Sluggish turnout for Georgia’s June-15 local elections suggests that, nearly two years after the country’s first change of power by election, most voters don’t care enough about politics to make it to the polls.
The post of mayor of Tbilisi, the Georgian capital of about 1.2 million, was the biggest prize in the election, which included 12 mayoral and a potpouri of city-council races. But interest ran at a mere 43.31 percent of over 3.4-million registered voters — a lower turnout than in any recent election.
Many voters crossed out all candidates and parties on the ballots, instead leaving messages like “Screw this,” Netgazeti.ge reported.
In the Tbilisi mayor race, early returns placed the ruling Georgian Dream’s mayoral candidate, 35-year-old Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure Davit Narmania, in the lead, though some three percentage points short of the 50-percent cut required for victory. In a second round, Narmania would face the opposition United National Movement candidate Nika Melia, who garnered just under 27 percent of the vote. Whoever gets a simple majority of votes in the runoff will move into the mayor’s office, which is now controlled by the United National Movement.
Tbilisi’s traditional snobbery toward ambitious politicians from the regions (who don't have the moneyed patina of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvilli, that is) may have prevented the Georgian Dream from winning the race in the first go. As an extract from rural Georgia, Narmania has been the target of arrogant attacks by many Tbilisi personalities, including members of the ruling party.
Beyond the two leading candidates, only Dimitri Lortkipanidze,floated by ex-Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze’s coalition, the United Opposition, managed to muster support in the double-digits, according to the preliminary vote-count.
The votes were similarly split in the separate race for seats in the Tbilisi city council; with some 46 percent going to the Georgian Dream, and about 26 percent to the UNM.
Outside Tbilisi, early results also suggest that the Georgian Dream has solidified its positions at regional government levels, as the party leads in most town-council races.
The United National Movement put down the slow dynamics to alleged intimidation of opposition candidates by the Georgian Dream. Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili , though, claimed the elections were free and fair.