The United National Movement party no longer has a secured majority in Zugdidi Municipal Council (Sakrebulo) after lost one majoritarian seat to Georgian Dream in recounts late on October 7.
Following the recounts in four of the six precincts of the N11 majoritarian district of Zugdidi, the District Election Commission (DEC) handed a win to Georgian Dream candidate Soso Gogokhia over UNM majoritarian hopeful Manuchar Pipia, who had initially secured a narrow first-round victory with only two votes.
This would mean the UNM has currently secured 22 Sakrebulo seats, GD – 19, and For Georgia – 3, while one district goes to a runoff. Preliminary results beforehand showed UNM with 23 seats, enough to independently form a majority in 45-member Zugdidi Sakrebulo.
The Zugdidi Municipal Council was the only Sakrebulo in Georgia where an opposition party had single-handedly secured a majority in the October 2 polls.
United National Movement reacts
United National Movement chair Nika Melia, also running for Tbilisi Mayor, arrived in Zugdidi today. Dubbing the developments “unimaginable,” Melia argued Pipia’s victory was stolen. “Yesterday they [DEC] sat down like thieves and committed the most severe crime, a man that was a victory was today announced as a loser,” Melia highlighted.
“The fight will be here, today and tomorrow,” asserted Melia, calling on the party’s supporters to hold a rally in Zugdidi on October 9. “This is a matter of principle, dignitiy [and our] future.”
The situation at the District Election Commission remained tense during and after the recount. Mtavari Arkhi TV footage of October 8 showed police officers present at the DEC building, apparently barring people, including UNM’s Ana Tsitlidze and Droa party leader Elene Khoshtaria, from entering the office.
Ruling Georgian Dream reacts
Georgian Dream’s PR Secretary Shalva Papuashvili said that annulled ballots were recounted in the N11 majoritarian district as per the ruling party’s complaint. As a result, he said, GD majoritarian hopeful Soso Gogokhia ended up with 1193 votes, and UNM’s Manuchar Pipia with 1183.
MP Papuashvili accused the UNM members of “violently interfering” in the Election Administration’s activities and “pressuring” its employees, as well as called on the law enforcement agencies to have “the strictest response” to such instances.
Election Administration responds
Central Election Commission Spokesperson Natia Ioseliani today spoke of “discreditation attempts against the Election Administration,” adding that Zugdidi DEC Chair Miranda Meskhi was being threatened, pressured, and barred from holding a press briefing about the recount results.
“Even though the Election Day, vote counting, recounts, processing of complaints went on in an unprecedented transparent environment, certain persons are deliberately trying to harm the process,” said the CEC Spokesperson.
In a written statement, Zugdidi DEC Chair Miranda Meskhi denied the accusation of ballot-rigging, a claim she said appeared only after the Georgian Dream candidate received additional votes through the recount. Meskhi stressed that her decision was lawful, adding she is ready to provide relevant documentation to any interested party.
This article was updated.