Georgian Dream’s Candidate Wins Senaki By-Elections

The Central Election Commission (CEC) released the first preliminary election results for the Senaki Local Council (Sakrebulo) 1 October by-election which show that the ruling Georgian Dream party’s candidate, Zaza Kurashvili, received 96.68% (962 votes) to secure the vacant seat in the Council.

The CEC’s Spokesperson Natia Ioseliani denoted that his opponent Mamuka Tuskadze, from the Social Justice party, received just 3.32% (33 votes). 1,021 people participated in the election, comprising 44.26% of the total number of voters.

The CEC announced on 12 August that by-elections would be held in the majoritarian district #№64.04 of the Senaki Municipality to fill one empty seat. 

The need to hold by-elections in Senaki municipality arose after a member of the United National Movement faction, Vakhtang Tsurtsumia, left the local council (Sakrebulo). His authority was officially terminated on May 31 before the end of his mandate. Significantly, before Tsurtsumia announced his resignation, members of the UNM faction claimed that he was “kidnapped” and pressured to leave the local council.

Ioseliani explained that electronic voting was “successfully” piloted at 3 polling stations during the election and enabled the CEC to present the results in “the shortest possible time.”

Notably, the United National Movement (UNM), For Georgia, and Lelo for Georgia, all refused to participate in the election as a sign of protest.

Civil Society’s Position

The civil society organization Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) tried in August, albeit unsuccessfully, to appeal to the Tbilisi City Court to cancel the by-elections on the grounds that they did not comply with the law.

GYLA’s logic was based on the Local Self-government Code (Article 142 1c), which states that a local council should be terminated if it cannot convene for more than 6 months.

According to the CSO, since the last official meeting of the Senaki Council was on 17 December 2021, and the Council was unable to meet after that date due to a lack of quorum, it should have been abolished and new elections scheduled for the entire municipality.

The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) also released a statement on 29 August that argued that the by-elections planned in Senaki Municipality for one vacant seat on the Senaki Local Council (Sakrebulo) should be canceled and extraordinary elections be called for the entire Local Council instead.

Background on Senaki Local Council

Prior to this election, the Senaki Local Council was caught in a stalemate between the ruling party and the opposition after neither was able to secure the necessary majority during the 2021 local-self government elections to elect a chairperson of the 33-member council. In those elections, GD won 16 seats, UNM won 13, and For Georgia won 4. 

The deadlock in Senaki was created after Ilia Akhalaia, a For Georgia party member, refused his mandate at the beginning of December. As a result, the opposition was left with a total of 16 votes, which was not enough to elect a chairperson.

The situation in the local council changed on February 9, when opposition MPs recognized the authority of Nikoloz Shamatava to replace Akhalaia. Members of the ruling party and staff of the Local Council stated then that the opposition had violated the law.

That was then followed by the opposition’s decision to elect Irakli Kacharava, a member of For Georgia, as Chairperson of the Senaki Local Council, a decision which the ruling party also disputed. That decision was ultimately ruled illegal by the Senaki District Court on 18 August. 

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