Georgia's ruling party secures constitutional majority after landslide in runoff elections

Georgia's ruling party secures constitutional majority after landslide in runoff elections
The vote was to decide the fate of a third of the 150 seats in parliament.
By bne IntelliNews October 31, 2016

Georgia's ruling party Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia (GDDG) has won in all but two of the 50 single-mandate constituencies, where a second round was held on October 30, the country's Central Election Commission (CEC) announced. The landslide will ensure that the ruling party has three-quarters constitutional majority in parliament raising the question what GDDG will do with this power. Taking over 115 of the 150 seats in parliament, GDDG can legislate unhindered by the opposition and make constitutional amendments.

Some 37.5%, or 1mn, of the registered voters in Georgia cast their ballots on October 30. The turnover was much lower compared to the 51.63% of voters that participated in the first round of elections on October 8.

At stake in the runoff election was whether the victorious ruling party would secure constitutional majority. In order to secure this type of victory, the party would have needed to win at least 46 out of the 50 races. Its candidates had registered in 49 of the 50 races, and won in all but one. In the first round of elections, GDDG secured 67 parliamentary seats and an outright victory.

While GDDG and the leading opposition party, the United National Movement (UNM), exchanged accusations of mobilising supporters outside polling stations to stage provocations on the day of the election, the majority of the incidents that took place were deemed minor by democracy watchdog Transparency International. Nevertheless, the organisation pointed out a “strained environment” at one of the polling stations in the constituency of Marneuli, which also saw violence break out during the first round of elections.

According to the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, voting took place in an overall calm atmosphere, but there were some instances of violations related to multiple voting, agitation and violations of voter marking rules.

UNM did not manage to win any race in the October 30 runoffs. The poor results dealt another blow to the opposition party that secured a mere 27% of the votes in the first round of elections against GDDG’s 49%. The only other party that won enough votes to clear the 5% threshold in the October 8 vote was the pro-Russian Alliance of Patriots.

Georgia’s political landscape has been highly polarised since the country gained independence in 1991; elections were constantly scarred by violence and the first peaceful transfer of power through the ballot happened for the first time in 2012. Observers have warned that constitutional majority for a single party would constitute a step back for Georgia's fledgling democracy.