Georgian Dream won parliamentary elections, retaining power by edging the party of former President Mikheil Saakashvili, an exit poll showed. Georgian Dream received 39.9 percent of the vote in the former Soviet republic, compared with 32.7 percent for United National Movement, according to a survey by the polling company GfK. A second poll by TNS gave Georgian Dream almost 54 percent to UNM’s 19.5 percent. Preliminary results of Saturday’s ballot will be released through the night. For single-member districts where no candidate captures a majority, a runoff will be held in two weeks. Georgian Dream swept to power in 2012 elections, six months after being formed by reclusive billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, ending the UNM rule that had started in the 2003 Rose Revolution. Over the past year, the government struggled to contain a currency crisis, which kept voters focused on the economy as it reeled from the impact of the Ukrainian conflict and Russia’s slide into recession. Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, who ascended to the post less than 10 months ago, is promising to rev up growth in the next decade.
“These elections are important because we’re taking a further step toward being a more democratic state,” Kvirikashvili told reporters after casting his vote. “I voted for Georgia’s European future. I believe and I’m confident that Georgia will meet the higher expectations of our friends and partners.”
Amid persistent tensions with Russia after a 2008 war, both Georgian Dream and the UNM advocate membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union for the former Soviet republic of 4.5 million people. An agreement late last year giving Georgians visa-free travel to the EU has repeatedly stalled.