Thousands protest results of Georgia’s local elections

TBILISI  -- Thousands of protesters gathered outside Georgia's National Parliament Building Sunday to protest the municipal election results giving the ruling party a nearly-sweep.

Thousands protest results of Georgia’s local elections

TBILISI  -- Thousands of protesters gathered outside Georgia's National Parliament Building Sunday to protest the municipal election results giving the ruling party a nearly-sweep.

The Georgian Dream party won 19 out of 20 municipal elections on Saturday in runoff votes, including the mayoral offices of five of the largest cities in Georgia: Tbilisi (Kutaisi), Rustavi and Batumi).

The opposition claims fraud.

Nika Melia (head of the United National Movement, the main opposition party) claimed that the "victories won by the opposition in many municipalities were taken away...as if they never happened."

A mission of election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation In Europe stated that the voting and counting were generally positive, despite some procedural problems, especially during the counting.

The OSCE observers expressed concern at the persistent practice of party supporters acting as representatives and groups of people potentially influencing voters beyond some polling stations.

Melia informed the protesters, who shut down the main avenue of the capital, that the opposition leaders would be sent elsewhere to rally supporters to Tbilisi's massive rally on November 7.

After no candidate for the cities had won an absolute majority in the first round nationwide municipal elections held Oct. 2, the Saturday runoff elections were held.

The arrest on Oct. 1 of Mikheil Saakashvili (ex-President of Georgia), who was the founder of United National Movement, threw light on the elections.

Saakashvili fled Georgia in 2013. He was convicted in absentia for abuse of power. He was sentenced to six-years in prison. Saakashvili, who was originally from Ukraine, returned to Georgia to support the opposition in the first round. However, he was detained within one day. Soon after his arrest, he called for a hunger strike.

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