Thousands of Georgians protested in the capital Tbilisi on Sunday against the result of the country’s presidential election, as defeated candidate aids Grigol Vashadze opposition parties would challenge the outcome in court. Georgians protested Sunday against the election of a ruling party-backed candidate to the presidency and demanded snap parliamentary polls in a move that threatens to complicate the transition of power in the Western-backed nation.
Thousands of people have protested in the Georgian capital against the election of the ruling party-backed candidate Salome Zurabishvili to the presidency, claiming fraud in last week’s runoff vote.
Holding national and EU flags, the protesters gathered on December 2 in front of the parliament building in the center of Tbilisi, calling for early parliamentary elections and a new election law.
French-born Zurabishvili, who had the backing of billionaire former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s ruling Georgian Dream party, won 59.5 percent of the vote in the November 28 runoff, according to election authorities.
Grigol Vashadze, the candidate of opposition groups led by the United National Movement, which was founded by former President Mikheil Saakashvili, had 40.5 percent.
Vashadze has described the election as a “criminal farce” and has called for snap parliamentary elections after the central election commission said on Thursday that Salome Zurabishvili, who was backed by the ruling Georgian Dream party, had secured 59.5 percent of the vote. Vashadze had 40.5 percent, it said.
“We don’t recognize illegitimate results of this rigged election and demand an early parliamentary election to be called in the country,” Vashadze told thousands of supporters at Sunday’s rally in Tbilisi.
Zurabishvili is set to become the country’s first female head of state, although the role is largely ceremonial.
Vashadze said the opposition planned to challenge the election results in court and would offer to work with the government to make changes to the electoral code, followed by snap parliamentary elections.
International observers, in their assessment of the election, said on Thursday that the vote was competitive, but the ruling party had enjoyed an “undue advantage” and increased misuse of administrative resources “further blurred the line between party and state.”
Vashadze said that if the government rejects the opposition’s demands, another peaceful protest would be held on Dec. 16, the day of the president-elect’s inauguration.
Political analysts say they do not expect the election result to trigger any serious unrest in Georgia, an ally of the United States in the Caucasus region.