On November 28, 2018, the second round of the presidential elections was held in Georgia and and the so-called ‘independent’ candidate Salome Zurabishvili was elected. The second round campaign was quite tense. This was not simply a battle for the president’s office. The first round showed that the opposition had a real chance to win the contest in a free and fair election.
Pre-election environment for the second round
Victory was a strategic goal for the ruling Georgia Dream team and they mobilized all kinds of resources to win. They displayed negative parties of the former ruling party, the United National Movement. The ruling party also presented the country with a stark choices: if their candidate did not win, it would mean the return of the former ruling party. One of the leaders of the parliamentary majority Gedevan Popkhadze also said that the victory of the opposition candidate, Grigol Vashadze, would be a step towards the start of a civil war.  The authorities felt that it would be difficult to win the election and tried to scare people with the prospect of a return to the party that has been in opposition for almost 6 years.
Bidzina Ivanishvili, the chairperson of Georgia Dream, called on people to support him once again in the second round of election. He admitted he had made mistakes and that the country faced problems, but at the same time he asked people to support him and prevent the return of the former ruling party. Ivanishvili said he would correct all the shortcomings in one year and use all his resources to make the reforms in the country irreversible.  Shortly after this statement and a few days before the election, the government took the unprecedented step of removing all bank debt from 600,000 citizens. The debts will be paid by Ivanishvili’s bank.  Only a few days before the polls, the announcement showed that the ruling party was willing to use all legal and illegal means for victory. The decision was denounced by international observer organizations as voter bribery and was contested by the United Opposition.
Salome Zourabichvili was not actively involved in the second round campaign. Billboards appeared in different cities depicting Bidzina Ivanishvili and other party leaders instead of presidential candidate. The ruling party also had billboards against the “National Movement” with slogans such as “Choose Vashadze, choose Saakashvili!” on which former president Mikheil Saakashvili and his team were represented. The government has officially denied any connection with the billboards and said that they were put up by the private sector. Following Ivanishvili’s statement, private TV company “Imedi” stated that its owners knew what a return to the “National Movement” would mean and that, therefore, they would change the airtime in the pre-election period to prevent returning of the former regime. 
There was also a big difference between the financial resources of the candidatest. Salome Zourabichvili spent 6,351,949 GEL in the first round and theUnited National Movement (UNM) 1,133,536 lari.  In the second round, Zourabichvili spent 3 260 810 GEL and the “National Movement” 1 257 752 GEL. 
For its part, the TV company Rustavi 2 was actively working during the election period, reporting stories about election violations and corruption.
The results of the second round and the opposition of the opposition
Following the closure of the polling stations, an exit poll by Rustavi 2 reported that Vashadze had won 45% and Zurabishvili 55%. ImediTV said that Zurabishvili had won 58% and Vashadze 42%. Vashadze said that he trusted the research but would still will wait for the final results.  On the second day of the elections, the Central Election Commission announced that Vashadze had won- 40.46% and Zurabishvili 59.54%. Vashadze won the elections in two districts and in all the districts abroad.
lVashadze told his supporters that “we have no presidential elections in Georgia. We had a criminal farce organized by the government under criminal terror. That’s why we do not recognize the results of these elections.”  Vashadze said that the opposition would demand early parliamentary elections, a change of the election commission, and a transition to a proportional electoral system.  The opposition held a protest rally outside the Parliament building and offered to create a working group.  The newly elected president, though, said that democracy demands that the elected president be recognized, that the country should move on, and that the political environment should calm down. 
President’s inauguration and renewed protest
According to the constitution, the inauguration of the president was scheduled on December 16, 2018. All 7 previous inaugurations have been held in Tbilisi. After the announcement of the demands of the opposition, the ruling party began to speak about changing the location of the inauguration and eventually Zourabichvili said that it would be be held in Telavi, in King Eckerle’s palace. According to her, Telavi was chosen because she lost the election there and wanted to show that she was everyone’s president.  In fact, it was clear to everyone that the government was afraid of opposition protests.
The United Opposition said that “no one was going to break the so called inauguration, wherever they wanted to hold the show,  but they supported the statement of former President Mikheil Saakashvili, who said that “we did not allow Shevardnadze in 2003 to open the Parliament. People should say that you do not have the right to put the stolen election in your pocket“.  He called for civil disobedience.  Saakashvili previously lost his Georgian citizenship and has been living in Holland, but he was actively involved in the election campaign. Often his statements are unacceptable, but his role is still great for supporters of the opposition.
In the end, the authorities decided to take a more unconventional decision, violating the constitutional tradition and moving the inauguration to Telavi. The inauguration was not as open and public as it is in many countries. It was held in one of the fortresses where guests attended by special invitation, journalists were not allowed inside, and where they observed the oath-taking process on a special monitor. It should be noted that in 2013 President Zourabichvili wrote about the necessity of holding the inauguration as public event.
Thus, the inauguration of the 2018 was specially designed to prevent opposition protest in Tbilisi. However, the inauguration was still tense. The opposition decided to organize a protest in Telavi. Several thousand cars left Tbilisi. However, the police blocked the road and opposition supporters were unable to enter Telavi. Some people were injured as a result of clashes between the opposition and police and one of the leaders of the opposition was arrested. Salome Zourabichvili took the oath and began work on December 16, but tensions are ongoing.
Election assessments and international feedback
One of the main issues after the presidential election is democracy and the legitimacy of elections. The opposition still does not recognize the result and continues to protest. The authorities claim that the elections were held freely and fairly and were recognized as such by all international organizations. At the same time, both national and international organizations have indicated that significant violence was observed, as well as intimidation, the restriction of the free will of voters, the misuse of administrative resources, bribing and other violations. Non-governmental organizations called the government’s initiative to write off the bank debt for 600,000 people “unprecedented” and voter bribery. Non-governmental organizations also criticized holding the election on a Wednesday, which restrict citizens’ rights, especially for citizens living abroad.  Observers noted that the elections were competitive, free, but unfair. 
Overall, we can say that the presidential election was held in a very tense atmosphere. On theone hand, it was actually the first time when the opposition had a chance of winning the election. It was also the first time when theopposition had received such a high level of supports. On the other hand, it is sad that the government used all the methods it did, including many illegal mechanisms. This election has intensified the polarization in Georgia and has also caused significant damage to the country’s democratic image internationally.
 Edison Research-ისა და Gallup-ის ეგზიტპოლის შედეგებით, საპრეზიდენტო არჩევნებში სალომე ზურაბიშვილი იმარჯვებს https://primetime.ge/news/1543422134-Edisoიშვილი-იმარჯვებს
 საპრეზიდენტო არჩევნების წინასწარი შედეგებით, გრიგოლ ვაშაძემ – 40.46%, სალომე ზურაბიშვილმა 59.54% მიიღო http://www.newpress.ge/saprezidento-archevnebis-winaswari-shedegebit-grigol-vashadzem—40-46-salome-zurabishvilma-59-54-miiro
 გაერთიანებული ოპოზიციის ულტიმატუმი მომავალ აქციამდე https://www.radiotavisupleba.ge/a/გაერთიანებული-ოპოზიციის-ულტიმატუმი-მომავალ-აქციამდე-/29633412.html
 სალომე ზურაბიშვილი: დემოკრატია მოითხოვს, არჩეული პრეზიდენტის აღიარებას https://metronome.ge/დემოკრატია-მოითხოვს-არჩ/
 ზურაბიშვილი ინაუგურაციის ადგილზე: განიხილება ბევრი ვერსია, მათ შორის ქალაქგარეთ ჩატარების http://www.tabula.ge/ge/story/141002-zurabishvili-inauguraciis-adgilze-ganixileba-bevri-versia-mat-shoris-qalaqgaret
 ზურაბიშვილი: თელავმა ხმა არ მომცა… მინდა ვაჩვენო, რომ ყველას პრეზიდენტი ვარ https://on.ge/story/31037-ზურაბიშვილი-თელავმა-ხმა-არ-მომცა-მინდა-ვაჩვენო-რომ-ყველას-პრეზიდენტი-ვარ
 “ე.წ. ინაუგურაციის ჩაშლას არავინ აპირებდა, სადაც უნდათ იქ ჩაატარონ ეს შოუ” http://www.resonancedaily.com/index.php?id_rub=4&id_artc=61295
 მიხეილ სააკაშვილი საზოგადოებას სამოქალაქო დაუმორჩილებლობისაკენ მოუწოდებს http://www.livepress.ge/ka/akhali-ambebi/article/26135.html
 არჩევნების მეორე ტური და საერთაშორისო დამკვირვებლების მკვეთრი წინასწარი შეფასებები https://www.radiotavisupleba.ge/a/არჩევნების-მეორე-ტური-და-საერთაშორისო-დამკვირვებლების-მკვეთრი-წინასწარი-შეფასებები/29628549.html
 არასამთავრობო ორგანიზაციები: საპრეზიდენტო არჩევნების მეორე ტურის წინ ამომრჩევლების მოსყიდვა ხდებოდა https://jam-news.net/საპრეზიდენტო-არჩევნების/?lang=ka
 არასამთავრობოები – ცესკოს გადაწყვეტილება არ ითვალისწინებს საქართველოს მოქალაქეების ინტერესებს https://www.interpressnews.ge/ka/article/521428-arasamtavroboebi-ceskos-gadacqvetileba-ar-itvaliscinebs-sakartvelos-mokalakeebis-interesebs
 International election observation mission press conference, 29 November 2018, Tbilisi https://www.facebook.com/osce.odihr/videos/2264573423788554/