The Election of 1992
After a series of last-minute changes, the electoral system for October 1992 was a compromise combination of single-member districts and proportional voting by party lists. To give regional parties a chance to gain representation, separate party lists were submitted for each of ten historical regions of Georgia. In a change from the 1990 system, no minimum percentage was set for a party to achieve representation in parliament if the party did sufficiently well regionally to seat candidates. Forty-seven parties and four coalitions registered to participate in the 1992 election. For the first time, the Central Election Commission accepted the registration of every party that submitted an application.
The largest of the electoral alliances, and one of the most controversial, was the Peace Bloc (Mshvidoba). This broad coalition of seven parties ranged from the heavily ex-communist Democratic Union to the Union for the Revival of Ajaria, a party of the conservative Ajarian political elite. Ultimately, the strong programmatic differences among the seven parties would render the Peace Bloc ineffective as a parliamentary faction. The Democratic Union filled as much as 70 percent of the places given the coalition on the party lists. In the 1992 election, the Peace Bloc draw a plurality of votes, thus earning the coalition twenty-nine seats in parliament.
The second most important coalition, the October 11 Bloc, included moderate reform leaders of four parties. Members typically had academic backgrounds with few or no communist connections, and the median age of bloc leaders was about fifteen years less than that of the Democratic Union leadership. The October 11 Bloc won eighteen seats, the second largest number in the 1992 election.
A third coalition, the Unity Bloc (Ertoba), lost two of its four member parties before the election. Many of the leaders of the Liberal-Democratic National Party, one of the two remaining constituent parties of the Unity Bloc, were, like the leaders of the Democratic Union, former communist officials who continued to hold influential posts in the Georgian government and mass media. Both the Peace Bloc and the Unity Bloc put prominent cultural figures at the top of their electoral lists to gain attention.
Shevardnadze's actions were crucial in building the foundation for the 1992 election. From the time of his return to Georgia, Shevardnadze enjoyed unparalleled respect and recognition. Because of his unique position, the State Council acted to separate Shevardnadze from party politics by creating a potentially powerful new elected post, chairman of parliament, which would also be contested in the October elections. Because no other candidate emerged, Shevardnadze was convinced to forego partisan politics and grasp this opportunity for national leadership.
The elections took place as scheduled in October 1992 in most regions of the country. International monitors from ten nations reported that, with minor exceptions, the balloting was free and fair. Predictably, Gamsakhurdia declared the results rigged and invalid. Interethnic tensions and Gamsakhurdia's activity forced postponement of elections in nine of the eighty-four administrative districts, located in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and western Georgia. Voters in those areas were encouraged to travel to adjoining districts, however, to vote in all but the regional races. Together, the nonvoting districts represented 9.1 percent of the registered voters in Georgia. In no voting district did less than 60 percent of eligible voters participate.
An important factor in the high voter turnout was the special ballot for Shevardnadze as chairman of the new parliament; a large number of voters cast ballots only for Shevardnadze and submitted blank or otherwise invalid ballots for the other races. Shevardnadze received an overwhelming endorsement, winning approximately 96 percent of the vote. In all, fifty-one of the ninety-two members of the previous State Council were elected to the new parliament. The four sitting members of the State Council Presidium (Shevardnadze, Ioseliani, Sigua, and Kitovani) also were reelected.
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