Opinion polls show nation’s two main political parties neck-and-neck after campaign marred by car bombing and shooting.
The ruling Georgian Dream party has won Georgia’s legislative polls, official results show, but the opposition has complained of vote rigging in the Caucasus nation.
With more than 99.92 percent of the votes counted by Sunday, data from the Central Election Commission gave the ruling Georgian Dream party 48.6 percent of the vote and the opposition United National Movement (UNM) 27.14 percent.
The figures are for a proportional ballot that will decide 77 of the 150 seats in the legislature.
After voting closed on Saturday, the Georgian Dream was quick to declare victory based on exit polls which gave it a strong lead over the UNM.
But the UNM accused the government of attempts to “steal elections” and held a protest rally outside the central election commission.
“Votes have been stolen from us. We will defend our votes,” Nika Melia, chief of UNM’s campaign and an MP candidate, told protesters, claiming that the electoral victory belonged to his party.
Several opposition parties, including the Labour Party, Alliance of Patriots, and Democratic Georgia, cried foul, accusing the incumbent government of massive vote rigging.
The voting percentages that have been released so far may not necessarily be reflected in parliamentary seats because almost half will be determined on a first-past-the-post basis rather than by the proportional representation system.
Owing to the country’s complex election rules, the final makeup of the 150-seat parliament may only become clear by late November.
Al Jazeera’s Robin Forestier-Walker, reporting from the capital Tbilisi, said that “the UNM, which looks like it’s coming in second [behind Georgian Dream], claims that the margin of difference between the two [parties] is substantially smaller. They are saying that they will contest the results based on their own polls.
“There is a concern that this election will not pass by smoothly, the way it did four years ago,” our correspondent said.
Georgian Dream – led from behind the scenes by billionaire ex-prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili – and the UNM – founded by exiled former president Mikheil Saakashvili – had been neck-and-neck in opinion polls ahead of the election.
Tensions rose ahead of the vote in the ex-Soviet republic after a car bombing and shooting incident at a rally.
Georgia’s Western allies were watching closely to see if the strategic nation could cement gains after its first transfer of power at the ballot box four years ago.
“This was a truly free and fair election, which firmly cements Georgia’s democracy,” Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said after the vote ended, but observers reported instances of procedural violations.
Election monitors and opposition politicians noted that Georgia’s electoral environment and financing give an unfair advantage to the ruling party, which could have potentially affected the vote’s outcome.
Local observers also reported about several violations during the vote count process.
In one case, a group of unidentified attackers threw stones and smashed windows at two polling stations in the village of Jikhashkari in western Georgia, Reuters news agency cited local observers as saying.
They also damaged the ballot box and attacked international and local observers at the spot, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association said in a statement.