Georgia reaffirms pro-Western course in municipal vote

TBILISI: Georgia reaffirmed its pro-Western course Monday as parties pledging to bring the country into the EU and NATO dominated in local polls ahead of a historic signing with the European Union later this month.
The ruling Georgian Dream (GD) coalition took 51.6 percent of the vote across the country’s 59 municipalities and in the capital Tbilisi, according to early results from 87 percent of precincts. It was the party’s first electoral test since its founder, billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, stepped down as prime minister last November.
The opposition United Nation Movement (UNM) — led by Ivanishvili’s arch-foe the former president Mikheil Saakashvili — came second with 21.9 percent of the vote. “With these elections our government has confirmed once again the irreversibility of democratic reforms. We have taken another step towards Europe,” Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said Sunday evening in a statement. The race for mayor of Tbilisi, where half of Georgia’s population lives, went to a runoff between GD and UNM candidates after neither party secured 50 percent of votes.
Georgia is to sign a key association agreement with the 28-nation European Union at a summit on June 27, and both of the frontrunner parties are committed to keeping the mountainous republic of some 4.5 million on a pro-Western track. 

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Aaj Kal