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

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    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.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora