The messenger logo

Saakashvili awaits official confirmation of his victory

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, January 8

Incumbent Mikheil Saakashvili is expected to have won the presidential election with about 53 percent of the vote, according to the latest vote count from the Central Election Commission.

Saakashvili needed to win more than half the vote to avoid a runoff.

The opposition claim the vote was rigged, and promise to contest the results. A rally the day after the election drew thousands of opposition supporters.

The election, however, was widely deemed valid by both local and foreign observers.

The OSCE’s preliminary report affirmed the election was “in line with [international] commitments and standards for democratic elections,” and that the voting process went well in the vast majority of polling stations observed.

Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association head Giorgi Chkheidze said his organization found widespread irregularities and technical problems during the election, but not overt signs of fraud.

“Despite the problems and violations, the election should be considered valid,” he told journalists yesterday.

Human Rights Ombudsman Sozar Subari, a fierce critic of many recent government actions, said that while the ruling party’s abuse of administrative resources puts the broader fairness of the election into question, the actual voting was credible.

“This election was much better than what we’re used to,” Subari told Rustavi 2 the day after the election.

But while the election was generally characterized as democratic, many problems were reported.

OSCE observers documented voters being allowed to vote more than once; a “considerable number” of precinct commissions not following proper counting procedures; observers being unlawfully forbidden to examine ballots; unauthorized people “frequently” participating in the vote count; and a handful of cases of ballot box stuffing.

In the region of Samtskhe-Javakheti, which voted overwhelmingly for Saakashvili, the OSCE observer mission deemed voting “bad or very bad” in 24 percent of the polling places it visited.

The report also stated that a “significant number” of observers called the precinct-level voting counting process “bad or very bad.”

The National Democratic Institute, in a preliminary statement from their election monitoring team released yesterday, noted that “the conduct of the presidential election exposed serious deficiencies,” but judged that “key aspects of this election were in line with democratic principles.”

Though the results are yet to be finalized, Saakashvili took calls from several foreign leaders congratulating him on his win, and most Georgian voters seem ready to accept a Saakashvili victory.

The CEC is to release the final election results next week.