News / Europe

Georgia Casts Ballots in Test of Democracy

A woman leaves a voting booth at a polling station in Tbilisi, Georgia, October 1, 2012.
A woman leaves a voting booth at a polling station in Tbilisi, Georgia, October 1, 2012.
James Brooke
Georgians voted under sunny skies Monday in a parliamentary election seen as a political crossroads, for this former Soviet republic, a rare democracy in the region.

The hotly contested vote is the biggest challenge yet for the eight-year rule of Mikheil Saakashvili, a close ally of Europe and the United States.

Saakashvili’s term expires early next year, and  the winning group in today’s elections will win the right to appoint a prime minister under a new system in which the nation’s paramount ruler is to be the prime minister.

Georgia’s richest man, Bidzina Ivanishvili, has mounted a sudden, and strong, challenge to the president.

Tbilisi company worker Tea Konladze is one voter who has migrated to Ivanishvili and his Georgia Dream coalition.  After voting, she talked to VOA. 

“He is a hope for Georgia,” she said. “He will give a great calm.  And, I think, he will give the population, society, a much better life.”

On Saturday, a massive rally of 100,000 Ivanishvili supporters in Tbilisi underlined what polls indicate: the opposition is expected to win the capital.

But Saakashvili has deep working class support.  

A Tbilisi driver, Temuri, praises the Georgian president for fighting corruption, and bringing stability and jobs to Georgia.  He says he no longer has to pay bribes to police and inspectors.  He says President Saakashvili promotes Georgia overseas and brings in tourists and foreign investors.  He says Georgia will be better off sticking with a proven performer.

Georgia's Parliamentary Election

  • 16 political parties and blocks are contesting the election
  • All 150 parliamentary seats are being contested
  • More than 3.5 million Georgians are eligible to vote
  • More than 90 observer organizations are monitoring the vote
During the campaign, the government fought hard against Ivanishvili.  Government agencies took away his citizenship, imposed $60 million in fines, and jailed militants for his coalition.  This did not stop the challenger.  And in recent days, the opposition was boosted by video clips showing jail guards abusing prisoners.

One voter who asked that her full name not be used said the videos pushed her to change her vote.  “I changed my mind,” she said after voting in Tbilisi. 

“It is impossible to live in such conditions when you are afraid, when you are scared everywhere, every time, you can not speak, you can not always whisper not to be heard.  It is very difficult," she said.

At the Saturday rally, Ivanishvili said he smelled victory.  

"Saakashvili's system must be destroyed,” he told the crowd massed on Tbilisi’s main avenue, Rustaveli.  “The fate of the country is being decided at these elections.”

Early voting was peaceful.  Leander van Delden, from Holland, chairs the European Institute for Democratic Participation, a student observer movement. 

“At the moment, things are going fine,” he said after voting began Monday. “Minor violations are taking place, but it is still only four hours into the elections.”

Georgia has a rocky political history.  Two decades ago, violent demonstrations led to independence from the Soviet Union.  Since then, street protests have overthrown two elected presidents.  Four years ago, Georgia lost a war with Russia and two provinces to Russian control.

In recent weeks, the election campaign polarized this nation of 4.5 million people in two opposing camps.  Analysts fear if the results are close and the perception of fraud is high, the losing side could resort to violence.

  • Supporters of an opposition Georgian Dream coalition celebrate exit poll results in Tbilisi, Georgia, October 1, 2012.
  • Georgian billionaire and opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili, left, celebrates with supporters at his office in Tbilisi Georgia, October 1, 2012.
  • Opposition supporters reacts on the central square during a rally in Tbilisi, Georgia, October 1, 2012.
  • Georgians vote during Parliamentary elections at a polling station in Tbilisi, October 1, 2012. Voters in Georgia are choosing a new parliament in a heated election that will decide the future of Saakashvili's government.
  • Lines at a polling station in Tbilisi, Georgia, October 1, 2012.
  • An elderly woman casts her ballot at her home in the village of Sartichala in Georgia's Kakhety region, October 1, 2012.
  • Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, his wife Sandra Roelofs, and his son Nikoloz at a ballot box before voting in Tblisi, October 1, 2012.
  • Leader of the opposition Georgian Dream coalition, Bidzina Ivanishvili, addresses the media in Tbilisi October 1, 2012.
  • Bidzina Ivanishvili and his wife Ekaterine Khvedelidze pray in a church in Tbilisi, October 1, 2012.
  • Supporters of the opposition Georgian Dream Coalition attend an election rally in Tbilisi September 29, 2012.

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

ILO: Women Still Losing Out in Global Work Place

International Labor Organization says women are marginally better off now than they were 20 years ago More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Al Dorman from: Baltimore
October 01, 2012 5:05 PM
It's a democracy now? I'll define a democracy for you: it's countries that cave in to American multi-nationals.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More