ruling party in Georgia leads the vote, clouded by the arrest of Saakashvili | New
The Georgian Dream party leads the municipal elections organized after the arrest of the former president and leader of the opposition on his return from exile.
The ruling Georgian Dream party took the lead in the closely watched municipal elections in Georgia in the aftermath of the arrest of former president and opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili on his return from exile.
According to Russian news agencies citing an exit poll ordered Saturday by the Imedi television channel, the ruling party won 47.6% of the vote. The result could avoid an instant parliamentary vote and a political stalemate between the ruling party and the opposition.
The main opposition party, the United National Movement (UNM) founded by Saakashvili, won 27.1% of the vote.
In comments to the AFP news agency through a representative who visited him in prison, Saakashvili said that “Georgia needs a peaceful transition to a true democracy where political opponents are not not locked up on false accusations or forced into exile “.
“I am not looking for any political post, I am just determined to fight to the end against the oligarchic regime which is killing Georgian democracy,” he said.
Saakashvili, 53, said on Friday he had returned from Ukraine, where he heads a Ukrainian government agency leading the reforms.
The flamboyant pro-Western reformer was arrested soon after on a conviction in absentia in 2018 for abuse of power. He denies committing wrongdoing and denounced his six-year prison sentence as politically motivated.
Robin Forestier-Walker of Al Jazeera, in a report from the capital, Tbilisi, said Saakashvili’s “surprise” return from exile and his subsequent arrest had eclipsed the polls.
My letter from prison
My dear associates and my Georgian community.
When I left Kiev and came here, I knew I would most likely be arrested, with false verdicts fabricated on Putin’s orders. No country in the world, except Russia, recognizes this sentence … pic.twitter.com/ffA8VPvhz6
– Mikheil Saakashvili (@SaakashviliM) October 2, 2021
In a message posted to Twitter on Saturday accompanied by a photo of a letter to prison supporters, Saakashvili said: “I want to ask all of you to go to the elections so that no votes are lost.”
He added, “My freedom and, more importantly, Georgia’s freedom depends entirely on your actions and your fighting ability. “
Before his arrest, he posted a video message on Facebook calling on his supporters to take to the streets against the government.
Founded by powerful billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgian Dream has been the ruling party since 2012.
Critics accused him of using criminal prosecution to punish political opponents and journalists.
Interpol refused Tbilisi’s requests to issue a Red Notice against Saakashvili.