime Minister and GD’s Tbilisi mayoral candidate are especially relevant, these persons are targets of hate speech,” he said. MP Papuashvili, also the party’s PR secretary, presented the findings of media monitoring conducted by the GD’s internal communications team between 1-12 September. The monitoring report claims that the government-critical outlets are spreading disinformation, use hate-speech, and air manipulated content in their news broadcasts and talk-shows. 

Monday, September 13

22:00 UTC+4 — UNM’s Kutaisi Candidate Proposes Green Spaces

United National Movement party’s Kutaisi mayoral hopeful Khatia Dekanoidze pledged to repurpose the area surrounding the former Parliament building by developing a green area with parks, gardens and children’s playgrounds.

20:26 UTC+4 Samkharauli National Forensics Bureau responds to Gakharia

Samkharauli National Forensics Bureau slammed former PM, Tbilisi Mayoral hopeful Giorgi Gakharia’s refusal to take his drug test at the Bureau. Citing a “provocation,” Gakharia had said he would take a hair follicle test abroad. The Bureau said that such statements are “highly damaging to an independent state institution and are intended to discredit the Bureau and its staff”. It also added that the hair follicle drug test is “least informing.

18:30 UTC+4 — Gakharia Says Will Take Drug Test, Albeit Abroad

Former PM, For Georgia party’s mayoral hopeful Giorgi Gakharia, has taken up a recent call by incumbent Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze on Tbilisi mayoral race candidates to pass a drug test, saying he will get tested at a laboratory in Europe with “the most reliable” hair follicle drug test and publish results in 2 weeks. Gakharia claimed to have “unmistakable information from the Samkharauli [National] Forensics Bureau about a provocation being prepared” by Georgian Dream party leaders had he taken the test locally.

17:10 UTC+4 — European Parliament Observation Delegation to Include 7 MEPs

European Parliament’s observation delegation for the October 2 local elections in Georgia will include seven MEPs as well as administrative staff, Grigol Gegelia of Lelo for Georgia party said today.

14:16 UTC+4 PM Vows GEL 10 Mln to Complete Abastumani Observatory Rehabilitation

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili vowed the government would allocate GEL 10 million (USD 3 million) to finish the rehabilitation of the Abastumani Astrophysical Observatory during his campaign trip to Abastumani town on September 12. The money would be spent on upgrading the Observatory’s main telescope and digital museum, according to the Infrastructure Minister Irakli Karseladze who accompanied the PM. Government administration’s press service reported that in total GEL 315 (USD 100) million has been allotted for infrastructure repairs in Abastumani, a small town in southern Georgia known for its climactic spas.

Sunday, September 12

15:00 UTC+4  Communications Regulator Says Imedi TV Violated Election Code

The Georgian National Communications Commission, the state regulator, said Imedi TV violated the Election Code by refusing to air an election ad of the opposition European Georgia party. Imedi TV had argued the ad contained “hate speech” but the regulator said it found the video in compliance with relevant legislation. The GNCC said it has drawn up a report on an administrative violation against Imedi TV and sent it to the court for consideration.

Friday, September 10

13:20 UTC +4 — ISFED Appeals Alleged Vote-Buying

International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, key election watchdog, said it has lodged a complaint over vote-buying after a supporters’ Facebook page for Georgian Dream’s Tsalenjikha Municipality mayoral candidate Goga Gulordava posted photos showing party activists handing out food to citizens. Watchdog addressed the Interagency Commission for Free and Fair Elections, established under the Justice Ministry, with the appeal.

12:20 UTC+4 — GD Unveils Public Opinion Poll Results

According to a new public opinion poll, commissioned by the Georgian Dream,  “if the local self-government elections were held tomorrow” Tbilisi electorate would vote for:

  • Georgian Dream – 48.6%;
  • The United National Movement – 27.1%;
  • Ex-PM Gakharia’s For Georgia – 5.8%;
  • Girchi – More Freedom – 3.4%;
  • Citizens – Alexander (Aleko) Elisashvili – 2.6%;
  • The Alliance of Patriots – 2.4%;
  • Third Force – Strategy Aghmashenebeli – 2.3%;
  • Lelo – 2.3%;
  • Labor Party – 1.2%;
  • Girchi – New Political Center – 1.1%;
  • European Georgia – 1.1%
  • Others  – 2.1%;

As for the Tbilisi mayoral candidates, according to the poll, GD’s Kaladze will be heading for reelection in the first rounf. Asked who they vote for if the elections were held tomorrow, Tbilisi electorate said:

  • Kakha Kaladze, GD – 56.1%;
  • Nika Melia, UNM – 28.3%;
  • Giorgi Gakharia, For Georgia – 6.2%;
  • Ana Dolidze, For People – 2.2%
  • Ana Bibilashvili, Lelo – 1.9%
  • Giorgi Lomia, the Alliance of Patriots – 1.3%
  • Tamar Kekenadze, Third Force – Strategy Aghmashenebeli – 0.9%
  • Mikheil Kumsishvili, Labor Party – 0.7%;
  • Others – 2.4%

Senior Georgian Dream lawmaker Mamuka Mdinaradze said the fieldwork was carried out by the party’s own public opinion pollsters in Tbilisi during September 4-8. Out of 2,975 interviewees, 83.8% named their favorites. MP Mdinaradze said the results were weighted, and the margin of error stands at plus, minus 3%. The senior lawmaker did not specify if the interviews were conducted face-to-face or on the phone.

Thursday, September 9

23:13 UTC+4 — European Parliament to Send Observers

MEP Marina Kaljurand said the European Parliament had decided to send an election observation delegation to monitor October 2 local elections.

20:30 UTC+4 — GD’s Kobakhidze Slams Formula Poll as “Dreams”

GD Chair Irakli Kobakhidze slammed the Formula TV-commissioned poll as “dreams” of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili of the United National Movement, and Davit Kezerashvili, UNM-era Defense Minister and the majority shareholder of Formula TV. “It is in their interest that the UNM and Gakharia [For Georgia party] somehow manage to gather a number of votes that will allow them to stir up the country.”

22:23 UTC+4 — Melia Talks Drug Tests

Nika Melia, the UNM candidate for Tbilisi Mayor, said that Kaladze’s call on Tbilisi Mayoral candidates to take drug screening has “a political subtext.” “There is something going on. It seems like there are some drug relations to be sorted out between Mr. Kaladze and Mr. Gakharia. Hopefully, they will figure this out,” he said. Noting that he could take the drug test himself, Melia added that none of the candidates are obliged by law to go through with it.

20:20 UTC+4 — New Polls Show GD (33%), UNM (25%), For Georgia (10%), Labor (6%) Top Parties

According to a new public opinion poll, commissioned by Formula TV, if October 2 local elections were held today, the Georgian public would vote for:

  • Georgian Dream – 33%;
  • The United National Movement – 25%;
  • Ex-PM Gakharia’s For Georgia – 10%;
  • Labor Party – 6%;
  • Girchi – More Freedom – 4%;
  • Lelo – 3%;
  • For People – Ana Dolidze – 3%;
  • The Alliance of Patriots – 3%;
  • Third Force – Strategy Aghmashenebeli – 2%;
  • European Georgia – 2%;
  • Girchi – New Political Center – 2%;
  • ERI – of Levan Vasadze, Russia-friendly businessman – 2%;
  • Droa! – Elene Khoshtaria – 1%;
  • Citizens – Alexander (Aleko) Elisashvili – 1%;
  • Others  – 2%;

The poll was commissioned by Formula TV, government-critical TV channel and fieldwork was carried out by the Edison Research during August 13 – September 5, via 1,500 nationwide face-to-face interviews. An average margin of error, Formula TV said, stands at plus, minus 3%.

18:40 UTC+4 — Lelo’s Tbilisi Mayoral Candidates Lists Priorities

Tbilisi Mayoral candidate Ana Bibilashvili, along with Lelo for Georgia leaders Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri japaridze, unveiled nine key steps of the party’s election program for the Georgian capital titled “Tbilisi Marshall Plan.”

  • “City in a city” – Bibilashvili presented the concept of “five cities” – developing Tbilisi’s different locations into hotspots for following five industries: museums and festivals; medical; business and finance; education and innovation; cinema.
  • “Caring and Fair Tbilisi” –  Bibilishvili outlined as a priority overcoming child poverty and providing care to the elderly.
  • “Safe and Clean Tbilisi” – Lelo leaders vowed that Tbilisi must become city clean of waste, with illuminated and safe streets.
  • “Green Tbilisi” – Bibilashvili highlighted the importance of developing major green spaces.
  • “Business Tbilisi” – Lelo party candidate stressed the importance of attracting foreign investments and creating sustainable Business Environment in the capital.
  • “Connected Tbilisi” – Bibilashvili and Khazaradze stressed the importance of establishing a logistics hub in the vicinity of the Tbilisi International Airport.
  • “Healthy and educated generation Tbilisi” – Lelo leaders said they aim to build swimming pools for all districts, sports facilities for all public school and provide high-quality food for kindergartens.
  • “Host Tbilisi” – Bibilashvili pledged to make Tbilisi tourist center of the region and provide grants for small and medium businesses working in the field.
  • “Old Tbilisi” – She pledged to preserve the appearance of Old Tbilisi and impose strict regulations on new constructions near cultural monuments.

15:00 UTC+4 — Lelo Party Speaks of Pressure on its Candidates

Lelo for Georgia MP Badri Japaridze accused the ruling Georgian Dream party of pressuring Lelo candidates to drop out of the election races. MP Japaridze said cases of pressure and threats are more prominent in the regions, including in Akhalkalaki, Akhaltsikhe and Aspindze towns of Georgia’s southern Samtskhe-Javakheti region, as well as in Dedoplistskaro town of eastern Kakheti Region. The Lelo leader party said in Akhaltsikhe four persons withdrew from the party’s proportional list. MP Japaridze also claimed that Lelo majoritarian candidate in Vani was threatened with his wife being refused funding for an surgery unless he ceased active campaigning.

14:30 UTC+4 — NDI Pre-Election Delegation on Challenges Ahead of Local Polls

NDI’s pre-election delegation, led by NDI Board Chair Madeleine Albright, listed several key ongoing challenges ahead of the local polls, including “notably absent” organization and participation in debates, as well as Georgian interlocutors’ concerns on possible selective enforcement of electoral regulations and abuses of state resources and prosecutorial authorities. According to the statement, following the July 5 homophobic violence, there were also elevated concerns about the ability of civil society and media to operate freely and the harassment of opposition party members and candidates. According to the statement, the upcoming polls “provide an opportunity for Georgia’s political leaders” to demonstrate commitment to a democratic path, following concerns raised by the Georgian public and the international community on the issue.

11:50 UTC+4 — 15 Election Observers Opposition-Affiliated, GD MP Says

Ruling Georgian Dream party MP Givi Mikanadze accused 15 of 62 local election observers of being affiliated with the opposition – 12 of being linked with the United National Movement and 3 with the European Georgia. MP Mikanadze noted that “similar organizations” often aim to create a “perception that the election process is going on with violations.”

Wednesday, September 8

23:10 UTC +4 — Mayoral Candidate Richard Ogbunuju Talks Goals

Richard Ogbunuju said the aim of his mayoral bid is that every person has work and the ability to meet their family’s needs. “I have been together with you through many difficult times, and I can understand your woes,” said Nigerian-born Ogbunuju, who has lived in Georgia since the 1990s.

22:30 UTC +4 — Opposition MP Says European Georgia Leader ‘Political Toxicosis’

Law and Justice leader, MP Tamar Charkviani accused European Georgia chair Giga Bokeria of representing “political toxicosis,” arguing Bokeria has in the past harmed the unity of Georgian opposition. “Not only disbanding others… his own party also fell on his head,” MP Charkviani told Rustavi 2 anchor. MP Charkviani and Bokeria have both endorsed Nika Melia as the opposition candidate for Tbilisi Mayor. MORE and MORE 

19:00 UTC+4 — Garibashvili, NDI’s Madelaine Albright Meet Online

PM Irakli Garibashvili met online with Madelaine Albright, the National Democratic Institute chair and NDI delegation to discuss upcoming elections. According to the Georgian Government’s press service, PM Garibashvili pledged the Government will ensure peaceful and transparent environment for the local polls. NDI started earlier in September high-level meetings ahead of October 2 elections, “aiming to demonstrate support for Georgia’s democratic development and European and Euro-Atlantic integration and reinforce the international community’s expectation for adherence by all to the principles of genuine democratic elections and political processes.”

PM Irakli garibashvili meets NDI delegation. September 8, 2021. Photo: the Georgian Government’s Press Service

15:53 UTC+4 — Lawmaker Slams ‘Urine War’

MP Gubaz Sanikidze of the UNM-led Strength in Unity bloc criticized Kaladze’s call on Tbilisi Mayoral candidates to take drug screening. “In Georgia there is a urine war going on,” Sanikidze told TV Pirveli anchor, adding that Georgian politics sank to the level of checking one another’s urine.

15:10 UTC +4 – European Georgia Talks “Politically Motivated” Court Case

European Georgia chair Giga Bokeria said the party’s Zugdidi majoritarian candidate Batu Shellia has been called to court over a “fabricated” case. Bokeria stated that Shelia was initially charged in April 2020 but “the case was so absurd it had been shelved since.” The European Georgia leader did not specify the details on the case, however.

15:05 UTC+4 — Labor Party Names Tbilisi Sakrebulo Majoritarian Candidates, Proportional List

Labor leader Shalva Natelashvili announces party’s proportional-party list of 11 people to run for Tbilisi CIty Assembly (Sakrebulo). 10 of these candidates will also run as majoritarians in all of the single mandate constituencies of the Georgian capital. As per recent electoral changes, the 50-member Tbilisi Sakrebulo will be composed of 40 deputies elected through proportional vote and 10 lawmekers elected as majoritarians, instead of previous 25/25 composition. MORE

13:20 UTC+4 – CSO Activist Suspects GD May Use Compromising Materials on Gakharia

Giorgi Mshvenieradze, former head of the Georgian Democracy Initiative, local CSO, suspects the governing Georgian Dream party of having compromising material on former PM Giorgi Gakharia, about possible drug use, which could be published a few days prior to the election. The Georgian lawyer shared his suspicions in a Facebook post addressing a recent call by Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze on Tbilisi mayorial race candidates to pass a drug test, an initiative also backed by Georgian Dream Chair Irakli Kobakhidze.

Tuesday, September 7

22:45 UTC+4 — Ex-UNM Chair Vashadze not Born to be Politician, Saakashvili Says

Asked to comment on relations with Grigol Vashadze, former UNM chair and Foreign Minister under UNM government, ex-President Saakashvili told TV Pirveli: “I consider him being a truly brilliant diplomat, he would make a good president, as the main function of president is to represent Georgia in foreign relations, but he is not really born to be a politician.”

22:40 UTC+4 — Saakashvili Recalls Worsening Relations with Kaladze

Asked to recall how his ways parted with Tbilisi Mayor Kaladze, Saakashvili said Kaladze’s relations with the UNM government worsened after failing the commitment to invest in the Arsenali mountain of Tbilisi and asked the UNM authorities to be given the territory practically for free without any obligations (Kaladze was doing this business with ex-PM Nogaideli, Saakashvili remarked). After having his offer rejected, Kaladze fled to the camp of Bidzina Ivanishvili, “which gave him pennies from which he made lots of money,” Saakashvili asserted. Before that business issue, Kaladze has always been sycophant, he was bowing me, sometimes he played football with me, gave me ride with his lamborghini in Batumi, noted ex-President.

22:35 UTC+4 — Ex-President Says Gakharia Looks More Civilized than GD ‘Pithecanthropi’

In a TV Pirveli interview, Kyiv-based wanted ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, who earlier pledged to arrive in Georgia for October 2 elections, said “from a purely human [perspective] Gakharia looks more civilized, than pithecanthropi of all sorts he was with (meaning GD members) that are now running around.” But  Saakashvili accused ex-PM of badly handling June 20, 2019 events, destroying Georgian economy, and playing Russian game. Ex-President said there are two sources of money in Georgia – “Ivanishvili, and and I think, he [Gakharia] is not playing Ivanishvili, or Russia.” “I observe that Gakharia says nothing about Russia… Not talking anything about Russia and having money – I see causal relationship here.”

20:00 UTC +4 – Parliament Waives COVID-Related Penalties

Parliament waived about  GEL 80 million (USD 25 million) worth of accrued unpaid fines for violating COVID-19 related curbs. PM Irakli Garibashvili unveiled the initiative in June aiming to “relieve” the economic toll the pandemic took on Georgian citizens. The Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), a local CSO, had raised suspicions the proposal was “conditioned” by the upcoming 2021 local polls. MORE

18:50 UTC +4 – For Georgia’s Khashuri Mayoral Candidate Says His Life Being Threatened

Zviad Tefnadze, Khashuri mayoral candidate of ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia party, said his life is being threatened, leveling the accusations against the ruling Georgian Dream. Tefnadze stated that he is also being threatened with arson of his personal and company-owned cars and real estate, and that he has also received threats targeted against his family.

16:30 UTC +4 – Tbilisi Mayoral Candidate Anna Dolidze Unveils Priorities

Tbilisi mayoral candidate Anna Dolidze of the For People party unveiled 6 priorities of her election program, “City for the People.”

  • “Rich City” – The mayoral candidate pledged to follow through with large-scale projects that have been tabled over the years to transform Tbilisi into a modern city, with modern transportation hubs.
  • “Clean air” – Dolidze said Tbilisi has become a “city of concrete ghettos.” To improve air quality, she vowed to introduce a  target rate of green spaces per capita in the city. 
  • “Governance for the people” – She stressed the importance of allowing Tbilisi residents to determine key budgetary priorities, and the introduction of digital procedures for submitting feedback and complaints to the City Hall.
  • “Infrastructure for the people” – Dolidze vowed to improve sidewalks, sewerage, and drainage systems.
  • Launching “Tbilisi Cares” program – Dolidze said the program would through increased funding and improved services meet the needs Tbilisi locals with disabilities, especially children.
  • “Safe City” – The mayoral hopeful stressed the need to enhance road safety, including by the City Hall actively working to identify and eliminate the road accident “black spots.” She also promised to strengthen incentives of Tbilisi residents to shelter stray animals.

13:50 UTC+4 – Khazaradze Slams Saakashvili’s Statement on Return to Georgia

MP Mamuka Khazaradze of Lelo for Georgia party said Saakashvili’s statement about returning to Georgia “serves the interests of Ivanishvili and GD, but prevents the victory of the united opposition front.”

Monday, September 6

23:00 UTC+4 — Gakharia Makes Tense Rustavi 2 TV Appearance

Rustavi 2 TV’s hour-and-half long interview with Giorgi Gakharia – anchored by Davit Kakulia in The Night Courrier program – went amid nerve-racking atmosphere, with the former Prime Minister suggesting the anchor pushed the governing party line, the latter lambasting Gakharia of being used to interfering in TV editorial policies and both accusing one another of lies and memory issues. The exchanges about the alleged corruption cases during Gakharia’s tenure led to ex-PM suggesting the anchor was citing phrases taken out of context, “acting just like” Giga Bokeria European Georgia leader. The alleged planting of arms into Mtavari Arkhi TV shareholder Giorgi Rurua’s car in 2019, when Gakharia served as PM, also contributed to the tense environment during the interview, further exacerbated by remarks over Gakharia and UNM leaders happening to stay in the same hotel in Washington DC in June. In this context, the anchor slammed Gakharia’s party colleague, MP Ana Buchukuri over groundlessly accusing Rustavi 2 – that broke the story over the two party leaders staying in the same building – of lies. Asked whether such groundless accusation was a problem, Gakharia responded: “Yes, this is a problem. This is not a problem for those people you are trying to defend now, and whose logic you are following.”

G.G.: Your narrative reminds me that of a certain party, are you holding consultations with them?

D.K.: Mr. Giorgi, you should not be asking me this question on consultations… Your party representatives, including you, at certain meetings are first denying and then confirming the same thing;

Continuing the argument over the Washington hotel episode:

G.G.: Time will come, when in this TV broadcast some other journalist will be giving me [different] questions…

D.K.: Does this mean when you come to power you will do [your best] I am not longer a journalist here?

G.G.: No, time will come when the government will have less influence on media

D.K.: You, Giorgi Gakharia, apparently, are used to defining TV programming as you were while being in the gov’t.

Gakharia then went on accusing Rustavi 2 TV of not covering his party presentations in live broadcast, while covering those of the UNM. The journalist defended the TV saying livestreams are for qualified political subjects, that Gakharia’s newly established party is not.

In some other less tense episodes, Gakharia spoke of the Georgian Dream founder, Bidzina Ivanishvili, noting that “no one stands above homeland and the state.. Bidzina Ivanishvili… did many kind and useful things for this country, but this does not mean [he is granted] never-ending indulgence for everything.” Ex-PM also vowed to never call the ruling party the Georgian Dream, but rather “Organization Dream,” asserting it detached itself from the ideals of 2012.

21:24 UTC+4 — UNM Speaks of “Unimaginable Pressure” on Candidates in Javakheti

UNM MP Khatia Dekanoidze says the State Security Service continues “unimaginable pressure” and “backmailing” on their supporters in ethnic Armenian majority Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda municipalities. They are forcing the cancellation of our proportional-party lists so we cannot take part in elections locally, Dekanoidze notes on her Facebook page.

21:10 UTC+4 — Kaladze Unveils Priorities

Incumbent Mayor of Tbilisi, Kakha Kaladze, who is running for reelection, unveiled the list of his program priorities. 

  • Urban policy — here Kaladze listed the renovation projects of Orbeliani Square, Queen Darejan Palace, Gudiashvili Square. He also vowed to keep control over floor area ratio, noting that no construction permits will be given at the expense of gardens and sports fields.
  • Environmental protection — Mayor Kaladze underscored the importance of new gardens and recreation areas and addressing the air pollution.
  • Transport policy — Kaladze vowed to expand controlled zonal parking areas; to bring additional busses in the city; and to continue the cab reform.
  • Healthcare and social policy — Kaladze promised to continue building new kindergartens, recalling that 20 new kindergartens were built under his tenure. He also pledged to resolve the issue of unfinished constructions for 3,000 families, that are still waiting from real estate developers to build their pre-paid homes. 
  • Education, culture, sports and youth policy — he said 320 education and youths projects were funded under his term, and GEL 44 million (USD 14 mln) were spent on sports federations. He vowed to fulfil his earlier pledge about the construction of 10 multi-functional centers across the city, noting that works had commenced onlyfor the construction of two of them due to pandemic reasons. Wherever the space allows we are putting jogging and biking lanes, Kaladze added.
  • Infrastructure, economy, management – Kaladze said about 1,000 streets were renovated, but problems persist. Our approach is to fix water pipes, sewegeand drainage systems before renovating road infrastructure, Kaladze added.

21:00 UTC+4 — Kobakhidze Says Saakashvili’s Remarks “Gift” to Georgian Dream

MP Irakli Kobakhidze, the Georgian Dream chair, said Mikheil Saakashvili’s statement on arriving to Georgia was a “gift” to GD as it would help the ruling party better mobilize its supporters.

18:35 UTC+4 — Saakashvili Vows to Arrive in Georgia for Elections

Kyiv-based ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili said in a video address “I will arrive in Georgia for this election.” He also called on Georgians residing abroad to arrive in the homeland for October 2 polls, be it “by land or by air.” The former President, who is wanted in Georgia, said “I am also not afraid of them [Georgian Dream authorities] arresting me.” Saakashvili said he will brief supporters on a concrete route, mode of transportation and date of arrival to Georgia when he has more details available. Noting that although “there will be no revanche” once the Georgian Dream is no longer in power, Saakashvili said Bidzina Ivanishvili, the Georgian Dream founder and ex-PM “will bring every stolen penny back.”

17:20 UTC+4 — NDI Begins Limited Long-Term Observation

The National Democratic Institute, U.S.-funded non-profit, announced today about launching its limited long-term election assessment mission of October 2 elections. The team includes three long-term analysts (LTAs) and a mission director, supported by additional Georgia-based assistants. It will focus on key electoral themes, including the conduct of political campaigns, the administration of elections, media and information space, gender and inclusion issues, and the impact of COVID-19 on the elections. The assessment team arrived in Tbilisi over the past weekend and will remain in Georgia through election day.

14:14 UTC+4 — IRI Launches Long-Term Assessment Mission

The International Republican Institute (IRI), U.S.-funded non profit, said it is launching a Long-Term Assessment Mission of October 2 elections. For the upcoming 6 weeks, invited long-term analysts will be assessing pre-election, E-day, and the post-election period, the IRI said. The Assessment Mission will work closely with domestic and international observation missions from the following perspectives: political campaign, election administration, and electoral law, media, and inclusion, it added. It was not immediately clear how many analysts will be assessing the elections.

12:00 UTC+4 — Kaladze Calls Rivals to Take Drug Screening, Dolidze Slams ‘Soviet Method’

Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, who is running for reelection, took a drug screen and called today his rivals to follow the lead. Ana Dolidze, another mayoral hopeful, slammed Kaladze’s call, saying it represents the “continuation of the Soviet policy, that the Government is using against drug-addicts.” Noting that it was Kaladze’s Georgian Dream that removed drug screen requirement for candidates, Dolidze said existing urine drug screen testing – performed before camera / or [police] employees –  contains danger of blackmailing opposition politicians.

Sunday, September 5

18:00 UTC+4 — Garibashvili Says “Ordinary Criminal” Nika Melia’s Mayoral Bid “Great Paradox”

At an election campaign event in Ambrolauri, western Racha region, PM Irakli Garibashvili said it was a “great paradox” that “an ordinary criminal” Nika Melia is running for Tbilisi Mayoral race. The PM recalled the case of forcing Cartu Bank into bankruptcy in which the court found Nika Melia, UNM leader, along with ex-Justice Minister Zurab Adeishvili, guilty in 2019. MORE

17:55 UTC+4 — Garibashvili Says ex-President Saakashvili “Rabbit, Coward”

Reacting to ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili’s upcoming announcement over his plans to return from Kyiv to Georgia, PM Garibashvili said “we will greet him a beatiful collection of ties.” [Garibashvili referred to a viral video from August 2008 War times when Saakashvili was spotted chewing his tie while talking on phone]. “We will bring him in a prison, a renovated one,” Garibashvili said, adding that Saakashvili is a “rabbit, coward” who could not dare to return to Georgia during the past 9 years.

14:00 UTC+4 — European Georgia Says its Candidate Under “Political Persecution”

European Georgia’s Gigi Tsereteli said Rusudan Kovziridze, their majoritarian candidate in western Terjola Municipality’s Ghvankiti costituency, is facing political pressure from the government. Tsereteli said Kovziridze, who is the Head of the Youth Center of the Municipality, was first approached and “advised” to break ties with the opposition party.

After her refusal to do so, Kovziridze started to face political persecution from the GD government, Tsereteli asserted, adding that the Audit Office entered the Youth Center as Kovziridze was on holidays while simultaneously being ill with COVID. According to Tsereteli, the Audit Office insisted on Kovziridze to provide certain documents, disregarding the fact that she was sick with COVID. As per the  European Georgia leader, Kovziridze on the sixth day of his COVID quarantine got tested, with negative result and went to her office to provide the demanded documents to the Audit’s Office, while police appeared there to fine Kovziridze with GEL 2,000 (USD 641) over breaching COVID isolation rules.

13:00 UTC+4 — Speaker Kuchava Talks Ancient Trade Links Between Racha, Egypt 

At a campaign event in Oni, western Georgia’s Racha region, Parliament Speaker Kakha Kuchava said “one of the most ancient civilizations come right from here.” He added: ” At the confluence of Sophkhidura and Rioni [rivers] incredible artefacts were found, which proves that before common era, thousands of years ago, there were direct trade [links] with Egypt.”

Saturday, September 4

21:00 UTC+4 — Gakharia’s Party Speaks of “Systemic Pressure” on Their Candidates

Natia Mezvrishvili of ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia party alleged that their candidates across the country are facing “systemic pressure” from the government. In particular, Mezvrishvili said For Georgia’s candidates from ethnic Armenian-majority Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda municipalities, candidates from ethnic Azeri majority villages of Kabali and Karajala of Lagodekhi and Telavi municipalities, respectively, and candidates from Adigeni and Ozurgeti municipalities, faced such pressure, leading their withdrawal from the contest. In Ozurgeti Municipality, Parliamentary Vice Speaker (ex-Speaker) Archil Talakvadze, and his brother Avtandil Talakvadze, who is running for Ozurgeti mayor, were “actively involeved” in putting pressure on For Georgia’s Nasakirali majoritarian candidate Nona Tunadze, who was eventually forced to withdrew, Mezvrishvili noted.

Thursday, September 2

13:00 UTC+4 — Third Force Names Free Democrat Leader As Tbilisi Mayoral Candidate

Strategy Aghmashenebeli-led “Third Force” platform presented today Tamar Kekenadze to run for Tbilisi Mayor, Sergo Chikhladze to contest Tbilisi City Council (Sakrebulo) chairpersonship, as well as majoritarian candidates in the October 2 local polls. Kekenadze, 39, is the chairperson of Free Democrats, a smaller party that teamed up on August 30 with Strategy Aghmashenebeli to form the new platform. She has in the past worked at the Georgian Defense Ministry, and as its representative at Georgia’s Mission to NATO. MORE

Wednesday, September 1

19:00 UTC+4 — Kaladze Unveils GD’s Proportional List for Tbilisi 

Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, who is running for reelection, unveiled the Georgian Dream’s youth-dominated proportional party list of 25 people, including 16 men and 9 women, for Tbilisi City Assembly (Sakrebulo). MORE

18:00 UTC+4 — Ex-Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia Joins Tbilisi Mayoral Race

Former Georgian Dream Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, founder of For Georgia party, said he will join the Tbilisi mayoral race. “You will have to deal with me personally,” Gakharia addressed his former Georgian Dream colleagues, accusing the government of putting pressure on For Georgia members and supporters. Gakharia also unveiled the list of other mayoral candidates and Tbilisi Sakrebulo membership hopefuls via majoritarian and proportional-lists: MORE

Thursday, August 26

15:00 UTC+4 — ODIHR Opens Observation Mission

The OSCE’s democracy and rights arm, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) opened today an election observation mission (EOM) for Georgia’s October 2 local self-government elections. The mission consists of a core team of 12 experts based in Tbilisi and 30 long-term observers, who will be dispatched throughout Georgia from 4 September. ODIHR also plans to request OSCE participating states to send 350 short-term observers, who would arrive several days before election day. MORE

Monday, August 23

21:00 UTC+4 — Lelo for Georgia Names Tbilisi Mayoral Candidates

Lelo for Georgia, partliamentary opposition party named 35-year-old Ana Bibilashvili as its mayoral candidate for Tbilisi. Bibilashvili spoke of “dangeorus” construction development in the capital city, ecological and transport issues, air pollution, the destroyed green spaces, and the loss of cultural heritage and jobs. “Most importantly, Tbilisi is losing people.” MORE

Tuesday, August 17

15:00 UTC+4 — UNM, Girchi-MF, European Georgia, Droa Name Joint Sakrebulo Candidates in Tbilisi 

Four opposition parties, including the United National Movement (UNM), European Georgia, Girchi – More Freedom, and Droa presented joint candidates for all 10 majoritarian constituencies of Tbilisi to make it in Tbilisi Sakrebulo (the City Assembly). Girchi – More Freedom are set to run in four out of ten single-mandate constituencies, while both European Georgia and Droa presented 3 candidates each to run in the remaining districts. UNM did not name its members as per its earlier pledge. MORE

Saturday, August 14

18:00 UTC+4 — Anna Dolidze Joins Tbilisi Mayoral Race

Anna Dolidze, former Deputy Defense Minister and left-leaning leader of the newly established For People party, has joined Tbilisi Mayoral race. READ MORE

Monday, August 9

12:00 UTC+4 — PM Garibashvili Announces Salary Rise for Mayors, Public Servants

Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili announced today the Government decided to increase salaries of mayors and public servants starting from January 2022, citing years-long stagnation in their remunaration and the “failure” of the public sector to compete with the private sector.

Sunday, August 8

15:00 UTC+4 — CEC Assigns Party Numbers

The Central Election Commission of Georgia (CEC) determined list numbers for political parties running in the local elections. Read the list with numbers HERE.

Saturday, August 7

15:00 UTC+4 — Labor Party Names Tbilisi Mayoral, Sakrebulo Chairpersonship Candidates

The Labor Party has named Mikheil Kumsishvili, leader of the party’s youth wing, as its Tbilisi mayoral candidate and Lasha Chkhartishvili, an environmental activist, was picked as Sakrebulo (City Assembly) chairmanship hopeful. MORE

Monday, August 2

18:00 UTC+4 — President Announces October 2 as Election Date

President Salome Zurabishvili set today October 2 as the date of holding local self-government elections in Georgia. MORE

14:00 UTC+4 — New CEC Chair Elected

The Parliament of Georgia elected Giorgi Kalandarishvili as the new chairperson of the Central Election Commission, receiving 83 votes in favor and 3 against, as the majority of opposition lawmakers did not attend the session. His opponent, Giorgi Santuriani garnered only four votes. Kalandarishvili will serve for a six-month term as the Georgian Dream lawmakers elected him with a simple majority after Parliament’s three unsuccessful attempts to choose the new chair. The distrusting opposition lawmakers, whose votes were required for the supermajority, were unwilling to back any of the two candidates. MORE

Friday, July 30

18:00 UTC+4 — GD Names Mayoral Candidates

Georgian Dream chair Irakli Kobakhidze announced on July 30 the party’s picks for mayoral races for municipalities and cities in the nearing October 2 local elections. MP Kobakhidze said he will lead the campaign HQ, Kakha Kaladze, incumbent mayor of Tbilisi running for reelection, will lead the party campaign in the capital city, and Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili will take the helm of their nationwide campaign. READ HERE the list of ruling party’s mayoral candidates.

Saturday, July 24

18:00 UTC+4 — CSOs Raise Alarms over Homophobic Campaign Posters

Key election watchdogs have raised alarms that derogatory political posters which appeared in capital Tbilisi on July 24, targeting the United National Movement party, media, and civic and LGBT+ rights activists, are “a call to violence” and endanger those depicted. MORE

Friday, July 23

21:00 UTC+4 — UNM’s Nika Melia Enters Tbilisi Mayoral Race

Nika Melia, chairperson of the United National Movement, the largest opposition party, entered the race for Mayor of Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital city on July 23. He will join forces with Elene Khoshtaria of Droa! political movement who will run for the Tbilisi City Council (Sakrebulo) chairpersonship. MORE

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