Georgia held runoff elections in several constituencies on Saturday, in a vote boycotted by the opposition, which has refused to enter the new parliament in the Caucasus nation.
All the opposition parties have criticized as rigged the October 31 parliamentary elections and have staged mass protests, calling for snap polls — a demand the ruling Georgian Dream party has rejected.
The ruling party, led by billionaire ex-prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, flatly denies accusations of electoral fraud.
An opposition boycott could weigh heavily on Georgian Dream’s political legitimacy.
On Friday, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia called on opposition parties to assume their seats in the new parliament and take part in Saturday’s runoffs to “return the processes back to a formal legal framework and formal political platform.”
Georgian Dream had won 48 percent of the votes, against 46 percent for opposition parties, in a proportional ballot that decided 120 of the legislature’s 150 seats.
The party also secured a first-round victory in 13 single-mandate majoritarian constituencies and the remaining 17 parliamentary seats are up for grabs in the second-round runoff.
Opposition candidates have said they will renounce their mandates.
In an unprecedented show of unity before October’s elections, the main opposition party, exiled former president Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM), agreed with smaller opposition groups to form a coalition government if they win a parliamentary majority.
“The joint decision of all (opposition) political parties is that they will not enter the new parliament and will not take part in the second round,” Nika Melia, a UNM leader, told AFP.
“Ivanishvili and his party have abolished elections in Georgia, and the central election commission, which they control, has totally falsified election results on October 31.”
In power since 2012, Georgian Dream has seen its popularity fall due to discontent over its failure to address economic stagnation and perceived backsliding on commitments to democracy.
Critics accuse the country’s richest man Ivanishvili — who is widely seen to be calling the shots in Georgia — of persecuting political opponents and creating a corrupt system where private interests permeate politics.
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