Head of state Eduard Shevardnadze and his Civic Union party won heavily November 5 in Georgia’s first presidential and parliamentary elections since the dissolution of the USSR. Shevardnadze yesterday thanked the voters for their confidence as incomplete returns clearly pointed to his victory. Seven political blocs and 46 parties competed for the parliament’s 235 seats, 150 of them to be filled by deputies elected on party lists and 85 by those elected in single-mandate constituencies. Pre-election opinion polls had shown that Civic Union was set to win, followed by the National-Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and Traditionalists’ Union. These parties, well represented in the previous legislature, stand for a strong parliament and a more resolute distancing from Moscow than Shevardnadze deems advisable. In the race for the five-year presidency Shevardnadze defeated five opponents, notably the communist Jumber Patiashvili and the right-wing conservative Akaky Bakradze. International observers found some insignificant irregularities, which, in their view did not affect the election’s outcome. Voter turnout was fairly high except in secessionist-controlled South Ossetia and, particularly, Abkhazia where local authorities prevented the small remaining Georgian population from crossing into Georgian-controlled territory to vote. (8)
Shevardnadze’s and Civic Union’s platforms promised sweeping economic and social reforms, including accelerated privatization and low taxation, a crackdown on organized crime, redoubled efforts to secure the transit of Caspian oil via Georgia, Western economic assistance on the strength of Shevardnadze’s personal contacts, building a Georgian army, federalization of the country to accommodate Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and cooperation with Russia linked to support for the restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity. At the same time, Shevardnadze in his campaign speeches repeatedly reserved the right to regain Abkhazia by force if political negotiations fail.