Ex-football star Kaladze made Tbilisi mayor as Georgian Dream sweeps local elections

Ex-football star Kaladze made Tbilisi mayor as Georgian Dream sweeps local elections
Kakha Kaladze during his football glory days.
By bne IntelliNews October 23, 2017

Retired footballer Kakha Kaladze will be named mayor of Tbilisi after winning 51.12% of the votes as the ruling Georgian Dream’s candidate in the Georgian capital in the countrywide municipal elections held on October 21, the country's central election commission (CEC) said.

Kaladze, who won honours including two Champions League titles while playing for AC Milan between 2001 and 2010 and captained his country 50 times, entered politics in 2012. Sadly his name is also recalled for the shocking and tragic case of his brother, who was kidnapped in 2001 before being declared officially deceased in 2006, with two men convicted of his murder.), Kaladze served as energy minister between October 2012 and early 2017.

Kaladze ran against 12 other candidates. His closest competitors, independent Alexsandre Elisashvilil and Zaal Umadmashvili, who ran on behalf of the main opposition party United National Movement (UNM), obtained just 17.49% and 16.55% of the cast votes, respectively, according to the CEC.

Promises to expand Tbilisi's economy by boosting tourism, simplify bureaucracy and build a new transportation network were central to Kaladze’s platform.

On October 12, Georgian demonstrators clashed with police in the capital after gathering to criticise the city council's decision to hand over two strategic plots of land in the city to former prime minister and billionaire businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili, an ally of Kaladze.

The race for mayor of Tbilisi was the main battle in the municipal elections, which also represented a test for Georgian Dream ahead of the presidential poll of 2018. Overall, some 1.6mn people making for a 45.64% turnout showed up to vote for the mayors of five independent cities - Tbilisi, Batumi, Kutaisi, Poti and Rustavi – as well as for 58 municipal and district heads and some 2,058 members of 64 local councils.

According to the CEC, Georgian Dream dominated in four of the five most important mayoral races, all of which were won by its candidates with over 50% of the vote. Attaining over 50% of the electorate’s support is necessary to ensure that there is not a second round of voting. Only in the municipality of Kutaisi did the Georgian Dream candidate, Giorgi Chighvaria, secure less than 50% of the votes (48.66%). Nevertheless, he still achieved a substantial margin over his closest contender, Grigol Vashadze, who took 27.03%.

Exit polls carried out by Imedi TV and opposition-friendly Rustavi 2 television station in Tbilisi also showed Georgian Dream as the clear winner in the battle for Tbilisi city council, with its candidates securing 54% of the votes. Meanwhile, UNM candidates only won 16%.