Opposition planing protests as early count shows governing Georgian Dream leading in parliamentary vote, sources says.
The governing Georgian Dream party is leading Georgia’s parliamentary election with a vote share of just over 50 percent, preliminary results showed on Saturday.
The opposition, however, rejected those results and said it planned to protest.
With almost 44 percent of the votes in, data from the Central Election Commission (CEC) gave the Georgian Dream party 50.58 percent of the vote and the largest opposition party United National Movement (UNM) 24.92 percent.
Several other opposition parties managed to clear the 1 percent threshold for membership in parliament.
The governing party founded by Georgia’s richest man, Bidzina Ivanishvili declared victory soon after polls closed across the former Soviet republic on Saturday and four exit polls put it in first place in a tight race.
“Georgia has made me a worthy choice, and that Georgian Dream founded by me is a worthy dream. Georgian voters, who would not make the wrong choice today, expressed support for worthy people,” Ivanishvili told a crowd of cheering supporters in the capital, Tiblisi.
But it was not clear whether the governing party would secure the votes needed to form a single-party government.
The opposition said the results did not correspond with reality.
Nika Melia, a UNM member, called on supporters to gather in central Tiblisi to protest the vote on Sunday.
“We won’t accept this result and call on people to come to Rustaveli avenue at 4 pm” (1200 GMT), she told reporters after consultations with other opposition leaders.
David Kirtadze, another member of UNM, said “This is not a real picture and these results don’t reflect the will of Georgian people.”
Earlier, he had tried to interrupt the head of the CEC head when she was announcing the preliminary results, and was forced by guards to leave the conference hall.
The opposition claimed it received enough votes in total to form a coalition.
More than 30 opposition parties, led by the UNM, the largest and strongest opposition force, had announced on Friday that they would not go into coalition with the governing party after the election.
Georgia is likely to have a more diverse parliament but the politicians will now have to focus on immediate challenges soaring COVID infections and a bleak outlook for the economy.
The country’s economy has been hit hard by the spread of the coronavirus and is forecast by the government to contract by 4 percent in 2020.
The government’s popularity has waned, and opponents accuse it of mishandling the economy, selective justice, a weak foreign policy and stamping on dissent with the violent dispersal of protests.
Critics said Ivanishvili, who does not hold a government post, runs the South Caucasus country of 3.7 million people from behind the scenes, an accusation denied by Georgian Dream, which has governed for two consecutive terms.
A fifth of Georgian territory is controlled by pro-Russian separatists following a short war with Russia in 2008.
Both the government and the opposition would like to see Georgia join the European Union and NATO, but such moves would be strongly resisted by Moscow. Georgian Dream also favours closer ties with Russia.