The ruling party in ex-Soviet Georgia leads municipal elections

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A member of an electoral commission helps a woman vote at a polling station during the national municipal elections in Tbilisi, Georgia on Saturday, October 2, 2021. Former president Mikheil Saakashvili was arrested after returning to Georgia, a the government announced on Friday, a move that came as the former leader sought to mobilize supporters ahead of national municipal elections seen as critical to the country’s political makeup. The elections began on Saturday. (AP Photo / Shakh Aivazov)

TBILISSI – The near final results of the national municipal elections in the former Soviet republic of Georgia show that the ruling party is well ahead of the challengers, but municipal elections in the country’s five largest cities will likely need a second round.

The Central Election Commission said on Sunday that the over 99 percent vote count showed ruling Georgian Dream party with around 47 percent of the overall vote. The main opposition party, the United National Movement, won 31% and the number of other parties was in single digits.

Georgian Dream signed an agreement this spring brokered by the European Union to call early elections for the national parliament if his share of the vote in municipal elections was less than 43%. However, he later withdrew from the agreement, claiming that the UNM had not signed it; this party did it later.

The mayoral elections in Tbilisi, Batumi, Kutaisi, Poti and Rustavi will all need a second round as no candidate obtained an absolute majority of the votes.

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Former exiled president Mikheil Saakashvili was arrested on Friday after returning to the country in an attempt to galvanize opposition to the Georgian dream.

Saakashvili, who left the country in 2014 after Georgian Dream won the presidency, faces up to six years in prison for abuse of power convictions handed down in absentia.

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