The Georgian government has very cleverly exploited this situation, frequently complaining to both foreign and domestic audiences that Georgia lacks a serious and powerful opposition. The government has, of course, complained about the opposition being too weak while simultaneously working to ensure that this remains the case. Thus, the Georgian government has been able to deflect criticisms of one party dominance by arguing the self-fulfilling prophecy that due to the UNM’s popularity nobody was able to pose a plausible challenge. This explanation has been useful and accurate for several years.
Sunday’s local elections in Georgia were predictable, both with regards to the outcome and the statements by international election observers. President Mikheil Saakashvilli’s United National Movement (UNM) won solid victories in every local council in Georgia while Gigi Ugulava, the UNM candidate handily defeated Irakli Alasania, the leading opposition figure, in the race for mayor of Tbilisi. Meanwhile the OSCE/ODIHR election report declared that the “The 30 May municipal elections marked evident progress towards meeting OSCE and Council of Europe commitments. However, significant remaining shortcomings include deficiencies in the legal framework, its implementation, an uneven playing field, and isolated cases of election-day fraud.” This is the election observation equivalent of a gentlemen’s B.