Georgian Ruling Party Faces Opposition Snub in Election Runoffs

Georgians are voting in 17 runoff elections for parliamentary seats on Saturday even as opposition parties say they’re boycotting the contest.

The runoffs are taking place in seats where no party’s candidate got a majority of votes in the Oct. 31 electionwon by the ruling Georgian Dream party for the third straight time. Opposition parties allegeballot fraud and have called for the resignation of the head of the central election commission.

Opposition supporters have kept up protests in the capital, Tbilisi, for weeks, while party leaders have said they’ll refuse to take up their mandates in the 150-seat parliament. Georgian Dream, founded by the country’s richest man, Bidzina Ivanishvili, has defended the election outcome, while international organizations, embassies and senior U.S. officialshave urged the opposition to work within the country’s legal system to address their concerns.

Georgian Dream received just over 48% of votes in the election, against 27% for the main opposition bloc led by the United National Movement of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili. He’s been in exile since stepping down in 2013 after the government accused him of abuse of power. Saakashvili, who was backed by the U.S. when Georgia fought and lost a brief war with Russia in 2008, denies the allegations.

The elections were conducted under areformed system that allocated 120 seats by party list through proportional representation with the remaining 30 decided by majority vote in single-mandate contests.

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