On election day , most of the accusations of meddling with the electoral process were leveled against President Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement, but as the vote tabulation nears the end, tycoon Bidzina Ivanshvili’s Georgian Dream coalition increasingly has become the target of criticism.
Amidst reports of intimidation of regional election officials, Ivanishvili called today on his supporters to refrain from rallying, but a major demonstration is taking place in the key western city of Zugdidi. Former UN envoy Irakli Alasania, a leader of the Georgian Dream and a parliamentary candidate in Zugdidi, has challenged the preliminary vote-count results that placed him some 21-percentage points behind UNM candidate Roland Akhalaia, father of the controversial ex-Interior Minister Bacho Akhalaia.
Although Alasania gained a seat in parliament by also being on the party list (Georgia's election code allows such double-dipping), he told supporters that they should protest the vote for "moral" reasons. Interior Ministry troops reportedly are forming defense lines around the election commission in question.
Earlier, Central Election Commission Chairperson Zurab Kharatashvili announced that some 19 district election commissions are experiencing "pressure" from activists: Tetrisqaro, Terjola, Sighnaghi, Ambrolauri, Khashuri, Martvili, Lagodekhi, Marneuli, Gurjaani, Senaki, Dedoplistsqaro, Keda, Kvareli, Tsalka, Akhaltsikhe, Adigeni, Zugdidi, Bolnisi, and Gardabani.
All of the districts are for first-past-the-post races in which the UNM candidate is in the lead.
United National Movement supporters , though, also have been accused of intimidation. During the early stage of the vote count on October 1, masked men in riot police uniforms invaded polling stations in the central town of Khashuri. Transparency International Georgia* said the group tried to modify the ballot count protocols.
Television channels also have aired footage of Georgian Dream supporters trying to break into an election commission in the western village of Terjola, another one of the districts under alleged pressure from activists.
---- Transparency International Georgia receives financing from the Open Society Georgia Foundation. EurasiaNet.org is financed by the New-York-City-based Open Society Foundation, a separate part of the network of Open Society Foundations.