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Georgians rally for ruling party ahead of local polls

Thousands of Georgians rallied on Wednesday in support of the ruling party ahead of a second round of local elections to be held on Saturday.

The rally came after the main opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili held a hunger strike in jail.

Addressing the rally, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said his Georgian Dream party had taken important steps for the country’s development and welfare via democratic means since 2012.

“We are the government that has been able to maintain peace and stability for the longest time in the history of independent Georgia. We laid the foundation for fundamental reforms in health, education, infrastructure, agriculture, and the economy,” said Garibashvili.

Referring to the detention earlier this month of Saakashvili, a former president of the country, Garibashvili said he would serve his sentence in prison due to the various crimes committed during his term in office.

Garibashvili urged the public to vote for his party, vowing democratic development, as well as to solve the problems related to the Georgia’s territorial integrity.

Around 60,000 people attended the campaign rally, according to local media repotrs.

The second-round election runoffs on Saturday will see mayoral candidates from the ruling Georgian Dream party and opposition United National Movement compete for posts in major cities.

Saakashvili, who served as president from 2004-2013, was arrested and imprisoned on Oct. 1, days after he secretly returned from exile in Ukraine, prompting tens of thousands to rally in Tbilisi, demanding his release.

He has been on hunger strike for nearly four weeks to protest what he calls politically motivated prosecution.

Doctors have expressed concern over the risk of irreversible damage to his health.

Local elections

According to official results announced by the Georgian Central Election Commission, the ruling party came in first with 46.74% in the first round of voting held on Oct. 2 to elect 64 mayors and 2,068 city council members.

Saakashvili’s opposition United National Movement took second place with 30.67% of the vote.

On the other hand, no mayoral candidate in the country’s five largest cities, including the capital Tbilisi, and a total of 20 municipalities could pass the 50% threshold, necessitating the upcoming run-off.

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