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Municipal elections in Georgia to change nothing, crisis to continue — expert

According to Andrei Kortunov, Georgian society is quite polarized and the opposition, in particular, the United National Movement, will challenge the voting results

MOSCOW, October 3. /TASS/. Georgia’s municipal elections were a major indicator of the political situation in the country but have changed nothing and the political crisis will continue, Andrei Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, told TASS on Sunday.

According to the expert, the political crisis in Georgia is unlikely to be over in the near future, the more so as the ruling Georgian Dream - Democratic Georgia party has failed to win an overwhelming majority. Georgian society, in his words, is quite polarized and the opposition, in particular, the United National Movement, will challenge the voting results.

"Supporters of the United National Movement will probably try to form some inter-party coalition and challenge the Georgian Dream. Demands for early parliamentary polls will also continue. I think that these elections have not changed anything principally. But, nevertheless, they were a kind of an indicator of political balance in the country and no one have gained anything," he explained.

However, he noted that so far it is difficult to say whether the confrontation will continue as street protests or it will proceed "quite peacefully." "But, I think that, regrettably, this crisis will continue," Kortunov added, adding that it is not ruled out that the opposition will opt not to shake the situation until the runoff election of Tbilisi’s mayor. Anyway, he said, the United National Movement will not be able to completely control its supporters, especially after the detention of ex-President Mikhail Saakashvili, which may provoke protest activities.

"It is the most important thing about these elections. Tbilisi is a capital city after all, with lots of people living there and the mayor enjoying quite a big authority. And it is a chance for the opposition to push their policy after the runoff voting. But the matter is that it is very difficult to control spontaneous activity. There is an issue of Saakashvili on top of that, which may also provoke protests. So, I think that the United National Movement may probably wait for the runoff election results but it is practically impossible to prevent some street protests. However, I don’t think we will see any deliberate policy towards rocking the situation," he said.

Municipal elections were held in Georgia on Saturday. Voters were to elect local legislatures and mayors of 64 municipalities, including the capital city Tbilisi. As many as 43 parties took part in the elections. The country’s Central Election Commission said after counting 99% of ballots, the ruling Georgian Dream - Democratic Georgia party is winning the polls with 46.68% of votes. It is followed by the opposition United National Movement party (30.7% of votes).

Under the April 19 agreement with the opposition, mediated by European Council President Charles Michel, the Georgian Dream - Democratic Georgia undertook to call early parliamentary polls in the spring of 2022 if it failed to score 43% of votes at the local elections. However, the ruling party leader, Irakly Kobakhidze, said in July that the party was withdrawing from the deal.

According to the expert, the European Union, which has been traditionally supporting Georgia, has somewhat grown tired of the current situation. "I think that Europe is somewhat tired of the political mess in Georgia. And there are rather pessimistic forecasts concerning the further evolution of the political system, i.e. it doesn’t develop a normal European democracy. So, in this sense, it is difficult to speak about any continuation of the ‘honeymoon’ in relations between the European Union and Georgia and a certain chill in inevitable. Nonetheless, the European Union will not abandon Georgia, will continue certain assistance," Kortunov explained.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakly Garibashvili said in late summer that amid the economic growth in the country the government would not take the European Union’s 75-million-euro loan. Later, EU Charge d'Affaires ad interim Julien Crampes said that the EU could have allocated the money only after a judicial reform in Georgia, which was not done.