Georgian presidential election, 2008

A presidential election was held in Georgia on January 5, 2008, [ [ Georgia to hold presidential election on Jan 5, 2008] Itar-Tass. November 8, 2007.] having been brought forward by President Mikheil Saakashvili after the 2007 Georgian demonstrations from the original date in autumn 2008. [ [ Georgia to hold early elections] . BBC News. November 8, 2007.]

A referendum on when to hold the legislative election was held at the same date. On November 26, 2007, the President's office announced that Georgia will simultaneously hold another referendum on NATO membership on January 5, 2008. [ [ Georgia to Hold Plebiscite on NATO Membership] . Civil Georgia. 2007-11-26.]

Saakashvili was declared a winner with 53.4% of the votes amid the accusation of electoral fraud by the Georgian opposition. [cite web
title = Saakashvili officially declared winner in Georgian presidential election
publisher = Interfax
date = 2008-01-13
url =
accessdate = 2008-01-13
] International observers welcomed the elections as "the first genuinely competitive presidential election" in the history of Georgia, and said, albeit irregularities were observed, the polls generally met the democratic standards.


Badri Patarkatsishvili, a business oligarch who made a fortune in Russia, announced he would be a candidate on November 10 2007; the government accused Patarkatsishvili of plotting a Russia-backed coup against Saakashvili. [ [ The Anatolian Times ] ] The opposition parties stated they would nominate a single candidate for the election, which would be a "big surprise" for everyone, would have a "great chance of winning the election" and that it would not be Patarkatsishvili, former Defence Minister Irakli Okruashvili or the activist Tina Khidasheli. [ [ Zurabishvili: Opposition To Nominate One Candidate For Presidential Elections ] ] On November 12, the opposition parties nominated MP Levan Gachechiladze, who was at the forefront of the 2007 Georgian demonstrations, as their common candidate for the election. [ [ "Georgia poll challenger nominated"] , BBC News, November 12, 2007.] The Georgian Labour Party will support its leader Shalva Natelashvili as a candidate instead of Gachechiladze, and the New Right nominated MP Davit Gamkrelidze as their candidate instead.

Saakashvili was nominated as his party's candidate on November 23. [ [ IC Publications ] ]

Twenty-two citizens of Georgia expressed willingness to run for the January 5 early presidential elections. According to the Georgian election code each of them has to submit at least 50,000 signatures of supporters in order to be registered by the Central Election Commission as official candidates. [ [ 22 Bid for Presidency – CEC] . Civil Georgia. 2007-11-26.]

In total, thirteen candidates actually submitted signatures, but only seven of them were recognized by the Central Election Commission (CEC) as eligible to for presidency. These are:
*Levan Gachechiladze, nominated by the nine-party opposition coalition
*Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of the New Right
*Gia Maisashvili, leader of the Party of the Future
*Shalva Natelashvili, leader of the Georgian Labour Party
*Badri Patarkatsishvili, a business and media tycoon
*Mikheil Saakashvili, the ex-president and the leader of ruling United National Movement
*Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia, the only female presidential candidate and the leader of the Russian-leaning Hope Party. [ [ Seven Remain in Presidential Race] . Civil Georgia. 2007-12-11.]

Pre-election events

In the earliest pre-election poll held by the weekly "Mteli Kvira" in November 2007, the opposition candidate Gachechiladze defeated Saakashvili by 2% (18% to 16%). [ [ Interfax > Politics ] ] [ [ Low Numbers for Candidates in Georgia: Angus Reid Global Monitor ] ]

In December 2007, in a poll commissioned by Saakashvili's party, the BCG company surveyed of 13,000 respondents throughout Georgia showed that 29.5% of voters were still undecided. 36.7% said they would vote for Saakashvili, followed by Gachechiladze with 9.7%; Patarkatsishvili – 4.7%; Gamkrelidze - 3%; Natelashvili – 2.5%; Maisashvili and Sarishvili had less than 1% each. One percent said they would vote for none of the candidates. The survey showed that 63.5% of those who have decided to vote for one of the candidates will vote for Saakashvili, followed by Gachechiladze and Patarkatsishvili with 16.7% and 8.1%, respectively. [ Imedi TV Plans Exit Polls] . Civil Georgia. 2007-12-23.]

According to another survey, also commission by Saakashvili's party, was overseen by the U.S. base Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research but conducted by the Georgian ACT group. This survey involved 1,500 respondents, 41% will vote for Saakashvili, followed by Gachechiladze – 11.1%; Patarkatsishvili – 6.5%; Natelashvili – 3.5%; Gamkrelidze – 2.1%; Maisashvili and Sarishvili - less than 1% each. 20.6% were undecided and 2.3% said they wouldn’t vote for any candidate. Of those who have decided to vote for one of the candidates, 64% said they would vote for Saakashvili, followed by Gachechiladze and Patarkatsishvili with 17% and 10%, respectively.

On December 23, 2007, the pro-opposition Imedi TV announced that the organization called Dialogue for Development of Democracy conducted public opinion research between December 17 and December 21. The survey showed, Imedi TV said, that 22.1% of the 2,100 surveyed would support Levan Gachechiladze, a presidential candidate backed by the nine-party opposition coalition, followed by Mikheil Saakashvili with 20.3%; Badri Patarkatsishvili (co-owner of Imedi TV) – 19.1%; Shalva Natelashvili, the leader of the Labor Party – 6.5%; Davit Gamkrelidze, the leader of the New Rights Party – 4.9%; Giorgi Maisashvili, leader of Party of Future – 1.1% and Irina Sarishvili, leader of Party of Hope – 0.2%. The survey was reported to have shown that 21.7% still remain undecided. The latest survey, commissioned by the Saakashvili’s campaign from the U.S.-based Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, was published on January 3, 2008. It showed that Saakashvili had the support of 42 percent among all Georgian adults, compared to 19 percent for Levan Gachechiladze, 11 percent for Badri Patarkatsishvili, 5 percent for Shalva Natelashvili, 4 percent for David Gamkrelidze, and 1 percent for Gia Maisashvili; 2 percent would not vote or vote blank, and 16 percent are undecided. It also showed that only a minority of Georgian voters feel the presidential elections will not be free and fair. [ [ Survey Shows Saakashvili with Strong Lead in Presidential Ballot] . Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, January 3, 2008.]

Meanwhile, all major national television broadcasters plan to conduct their own exit polls and have commissioned seven local research groups.

In late December, Patarkatsishvili, who had pledged his financial support to the November rallies, became embroiled in a major controversy. The authorities accused him of trying to bribe an election official to claim voting fraud, released a series of audio and video recordings of the two separate meetings of the high-ranking Georgian Interior Ministry official Erekle Kodua with Patarkatsishvili and the head of his pre-election campaign Valeri Gelbakhiani. According to these materials, Patarkatsishvili was trying to bribe Kodua to take part in what the Georgian officilas described as an attempted couo d'etat on January 6, 2008, the next of the scheduled presidential elections. The plan included to stage a mass manifestation against the government and to "neutralize" the Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili. The accusations forced Patarkatsishvili onto defensive. He confirmed that he met with Kedua in London, but denied that the bribe was in connection to an alleged coup plot and claimed instead that his intention was to uncover what he said were official plans to rig the election. He also confirmed that he offered Kedua "a huge amount of money" in exchange for defecting from the authorities allegedly to avert a possible use of force by the government against the planned January rallies. [ [ Patarkatsishvili Ally a Suspect in Coup Plot] . Civil Georgia / 2007-12-24 13:22:55.] [ [ More ‘Coup Plot’ Tapes Released] . Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 2007-12-25 20:33:27.] [ [ Patarkatsishvili Forced onto Defensive] . Georgian Times [Civil Georgia] . 2007.12.26 12:52.] On December 26, 2007, several leading journalists defected from Imedi TV, co-owned by Patarkatsishvili. Later that day, the television station’s management announced that Imedi TV temporarily suspended broadcasts until the station's "legal status in respect of ownership is not clarified." "By doing so we are distancing from dirty political games", said Giorgi Targamadze, head of the Imedi TV's political programs. [ [ Imedi TV Suspends Broadcasts] . Civil Georgia, Tbilisi. 2007-12-26.] The opposition politicians who were formerly allied with him also made attempts to distance for Patarkatsishvili and condemned what they described as illegal methods used by both the authorities and "other forces," apparently referring to Patarkatsishvili. [ [ Authorities Attack Nine-Party Coalition over Patarkatsishvili Ties] . Civil Georgia, 2007-12-27.]

On December 28, 2007, Patarkatsishvili announced that he would withdraw his bid for presidency, but would nominally remain a candidate until January 4, 2008. [ [ Patarkatsishvili Nominally Remains in Race] . Civil Georgia. 2007-12-28.] On January 3, 2008, he reversed himself, however, and decided to run in presidential elections. In response, his top campaign official Giorgi Zhvania (brother of the late Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania) resigned, declaring that Patarkasishvili does not have the unquestionable reputation one would expect of a country's president. [ [ Georgian Media Tycoon Returns to Presidential Race] . Voice of America. January 03, 2008.]

Meanwhile, the OSCE has released two interim reports on election campaign, saying that the "legal framework [was] generally favorable to the conduct of democratic elections in Georgia, if implemented in good faith." However, they express concers about "a highly polarized political environment" within the country's political spectrum, the allegations of use by Saakashvili of administrative resources and the lack of balance in Georgian media. [ [ OSCE Interim Report on Election Campaign] . Civil Georgia, December 21 2007.] [ [ Interim Report No 2] . The OSCE Observer Mission. December 28, 2007.] On December 28, 2007, Saakashvili vowed to lead Georgia into NATO and to restore its territorial integrity in his second term if reelected, stating he would hand over a united Georgia to his successor after the end of his second term. [ [ Georgian president vows to join NATO if reelected - People's Daily Online ] ]

The pre-election period in Georgia was also marked with the rising tension in breakaway Abkhazia. Early in January 2008, the Georgian media reported attacks on ethnic Georgians in the Gali district controlled by the de facto Abkhaz administration. The reports said that the Georgians living in Abkhazia were being intimidated by local Abkhaz officials in order to prevent them from participating in Georgia's presidential election and at least seven houses owned by ethnic Georgians had been burnt down. Although Abkhaz officials rejected the accusations, [ [ Sokhumi Denies Reported Attacks on Georgians in Gali] . Civil Georgia. January 4, 2008.] the acting Georgian president Nino Burjanadze warned that the certain attempts were being made to complicate the situation in the conflict zone on the eve of the election. [ [ Attempts Made to Raise Tension in Conflict Zones – Burjanadze] . Civil Georgia. January 4, 2008.]


In addition to local watchdogs, 29 international or foreign organizations (including OSCE, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and International Crisis Group) observe the elections. [ [ International Observers] . Civil Georgia.]

Early on January 5, 2008, all polling stations were opened with the exception of the highland village of Shatili where heavy snow thwarted the process. [ [ All Polling Stations Opened, Except of One in Shatili] . Civil Georgia, January 5 2008.]


Exit polls

The first exit poll results were conflicting. According to a survey commissioned by 4 TV stations (Georgian Public Broadcasting, Rustavi 2, Mze, and Achara TV) from the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA), Ilia Chavchavadze State University and two think-tanks - the Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development (CIPDD) and the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (GFSIS) (consulted by the Ukrainian Democratic Initiatives’ Foundation), Mikhail Saakashvili is to win with a narrow absolute majority of 53.5% of the votes, with Levan Gachechiladze coming second with 29.1%. [ [ Exitpoll 2008 ] ] Turnout was 46.4%, according to the latest data. [ [] Prime News Agency statement] Twenty-three percent of respondents, however, refused to say for whom they had voted. The poll had a margin of error of 2%. They also stressed that the figures were provisional, with final results not expected for another few hours. [ [ Early Exit Poll Results Show Saakashvili in Lead] . Civil Georgia. January 5, 2008.]

According to an obscure and hitherto unknown [ [ 'Do not Trust Exit Polls’ - Nine-Party Opposition Coalition] . Civil Georgia. January 3, 2008.] Ukrainian think tank "Common European Cause", which claimed to have interviewed 10,000 people at 200 polling stations, Gachechiladze won the most votes (31%), followed by Saakashvili (24.4%) and Patarkatsishvili (20.3%). [cite web
title = Ukrainian think-tank: None of presidential contenders in Georgia obtained more than 50% of votes
publisher = REGNUM News Agency
date = 2008-01-05
url =
accessdate = 2008-01-05


The opposition candidates claimed the polls to be rigged and the exit-polls to be false. Supporters for Levan Gachechiladze are waiting for official results, [ [ Новости - Грузия - Новости Грузии - Празднование победы на выборах сторонниками Саакашвили является провокацией – Саломе Зурабишвили ] ] but the candidate himself called for a January 6 meeting in Tbilisi to protect the true results of the election. [ [ Новости - Грузия - Новости Грузии - Леван Гачечиладзе объявил, что его сторонники начнут массовую акцию протеста против итогов выборов ] ] On the 6th January about 7-9.000 supporters of the opposition did go to the Rike Square in Tbilisi. Opposition leaders claimed their adherents to come again on 8th January and to celebrate the victory of Levan Gachechiladze. [ [ Новости - Грузия - Новости Грузии - В центре Тбилиси прошел многотысячный митинг в поддержку оппозиционного кандидата Левана Гачечиладзе ] ] Meanwhile, the OSCE and EU election observers stated that the election all in all met the democratic standards, but they said that there had been problems that must be addressed. [ [] PR Inside: OSCE says Georgian election showed problems that must be addressed urgently] The Western observers also hailed it as "the first genuinely competitive presidential election, which enabled the Georgian people to express their political choice." [ [ Georgia — Extraordinary Presidential Election, 5 January 2008. STATEMENT OF PRELIMINARY FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS] . INTERNATIONAL ELECTION OBSERVATION MISSION. January 6, 2008.] In an interview to the German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau the German diplomat Dieter Boden who was an OSCE observer in Georgia was quoted to have said that the elections were massively falsificated and that there were "rude, negligent and intentional manipulations during the vote count that were detected by our observers". He spoke of a "chaotic situation" within the electoral commission. [ [ Massive falsifications during the election in Georgia] . Frankfurter Rundschau. January 9, 2008.] On January 10, however, representative of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights mission in Georgia, Rasto Kuzel, declared that the OSCE has not changed its generally positive evaluation of the January 5 presidential election in the country, and explained "Mr. Boden's published statements do not quite reflect what he really said, and we shall look into how that happened." [ [ OSCE mission has not changed opinion of Georgian election-official] . Itar-Tass. 10.01.2008.] He also added that "the interview was not published completely. Some definitions were cut from the interview." [ [ OSCE Does Not Change Position Related To Evaluation Of Presidential Elections] . Prime Times. January 10, 2008.] On January 11, Boden himself stated that "it was the result of the journalist's misinterpretation" and said the final report would be published in February 2008. [ [ Dieter Boden summoned to Foreign Ministry] . The Georgian Times. 2008.01.11.]

The Central Election Committee also stated the turnout was 56,17%, or 1.912.943 voters. As announced by the Central Election Committee by 20.00 (16.00 GMT), January 6, the data from 2,605 precincts (of 3,512) has been worked out. Saakashvili is in the lead with 51.95 % of the votes, and Gachechiladze is second with 25.14 %. [] In common Saakashvili has won in regions and Gachechiladze in Tbilisi. [ [ Новости - Грузия - Новости Грузии - После обработки данных с 819 участков, процент проголосовавших за Саакашвили составил 48,55 - ЦИК ] ] According to Georgian Central Electoral Commission, as of 8 January 2007, which already included the votes from more polling stations than the earlier reports, Saakashvili was leading with 52.21%, [ Results 2008 ] ] Gachechiladze following him with only 25.26% of the votes. On 9 January 2007, with 98.8% of the ballot counted, Saakashvili had 52.21% meaning he could not fall below the 50% which would result in a run-off. [ [ | Agence France-Presse, a global news agency ] ] However the opposition continued to protest the result, claiming vote-rigging had taken place and demanding a run-off, also asking for the resignation of the head of the CEC. [ [ Al Jazeera English - News - Georgia Parties Demand Run-Off Vote ] ] Badri Patarkatsishvili an opposition candidate was later charged with attempting to organise a terrorist attack and plotting a coup. [ [ Al Jazeera English - News - Coup Charge Against Georgian Tycoon ] ]

On January 13, 2008, most opposition parties united in a large rally in downtown Tbilisi demanding run-off of the elections. [ [ Protest Rally Demands Run-Off] . Civil Georgia. January 13, 2008.]

ee also

*Elections in Georgia
*Electoral calendar


External links

* [ Georgian presidential election, 2008] , Electoral Geography 2.0
* [ Georgia Vote 2008] , EurasiaNet
* [ Elections 2008] . Civil Georgia
* [ Central Election Commission of Georgia]

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