This blog is now closed. We will continue covering events in Georgia and in the rest of of the Caucasus through our regular service.
The Georgian Dream have emerged as the winners of parliamentary elections in Georgia, winning with a wide-margin. With 59.78% of the votes counted, Georgian Dream has 50.16 %. The United National Movement are second with 26.65%.
So far none of the smaller parties has been able to pass the 5% threshold to secure seats in parliament, although there is still a possibility that one or two might. The closest to achieving that at the moment is the Patriots Alliance, who have 4.86 %, and who may still just make it.
The result follows a tense night with a number of incidents happening in several places across Georgia, where counting was taking place. The situation was further exacerbated with the publication of two exit polls, which, whilst both giving victory to Georgian Dream, differed widely about the margin of that victory.
Election day itself passed off, by and large, smoothly and peacefully. However, towards the end of the period of voting several incidents erupted that threatened to mar the process. The election administration mechanism however proved resilient, and counting continued despite a number of incidents.
Commonspace.eu political editor said that the Georgian people have now spoken and the result must be respected. Two things must also happen. Every single incident during election day and the election process needs to be investigated thoroughly and transparently and any culprits who committed violations, punished; Secondly, Georgia, with the help of the international community, needs to once more examine how it does politics. The elections have taught all concerned many lessons, one of which is the continued deficit in the political culture within and between Georgian political parties. Georgians have overwhelmingly voted for parties that have a pro-European and pro-western agenda. This agenda can only be realised if European values are well embedded not simply in law and rhetoric, but also in practice.
Updates from the CEC, after 59.78% of precincts (2208 precincts, plus five special precincts) have been counted: Georgian Dream 50.16%; United National Movement 26.65%, whilst no other party passes the 5% threshold.
Further updates from the CEC, based on 31.12% of precincts (1150 precincts, plus two special precincts), of which Georgian Dream 51.8%; United National Movement 25.27%, whilst no other party passes the 5% threshold.
The United National Movement is questioning the work of the Central Elections Commission, and has called for protests next to the building housing its offices. There is an extra police presence near the location in Digomi district.
The Chairman of the CEC in a press briefing has rejected accusations that the CEC is delaying the publication of the election results. She said that in fact compared to previous elections the CEC was moving faster, even though there were this time some additional complications because elections for local administrative bodies in some regions were held simultaneously.
Further updates from the CEC, based on 21.99% of precincts (813 precincts plus one special precinct) of which Georgian Dream 52.67%; United National Movement 24.85%, whilst no other party passes the 5% threshold.
More information is emerging about an incident in a polling station in Samegrelo during the counting stage of the election. Transparency International Georgia in a statement said:
TI Georgia responds the events, which took place at two districts in Zugdidi Region. According to our observers, in the village of Jikhashkari, precinct 66.67 district 79 and 108, a group of people smashed ballot boxes and raided the polling station. We are also concerned with the fact, which took place in Kutaisi, nearby the precinct 49.59 district 90, where opponents physically assaulted each other. We call upon the law enforcement agencies to quickly investigate the case and prosecute those responsible for the acts of this vandalism. In such cases, rapid response is crucial for a calm electoral process. We call upon the political parties and their activists, to refrain from any violent actions, which will hinder the counting process.
Representatives of all political parties, including Georgian Dream and United National Movement have condemned the incident in the strongest terms and asked that the perpetrators be prosecuted as soon as possible.
Some more updated figures from the Central Elections Commission, based on 15.96% of precincts (591 precincts): The Georgian Dream 53.33%, United National Movement 25.05% and no other party crosses the 5% threshold
The Central Elections Commission has released the first set of results of the elections in Georgia based on 423 precincts, constituting 11.43% of precincts. According to these figures the Georgian Dream has 53.42% and the United National Movement 24.69%. No other party has more than 5% required to pass the threshold. The Chairman of the CEC said that more results will be released throughout the night.
The period between the publication of exit polls and the official result is always a dangerous moment, even in mature democracies. In Georgia this period is proving very divisive.
We are receiving reports of incidents in different parts of the country after polls closed and the eixt polls were announced.
This despite the fact that the election day itself was largely peaceful and the voting done in an orderly fashion. We will continue reporting on the situation to our readers overnight and into Sunday on this live blog.
Sunday, 9 October 2016
Welcome to this live blog on the Georgian elections. After following the election day process yesterday, we are now waiting for the election results from the central Elections Commission
There has been assessment of the elections by the Ombudsman of Georgia, Ucha Nanuashvili. He says that the election process has been mainly calm. He called on every involved side to realise necessity to stay calm and facilitate the maintenance of a stable environment in the country. The Ombudsman said problems that emerged in the election process were due to lack of preparation by some members of the election administration. The Ombudsman said he and his staff continue to monitor the election process
The Central Elections Commission has just given another briefing. Voter tunrout was 51.63% equivalent to 1,814,672 voters
Three Georgian NGOs - GYLA, ISFED and TI (Georgia) deployed hundreds of observers to monitor the election process, and have been releasing regular assessments of the process. They have flagged up dozens of concerns, but overall their evaluation of the elections has been positive. At some point they will also issue their conclusive findings. There are then the international observers. The most important assessment will be that of the Parliamentary Assemblies who are expected to issue a joint assessment tomorrow together with ODIHR. A press conference is expected tomorrow (Sunday) in the afternoon.
Why we wait for the Central Elections Commission to start publishing the results, it is worth refelecting on the events of the day. In most places and for most of the day polling took place in a calm and peaceful atmosphere. The process was largely smooth and there indeed according to some monitoring groups less technical problems than usual. There were however a few incidents of violence, with the most serious one taking place in Marneuli where some people tried to break into one of the precincts where polling was taking place claiming irregularities. The counting process is ongoing.
The process of counting of votes in Georgia's Parliamentary Elections has started. Below is the scene now in the CEC briefing room. Journalists are expecting a long night.
Georgian Dream is holding a victory meeting in front of their party offices. Prime Minister Kvirikashvili saying that Georgian Dream has achieved a decisive victory. Bidhzina Ivanishvili is also at the event and addressing the event.
We will not try to interprete the exit polls, since everyone can read the figures and draw their own conclusions. We will be following events in the Central Elections Commission throughout the night.
So the results of the exit polls are out. The two exit polls both show Georgian Dream as the largest party and the UNM as the second largest. They also both show Union of Patriots as having overpassed the 5% threshold.
But there is a big discrepency between the two polls in terms of distribution of votes. the poll conducted by Imedi/Public TV says that GD will get 53.8%, UNM 19.5% and Patriots 5%. The second poll by Rustavi 2 says GD will get 39.9 %, UNM 32.74% and Patriots 5.76%
It is 20.00 in Tbilisi (16.00 GMT) and voting has just closed in Georgia's Parliamentary elections. Shortly we will have results of the exit polls
We are coming close to the end of voting. This blog has been live for nearly twelve hours and we followed the process of voting at close quarters together with out teams in different parts of Georgia. At 20.00 or soon after we expect the results of two exit polls. We advise our readers to treat these polls with caution, and if they want to know the result of the Georgian elections they need to wait for the official result from the Central Elections Commission. We will remain live overnight until that result is announced
In the menatime if we can look again at the big picture it looks as if turnout in the election has been quite high At 17.00 the number of voters was 1,477,562 (42.05%) but polling stations have been very busy in the last hours of polling so this figure is likely to increase considerably.
The Chairman of the Georgian CEC Tamar Zhvania is speaking to the media, once again saying that it was not true that the ballot box in Marneuli was stolen. She confirms that the box was protected, the seals were not broken, and if people had any complaints they needed to address them through legal channels not by throwing stones at the polling stations.
A statement by Georgian Dream has been distributed by the head of the party's international relations unit, Tamar Chugoshvili. The statement says
"There is no place for violence in Georgia's democracy. We want to thank the law enforcement for their response and the Interior Ministry for assisting them in a peaceful resolution to the incident." The statement also warns that there may be other provocations in Kortskheli and Samegrelo. The statement again points a finger at UNM for orchestrating the incident
Commonspace.eu political editor commented on the Marneuli incident and said that "Georgian politicians need to deal with the Marneuli incident with restraint and maturity. Georgia has had enough bad experiences in the past of politicians mismanaging relations with their national minorities and the use of inflamatory language needs to be avoided."
A spokesperson for the Georgian Dream has just spoken to the media describing the Marneuli incident as a provocation aimed at spoiling a calm and peaceful election environment.
Some tough talking by the spokepersons of Paata Bachuladze's State for the People party who are using the situation in Marneuli to put the election into question
As we enter the last phase of the election with just over one hour left of voting the incident in Marneuli is taking a lot of the media attention. The incident involves around fifty men of Azerbaijani ethnicity. The Georgian police, so far, have been very restrained in dealing with the incident because the ethnicity dimension means it can easily develop into something else very quickly. Although re-enforcements have been brought in the efforts so far seem more focused on calming the situation.
The official spokesperson of the CEC has now categorically said that it was not true that the ballot box in precinct 47 had been stolen.
There are a number of interpretations being given to the incident in Marneuli but it appears the incident started when a rumour spread that somebody had stolen the ballot box in precinct 48. The CEC is quoted as saying that the box is still there. UNM is saying that their supporters were not allowed to enter the pollling station to vote. But UNM is also saying that it was not their supporters who attacked the polling station but the supporters of Burchaladze State for for people party. In other words there are many versions of this story and it will take some time to get to the bottom of this.
The incident in Marneuli reminds us that Georgia has large Armenian and Azerbaijani speaking minorities where politics often has a dynamic of its own.
More about the incident in Marneuli, Inter Press News is reporting that the incident is in precinct number 48 and involves supporters of Paata Bachuladze's State for People party and Georgian Dream supporters. Georgian Dream spokesperson says the incident was a UNM orchestrated event. State for People party spokesperson said the outcry was caused by election violations.
There are reports of a serious incident outside polling station 48 in the mainly Azerbaijani speaking district of Marneuli. Rustavi 2 TV is showing images from the area but says it is not clear who is involved in the incident.
Voting at polling station no 4 in Adjara's Kobuleti district.
More pictures of voting in Adjara earlier this afternoon. Voters in Adjara are not only voting for the national parliament but they also need to choose the new Supreme Council of Adjara, which is the local governing body
In its latest briefing, Transparency International Georgia said it had filed nine complaints with the CEC.
There was an error in the percentage of voter turnout as cited by the CEC earlier. The correct figure is 34.79%. The number of actual voters however is the same, namely 1,222,634
One of the more serious issues that came up throughout the day is related to a mix up of ballot paper which resulted in one of the majoritarian candidates not being included in the ballot paper for the single candidate constituency election at one of the election precincts in Lagodekhi.
The CEC suggests that this was an error probably in the printing process of the ballots and it effected only 2 batches of votes notebooks.The CEC said it has now corrected the error but may make a decision later on whether further measures are necessary. This issue does not effect voting for the party lists in this precinct
In the last hour the leader of the Republican Party and until now Speaker of Parliament, David Usupashvili gave a briefing during which he appealed to everyone to wait for the official election results announced by the CEC before drawing any conclusions. He also insisted that any grievances need to be addressed through legal channels
In its latest breifing the CEC said that, so far it had received only 45 complaints about violations of the electioral code. It is not clear if these are the same cases that are being mentioned by various political parties.
The Central Elections Commission has now released the figures of the number of people voting until 15.00. 34,79% voted, amounting to 1,222,634 voters [Percentage Number corrected]
It is now 16.00 in Tbilisi (12.00 GMT). There are still four hours left for Georgians to vote in Parliamentary elections that will define the country's government. Commonspace.eu political editor commented on the day so far:
We have crossed the two-thirds point in terms of time for voting, and some trends can already be seen. First turnout is likely to be respectable in most parts of the country. Second, the process so far has been absolutely peaceful, with only one minor incident reported. The last four hours are often the most problematic, so we need to wait before drawing a conclusive view on this, but so far, it is more than good. There are several accusations of violations. All will need to be investigated thoroughly, and some are more serious than others. But what the more credible NGOs are saying so far is that the process is smooth. Much can change in four hours, so one needs to watch the process until the end.
There are a number of mutual accustations being made between political parties against each other, but there is one that is somewhat different and raises wider questions. Several sources are saying that the UNM members of the precinct election commissions (PECs) are refusing to share in doing the chores of running the precinct election. This raises serious issues because if all party representatives do the same the process will grind to a halt. In future there is likely to be a necessity to have a code of conduct that would spell out what PEC members should or should not do, and more importantly what it is that they can refuse to do, and what they cannot.
One ngo that has a long tradition of high quality monitoring of elections in Georgia is ISFED. For this election ISFED is deploying 1000 trained and accredited observers. In their statement of the early hours of polling issued this morning they state:
Based on the information provided by ISFED observers, the opening and setting up process at the polling stations took place without substantial violations. We have observed 7 cases when the documentation was not properly filled out, 5 cases where procedures for the ballot box control sheet were not properly followed, 2 cases where election observers were not allowed to fully observe the processes, 1 case of campaigning at polling station and 2 cases where unauthorized persons were present at the polling station
Throughout the day we have been running pictures of polling stations in different parts of the country. One interesting feature in each photo is the large number of observers monitoring the process on top of the representatives of the parties making sure that there is no foul play. One cannot but feel sorry for the poor voters who have to parade before the fixed eyes of these observers. All for the good, one can say. They are there to defend the citizen's votes. Still the numbers are becoming larger and larger with each election and there is going to be a point when some rationalisation of this asspect of the process will have to take place.
We are entering a period of mutual recriminations between different political parties. The political brieifings of the parties at 15.00 were much more heated than earlier in the day.
Patriarch Ilia II has called on Georgians to vote in the current parliamentary elections. The Patriarch was speaking at a polling station in Ktsanisi where he voted. He was accompanied by a number of Archbishops of the Georgian Orthodox Church. Last week the Patriarch hosted Pope Francis in Tbilisi in a historic visit that promoted peace in the region and solidarity between Christains. you can read more about the Pope's visit to georgia and Azerbaijan in this blog carried by commonspace.last week.
Georgian Young Lawyers Association, the country's leading NGO, has given a brieifing at the international media centre. GYLA assesses the process as moving smoothly, but also records or is investigating a number of shortcomings and allegations, including one related to vote buying by an opposition party.
It is very good that Georgian Public broadcaster is disseminating information on the election in all languages spoken in Georgia, including Armenian, Azerbaijani, Russian, Ossetian and Abkhaz. view it here
For this woman today is a memorable day because it is the day of her wedding. However before going to the ceremony she found time to do her civic duty and vote in the election. Congratulations!
More about people not on the voters list in Batumi. The numbers seem to be very small. In polling station No 10 in Batumi there are 1630 registered voters, and 521 voted so far. 4 were refused as they were not in the list. In previous elections there used to be a system of additional lists, with people added on the day. This was the cause of much abuse, and this usage was terminated.
Commonspace.eu team in Adjara have sent pictures from polling station 13 in Batumi. There are some complaints that some people cannot find their name in the voters list. The CEC had been asking people for several weeks to double check that their names appear accurately on the voters list, and over one million people did so. We will try to get more information as to how the CEC is dealing with these cases. Otherwise the voting is proceeding briskly in this polling station with 368 voters out of 1442 having cast their vote already
Georgians are being asked to choose between 25 different parties and blocs that cater for every conceivable political choice. It is very unlikely that many of the parties will garner 1% of the popular vote. They need 5% to pass the threshold that would see them getting seats in parliament. Commonspace.eu special correspondent Carles Jovani looked at those parties that stand a better chance of doing so, and examined their election programmes. You can read it here.
At the CEC brieifng it was stated that the voter turnout by 12.00 was 19.81% [figure corrected at 14.05]
Many polling stations are now reported to be very busy, both in Tbilisi and in the regions. Traditionally early afternoon is the most busy period in Georgian elections.
There are reports of a voter voting outside the polling booth in the village of Ninotsminda in the south of Georgia
Our correspondent Felix Light is at the Central Elections Commission awaiting the next brieifing during which hopefully we will be told the voter turnout until 12.00
Transparency International (Georgia) has just given a briefing at the International Press Centre. They said that the election process is going on smoothly, but they also recorded fifty minor violations. Transparency International has over four hundreds observers monitoring the election process right across the country.
At a brieifing of the United National Movement the spokesman criticised the performance of the Central Elections Commission. A number of leaders of different political parties, as well as several NGOs, have however said that so far this is the best environment on election day ever, even if there are some shortcomings.
Catholicos Patriarch Ilia II has voted in the Georgian elections. (photo courtesy of IPN news)
We now have some preliminary data regarding the number of voters by 10.00 this morning. The CEC is saying that 8% had voted up to this point. There is another CEC briefing soon and hopefully we will have the figures up to 12.00.
It is mid-day in Tbilisi (08.00 GMT). Georgians are voting in important parliamentary elections that will determine the country's future government, as well as foreign policy orientation.
Commonspace.eu political editor commented on the election process so far:
"We are third of the way into polling day. There are still eight hours of voting left, but so far election day reflects the campaign itself - calm and peaceful but with the occasional moment of excitement. So far the heroes of the story are the staff of the Central Elections Commission who are doing an excellent job in the running of the election, and when tempers flair up, as they inevitably do, are keeping calm and maintaining their professional pose. Georgia needs a good election to seal the successes that it has been able to achieve in the international arena and domestically, but also because the incoming government will have serious challenges in both the political and the economic spheres and will require all the legitimacy that a good election can give. One hopes that over the next hours the process will continue with the same momentum"
In this polling station (No 73) in the village of Tsai, in western Georgia 81 people had voted by 9.30
At the ISFED press conference earlier it was stated that the number of polling stations that did not open on time due to some technical glitch was 4%. This is the lowest figure for a Georgian election ever, and shows how far the Georgian CEC has come in delivering a professionally managed election. As far as we can ascertain the delay even in these stations were minor and all polling stations are now open.
Our team in western Georgia have visited several polling stations in Zugdidi and around it and found polling stations busy, but the atmosphere peaceful. Zugdidi is considered a stronghold of the opposition United National Movement. The wife of former President Mikheil Saakashvili is a candidate in this district.
At the briefing of the Central Elections Commission we heard that at a polling station in Poti the local election commissioners were locked out of the building and the emergency services had to be called in to let them in.
There is a briefing on by the ngo ISFED at the International Media Centre. ISFED is one of the NGOs doing excellent work monitoring all the details of the elections. They had a list of issues that they noted so far in the process. Again the picture overall is one of a smooth process, with the occassional problem or hiccup all of which are being documented.
There are some reports of technical problems in the opening process, but they appear to be minor issues
Our team in Zugdidi is reporting very busy polling stations over the last one hour. below is a photo from polling station 76 in the village Chitatskari near Zugdidi.
Different Georgian TV stations are running stories about a shouting match in Batumi between a representative of the UNM and CEC officials. We are awiting a briefing from the CEC in the next few minutes and our correspondent Felix Light will be there. That should give us a picture of the situation overall inside the country, as well as number of voters in the first two hours of voting.
Many of Georgia's political leaders were up early casting their vote in the first hour or two of voting. They included Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and Parliamentary Chairman David Usupashvili, as well as the leader of the United National Movement David Bakradze
A representative of Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) has just givien a brieifng on the process so far. There is an issue it seems with some of the local observation organisations. As we mentioned earlier there are some 80,000 people accredited as observers or media and if any of them do not operate within the rules they can negatively impact the process. The GYLA statement named and shamed two of these organisations (more details to follow)
A picture of President Marghvelashvili voting a few minutes ago (picture courtesy of InterPressNews)
One very welcome development in this election in Georgia is that over one thousand polling stations now have wheelchair access, and specially designed polling booths for wheelchair users
We are hearing that in polling station no 11 in Zugdidi, there was an argument about the queing and a couple of voters decided they did not want to wait and left.
Some images from school no 6 in Tbilisi, where voting has been very slow so far.
In the pictures from the polling stations one can see the distinctive green uniforms of the Central Elections Commission of Georgia. One of the most positive feature of this election so far has been the professionalism of the Central Elections Commission. In a country like Georgia which has had a history of problematic elections, the work of the CEC is hugely important and the Commission has worked very hard to build a level of expertise and professionalism necessary to instill public confidence.
More images from western Georgia, polling station no 9 in Zugdidi
Welcome to those who have just joined us to this live blog covering today's parliamentary elections in Georgia. It is a beautiful sunny day in Tbilisi - excellent weather for an election. Polls have been open for one hour and some voters have already cast their votes. We have as yet not heard of any problems with the process of the opening of the polling stations. Georgian Public TV is currently showing the President of Georgia Giorgi Marghvelashvili just about to vote. He had to queue like everyone else to get his ballot paper. Marghvelashvili is well known for his informality - a refreshing touch especially in this region
In Zugdidi our special correspondent Carles Jovani has been speaking to observers of the Republican Party who said that they have observers in all polling stations in the district, including rural ones
First images of voting taking place in Polling Station No 4 in Zugdidi, where voting is proceeding in a calm and orderly manner in front of many observers
The Election campaign started in July, and except for the last days was calm and peaceful. Things got a little bit more tense in the last ten days before the poll, as was to be expected. Several isolated but nonetheless ugly incidents of violence reminded the Georgian voters of past times when violence was a hallmark of Georgian politics. Despite this, it is now possible to say that this has been the most peaceful and incident free election campaign ever, an indication perhaps of an increasing political maturity in Georgia. The final verdict of course depends on what happens in the next twelve hours and as results are announced.
The voters shall make their choice from among 25 election subjects - 19 parties and 6 election blocs, as well as from among the majoritarian candidates nominated by these election subjects and initiative groups.
Our correspondents in Zugdidi are at polling station no 29, where the polling station opened on time and the first voter has already cast his vote. Observers from Georgian Dream and United National Movement are among those observing the polling in this station
The first voters have already cast their ballots in today's election. Before the polling stations opened their was ofcourse the process of sealing the ballot boxes in front of the local and international observers and the media.
There 3,645 polling stations on Georgian territory, and 55 out-of-country polling stations in 40 countries) are in full readiness to conduct upcoming elections. The first to vote where the soldiers in Georgia’s large military contingent in Afghanistan. They cast their vote on 5 October.
42 092 representatives of political parties and candidates, 29 931 observers of 111 local observer organizations and 1440 observers of 55 international organizations will observe the elections. 5368 representatives of 184 media organizations will cover election process on October 8. So in all the process is being observed by an astonishing number of around 80,000 local and international observers and media
Commonspace.eu has several teams on the ground in Georgia and they will be sharing their insights on this blog throughout the day.
We will be live throughout the day, and into the night as votes are being counted. Polling closes at 20.00 this evening (16.00 GMT).
You may also follow us on twitter @commonspaceEU or using hashtag #GeorgiaVotes2016 and on our facebook page CommonSpace
Good Morning, it is Saturday, 8 October 2016, 08.00 hours in Tbilisi (04.00 GMT).
We welcome our readers in the Caucasus and beyond for this live blog. Voting has just started in Georgia to elect a new 150 member parliament. The election is considered to be very significant for Georgia's future. More than 3.5 million voters are eligible to vote in elections held country-wide. Voters will have two ballot papers one for electing 77 persons from party lists, and the second to choose majoritarian MPs in 73 single mandate constituencies. Elections are also being held for the Supreme Council of Adjara and in a number of municipalities to elect local officials or administrative bodies.
Metropolitan Hilarion met Pope Francis and briefed Catholic officials on the decisions of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church adopted at its meeting on October 15 in Minsk relating to the dispute with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople regarding Ukraine