Pro-Russia Alliance of Patriots clears threshold to enter Georgian parliament

By bne IntelliNews October 11, 2016

Georgia's opposition party Alliance of Patriots cleared the 5% threshold required to enter parliament, according to preliminary results published by the country's central elections commission (CEC) on October 10.

Pro-Russia Alliance of Patriots is the only one out of two dozen smaller opposition parties that won enough votes in an October 8 parliamentary election to join the legislative body. The largest parties in the country, Georgian Dream- Democratic Georgia (GDDG) and United National Movement (UNM) received 48.67% and 27.11% of the votes, respectively.

While the ruling GDDG party won the first round of the elections by a landslide and will likely secure a simple majority in parliament, a runoff will be held later this month to determine the winner in 50 single-mandate constituencies, therefore a third of the MP portfolios have yet to be decided.

GDDG officials have expressed their confidence that the party would win most of the runoff races to secure a constitutional majority of 113 seats in parliament, which would essentially enable the party to single-handedly make legislative decisions during the next four years.

Meanwhile, UNM founder and exiled politician Mikheil Saakashvili called for the party to boycott the runoff races in protest to what he deemed an unfair ballot. “I don’t see any sense in participating in the second rounds...it would actually legitimise the elections held with gross violations,” he wrote in a Facebook post on October 10. A current governor of the Odessa region in Ukraine, Saakashvili is not the official party leader anymore. The party's current leadership disagrees with its founder, civi.ge reported. UNM MP candidate Davit Bakradze told journalists on October 10 that the party would not take hasty decisions. 

Ghia Nodia, director of the International School of South Caucasus Studies in Tbilisi, wrote in a Facebook post on October 10 that “election results are bad...because we are getting full domination of a single party, effectively, of a single person” over parliament. In his post, Nodia referred to Bidzina Ivanishvili, GDDG's billionaire founder, who is officially retired from politics, but who is known to still pull the strings of power in GDDG.

Nodia advised UNM to accept its defeat, which is evident because of the large margin by which it lost, and to resist the temptation to boycott the parliament or rebel in other ways. “Whether we like it or not, UNM is the main, if not only force to defend democracy in today's Georgia. It means that is has enormous responsibility. It also means that it should learn to cooperate with all those parties and groups that claim allegiance to democratic and European values.”

Nodia anticipated some “backsliding of Georgia's democracy” if GDDG secures constitutional majority, but said that “it is very important how far back we go. This depends on all of us: in order to win, one has to learn orderly retreat.”

Meanwhile, a flurry of smaller opposition parties that were expected to make it to the parliament - State for the People, the Free Democrats, the Labour Party - were left scrambling to save face.

Irakli Alasania, leader of the Free Democrats, decided to step down on October 10 and to quit the runoff race in a constituency in Gori, central Georgia. “As I do not see a possibility to actively influence political processes and processes in the parliament, I decided...to temporarily quit politics,” he explained. His party had won 4.62% of the votes, falling short of the 5% threshold to make it into parliament.

Another Free Democrats party leader, Alexi Petriashvili, also announced that he was quitting the political party. 

CEC is due to announce final results in the coming days, which are most likely to affect the Alliance of Patriots as votes from some polling stations may be contested due to irregularities in voting. The party is hanging by a thread, having exceeded the 5% threshold by a mere 0.006%, or 113 votes. 

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