By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Election commission: Governing party on track for massive majority in Georgian parliament
Placeholder Image
    TBILISI, Georgia — President Mikhail Saakashvili’s party is on track for a huge majority in Georgia’s Parliament, election officials said Friday. Bitter opponents said they may protest alleged fraud by refusing to take the seats they win.
    A nearly complete vote count from Wednesday’s election indicates Saakashvili’s United National Movement will hold about 120 of the Parliament’s 150 seats, Central Election Commission spokesman Zurab Kachkachishvili said.
    That would give the party an even stronger grip than it had over the previous, 235-seat parliament, where it suffered defections as Saakashvili allies went into the opposition and had to rely on independents to muster a constitutional two-thirds majority.
    The preliminary results show the United National Movement nearly swept the individual district races that fill half the seats, winning 71 of 75, Kachkachishvili said. The party won about 60 percent of the nationwide party-list voting to fill the other 75 seats, the commission said.
    Saakashvili’s opponents dispute the results, claiming widespread violations, and are plotting strategies to contest the election.
    ‘‘We do not accept the legitimacy of these elections due to total falsification, so it’s not ruled out that we will refuse to enter Parliament,’’ David Gamkrelidze, co-leader of the main United Opposition bloc, told reporters.
    The disputed vote set the stage for a potential reprise of the political confrontation that spilled into the streets repeatedly over the past year, heightening tension in the nation at the center of a struggle for influence between Russia and the West.
    But an election-night rally drew just a few thousand people, adding to questions about the opposition’s ability to muster the kind of large, sustained protests that could force political change.
    Street protests that followed Saakashvili’s re-election in January fizzled, despite the once wildly popular president’s dented reputation after a violent police crackdown on opposition demonstrators in November.
    The opposition cannot count on the West for support of an effort to contest the overall vote, despite some criticism from international observers of an election portrayed by the West as a test of Saakashvili’s commitment to democracy that could affect his NATO membership drive.
    In a statement issued Friday by its presidency, the EU noted that the main international observer mission said implementation of Georgia’s democratic commitments was ‘‘uneven and incomplete,’’ and urged authorities to ensure all complaints are ‘‘urgently addressed.’’
    But it also urged ‘‘all political forces to respect the election results.’’
    Meeting in Brussels with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili said the government did all it could to ensure a free and fair election and promised to address the problems raised by observers.
    She also expressed hope the opposition would pursue its complaints through legal channels.
    ‘‘There are proper procedures to deal with that, rather than protests or boycotts,’’ she said.
    The United States offered cautious praise Thursday, saying it was pleased ‘‘the elections in general proceeded in a positive manner.’’
    Saakashvili, who was first elected by a landslide after leading the peaceful 2003 Rose Revolution protests that ousted his predecessor, has assiduously courted the U.S. and sent troops to Iraq. He is a useful ally for the West in a region that is vying for influence with an increasingly assertive Russia.
    Georgia’s ties with Moscow are badly strained by its push for NATO membership and Russia’s support for two separatist regions. The Ireland-sized Caucasus Mountain country’s location on a Caspian Sea energy export route bypassing Russia and the Mideast bolster its importance for the U.S. and EU.

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter