Georgian voters in two major cities will head to the polls on April 2 to elect a majoritarian member of Parliament in Rustavi and a majoritarian councilor of the Sakrebulo in Batumi.
While the ruling Georgian Dream faces little to no competition in Rustavi, elections in Batumi are set to be contested fiercely. Its results will likely determine who elects the Chair of the hung Batumi Sakrebulo — the ruling Georgian Dream, or the opposition as a whole.
In the coastal city of Batumi, Georgian Dream’s Ramaz Jincharadze, will face off with United National Movement party’s nominee Mate Putkaradze.
The UNM candidate is the son of Nugzar Putkaradze, elected Batumi Sakrebulo member of the opposition party, whose unexpected passing in November 2021 left the seat up for contest in the by-elections.
Back then the UNM accused GD of coercing Putkaradze before his death to switch sides and offering a bribe of USD 100,000.
The Batumi City Council was one of the handful of Sakrebulos, where none of the parties received the majority of seats in the 2021 local polls.
Currently, ahead of the by-elections, Georgian Dream has 16 members, UNM has 14, ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia – two, Lelo has one. One member is independent, having quit the For Georgia, citing “unacceptable” possible cooperation with UNM and Lelo.
In the majoritarian constituency of Rustavi city and several administrative units of Gardabani Municipality, ruling GD’s pick Irakli Shatakishvili will compete with Mamuka Tuskadze and Kamal Muradkhanov of largely unknown For Social Justice and Georgian Unity and Development Party, respectively.
Shatakishvili has previously held managerial positions in the private sector, including at the Rich Metals Group, a Netherlands-registered company that mines metals in Georgia’s southern municipalities of Bolnisi, Dmanisi, and Tetritskaro in the Kvemo Kartli region.
No major opposition party candidates are to vie for the seat on Saturday.
Former Lelo MP Badri Japaridze, who was expelled by the GD-led parliament over a guilty ruling and nominated himself as a Rustavi majoritarian candidate, withdrew from the competition citing the war in Ukraine as a reason.
Japaridze argued in a press conference on February 27, that amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “when our population is extremely stressed and petrified, it is impossible to conduct the election campaign.” He further called on the Government to postpone the elections.
The Lelo leader had initially sought for the opposition to present a “united front” in the Rustavi by-elections and subsequently received an endorsement from the UNM.
The majoritarian MP seat for the Rustavi constituency was left vacant on December 2, as Georgian Dream’s Nino Latsabidze had her mandate terminated after being elected as the Rustavi Mayor in 2021 local polls.
- GD Names Candidates for Batumi, Rustavi By-Elections
- Opposition Majority in Batumi Sakrebulo in Doubt