Ruling party in ex-Soviet Georgia leads municipal elections

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — The ruling party in ex-Soviet republic Georgia is leading in partial results from nationwide municipal elections, but the mayoral contests in the country’s four largest cities likely will need runoffs.

The Central Elections Commission said Sunday that tallies from about 39% of precincts showed the ruling Georgian Dream party with about 49% of the overall vote, followed by the main opposition party United National Movement, or UNM, with 31% and array of other parties in single digits.

Georgian Dream this spring signed a European Union-brokered agreement to call an early election for the national parliament if its share of the municipal elections vote was less than 43%. However, it later withdrew from the agreement, saying the UNM hadn’t signed it; that party later did so.

The mayoral races in Tbilisi, Batumi, Kutaisi and Rustavi all appear headed for runoffs because no candidate was registering an absolute majority of votes.

The election was shadowed by the arrest Friday of exiled former President Mikheil Saakashvili, who returned to the country in a bid to galvanize opposition to Georgian Dream.

Saakashvili, who left the country in 2014 after Georgian Dream won the presidency, faces up to six years in prison on convictions for abuse of power that were handed down in absentia.

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