Ruling Georgian Dream party candidate Ramaz Jincharadze has obtained victory in yesterday’s by-elections for a majoritarian in hung Batumi City Council, amid reports of multiple electoral violations.
According to the vote tallies from all 14 polling stations, Jincharadze garnered 69.013% (7,225 votes), while opposition United National Movement party’s Mate Putkaradze received 30.987% (3,244 votes).
The UNM candidate is the son of Nugzar Putkaradze, elected Batumi councilor, whose unexpected passing in November left the seat up for grabs in the by-elections. The UNM accused the authorities of coercing Putkaradze before his death to switch sides and offering a bribe of USD 100,000.
10,578 voters cast ballots in the by-elections, accounting for 51.3% of the total number of voters
The 35-member Batumi City Council was one of the handful of Sakrebulos, where none of the political camps received the majority in the October 2021 local polls.
Jincharadze’s win will likely pave the way for the Georgian Dream to elect the top legislator in the nation’s second-largest city.
Georgian Dream will have 17 members, while on the opposition side UNM has 14, For Georgia – two, Lelo has one. One member Irakli Tavdgiridze, having quit the For Georgia over “unacceptable” possible cooperation with UNM and Lelo, is independent.
Tavdgiridze is now expected to help the Georgian Dream, his erstwhile party, elect the chairperson.
ISFED, a key election watchdog, reported yesterday shortcomings regarding voter mobilization, registration mainly by the GD coordinators, as well as verbal confrontation outside the polling stations.
The watchdog noted “suspicious gatherings” of people near #79 and #89 precincts in Batumi, both within 100 meters of the polling stations, that is outlawed, as well as beyond.
ISFED also noted the mobilization of UNM coordinators near #79 and #100 precincts.
The watchdog also reported partisan observer organization, such as Politics and Law observer, was involved in election agitation in favor of the ruling party.
The organization also reported about the alleged bribery near #79 polling station, involving the promise to hand over fuel coupon in exchange of a vote.
Also, Batumelebi, a local online newspaper, reported that prior to the vote, hundreds of socially vulnerable citizens that have settled in the government-owned lands, got registered in the settlement area to allow them voting in Saturday’s elections.
GD, UNM React
“Support we received is so huge, that no matter how many lies, or scandals we hear, they cannot cast a shadow and cannot bring questions about the legitimacy [of elections],” Tornike Rizhvadze, Head of Government in Adjara Autonomous Republic said, dismissing the vote-rigging allegations.
“In this constituency of Batumi, elections were held by electronic voting, which is an innovation …. that practically excludes any interference in the election process,” he asserted.
Rizhvadze also noted that in the coming days, “with the proper functioning of the City Council, with forming a solid majority, we will effectively solve all the challenges facing Batumi.”
On his part, Giorgi Kirtadze, UNM leader in Batumi, said: “We all know well what kind of ‘elections’ the Georgian Dream of Bidzina Ivanishvili [GD founder, ex-PM] and Putin [Russian President] can hold in fourteen constituencies.”
But despite anticipated “intimidation, blackmail, re-registration of lots of people,” Kirtadze asserted it was a right step for the UNM to participate in the by-elections.