Georgian Opposition Party Calls Elections 'Unfair,' Refuses Second-Round Participation

TBILISI -- One of Georgia's opposition parties, European Georgia, has called weekend parliamentary elections unfair and says it will boycott runoff balloting to protest official results that handed the ruling Georgian Dream party its third consecutive electoral victory.

One of the party's leaders, Davit Bakradze, told reporters in Tbilisi on November 2 that the elections held on October 31 "were neither free nor fair" and his party is refusing to accept final results announced by the South Caucasus nation's election officials.

The move comes after the largest opposition party, United National Movement (ENM), also rejected the results of the vote, which international observers characterized as "far from perfect."

Runoff elections will be held in 15 districts, all but ensuring the ruling party will secure a majority in parliament, on November 21.

"Elections where fraudulent mechanisms were involved at full capacity; elections where party, state, and criminal structures were involved simultaneously; elections where voters were intimidated...cannot be considered as fair elections. Our assessment is clear: these elections were neither free nor fair, and they do not reflect the will of the Georgian people," Bakradze said.

According to results from the Central Election Commission (CEC), nine parties crossed the 1 percent threshold needed to make it into the 150-member parliament under the proportional electoral system part of the election, which allocates 120 seats.

Georgian Dream, founded by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, had 48.15 percent, while ENM's bloc had 27.14 percent and European Georgia, led by a number of former ENM members, was third with 3.78 percent.

Turnout was said to have been 56 percent.

The election was the first under a reformed electoral system passed in June giving more weight to proportional representation. Of 150 seats in parliament, 120 seats are determined based on party lists and 30 seats through single-mandate districts.

Opposition parties have said they will hold a rally on November 8 to protest against the official results of the elections and call for new polls.

Sergi Kapanadze, another leader of European Georgia, said on November 2 that the protest action will be national and won't only represent one political party.

The newly elected parliament will be considered legitimate if at least 76 lawmakers convene for its first session on December 20.

Observers with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) concluded that the elections in the Caucasus country of around 3.7 million people were "competitive" and said that "overall, fundamental freedoms were respected."

But preliminary findings also cited factors that "reduced public confidence in some aspects of the process."

The observers cited a "visibly partisan" media environment, "pervasive allegations of pressure on voters," and a "blurring of the line between the ruling party and the state" as particularly troublesome.