Georgia’s ruling party is winning contests for mayor of major cities

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) – Georgia’s National Electoral Commission says the ruling party’s candidates have won mayoral races in the country’s five largest cities, but the opposition claims it was a fraud.

Nearly complete results released by the Central Electoral Commission on Sunday showed the Georgian Dream party won elections in the capitals of Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Rustavi, Poti and Batumi.

Saturday’s election in the second round was after no candidate won an absolute majority in the cities in the first round of the October 2 nationwide municipal elections.

Nika Melia, leader of the main opposition party United National Movement and a candidate for mayor of Tbilisi, claimed that “the victories won by the opposition in many municipalities were taken away … as if they never happened”.

The election was overshadowed by the arrest of former President Mikheil Saakashvili, the founder of the UNM, the day before the first round.

Saakashvili left Georgia in 2013 and was convicted in absentia of abuse of office and sentenced to six years. He returned to Georgia from his home in Ukraine in hopes of encouraging the opposition in the first round of voting, but was arrested within a day.

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