General election today
Georgian voters will go to the polls today to vote for 150 members of the unicameral parliament.
There are 3,613,851 voters registered and they will vote at 3,648 polling stations (plus 45 abroad) from a selection of 14 parties and two blocs; the two blocs are the Georgian Dream of Bidzina Ivanishvili and the Christian Democratic Union. Voting will take place between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. local time.
Of the 150 seats, 74 will be decided through single constituency seats and 75 will be allocated proportionately which means that each voter has two votes, one for a party and one for an individual candidate. Where no single candidate receives more than 30% of the vote in the constituency elections then a second round will be held on 15th October.
The tail end of the campaign has seen a surge for the opposition Georgian Dream largely on the back of a video which was released showing prisoners in the Gidan Prison being tortured. The impact on the ruling United National Movement (UNM) has been dramatic and incumbent President Mikheil Saakashvili has being doing everything possible to minimize the damage.
The two sides have broadly similar economic views but President Saakashvili is ardently anti-Russian whilst Bidzina Ivanishvili (who is barred from standing) is more conciliatory towards Russia whilst still pledging to maintain strong ties with the West.
One area of contention has been whether Georgia should hold NATO membership. A recent poll by the Eurasian Institute suggests that 52% consider NATO a defensive organisation whilst 12% consider it to be aggressive. Anti-NATO supporters are more likely to vote for the Free Georgia Party or the Labour Party according to the poll.
Polls have not been a reliable barometer as to what will happen today. A poll by German Forsa gave the Georgian Dream 65% of the vote with the ruling UNM on 25%. Another poll for the National Democrat Institute (NDI) put the UNM on 37% with Georgian Dream on 12%. The same poll had 43% as undecided. Both of these polls came out before the Gidan Prison revelations.
The uncertainty has meant that the eyes of the international media will be on Georgia today and next year presidential elections will see President Mikheil Saakashvili standing down after completing two terms in office.