Georgia’s ruling party decisively won a second round of voting on Sunday, giving it more than three quarters of seats in parliament, enough to change the constitution if it wants, data from the Central Election Commission showed on Monday. The result cements Georgian Dream’s already firm grip on power in the ex-Soviet nation and is a crushing defeat for the opposition United National Movement (UNM) and its founder, former president Mikheil Saakashvili, a regional governor in Ukraine who has spoken of a possible return to his homeland. Georgian Dream, which came to power in 2012, is pro-Western but also favors closer ties with Russia, while the UNM is strongly pro-Western.
A U.S. ally traditionally buffeted between Russia and the West, Georgia is criss-crossed by strategically important oil and gas pipelines and hopes to join the European Union and NATO one day.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration congratulated Georgia on the “successful completion” of the elections. “We now encourage political leaders from all parties to work together in pursuit of goals important to all Georgians, including democratic consolidation, security, and economic prosperity,” said U.S. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price in a statement.
Funded by tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, the country’s richest man, Georgian Dream won 67 seats in the 150-seat parliament in an Oct. 8 round of voting. Runoff contests were then held on Sunday for 50 seats where no single candidate won a majority.