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Second round of contested Georgia municipal elections takes place

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By Clemence Waller  with AFP
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Second round of contested Georgia municipal elections takes place
Copyright  AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov

Georgians from 20 constituencies head to the polls to cast their votes in a highly contested second round of municipal elections which will determine the mayors and city council members for those areas.

Seventeen of those constituencies will have runoffs between candidates from the ruling Georgian Dream Party and the opposition United National Movement party, amidst a climate of high political tensions.

The current political crisis began with last year’s legislative elections which were narrowly won by the ruling party but decried by the opposition as fraudulent.

An incident which aggravated an already tense situation is the arrest for former president Mikheil Saakashvili. Considered to be the leader of the opposition party, he returned to Georgia ahead of the first round of elections after eight years in exile.

Saakashvili started a hunger strike to protest his detention which he has claimed was “purely political”.

Current President Salome Zurabishvili called for peace and unity and asked for an end to the polarisation in the country, saying that only Russia was benefiting from the current situation.

During the week, current Prime Minister Irakli Garibachvili asked voters to cast their ballots in favour of the Georgian Dream party, calling the opposition UNM party "an anti-state and anti- national force."