Salome Zurabishvili at a rugby match between Georgian and Tonga in Tbilisi. (Facebook.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Georgia’s runoff election for president on Wednesday gained an unexpected drama after the opposition candidate’s strong showing in the first round. One day ahead of the vote, polls indicate a close race.

Although the constitution adopted by Georgian parliament in 2017 deprives the president of most powers, both camps, Georgian Dream and United Opposition, a coalition led by UNM, have thrown in all their resources in order to win.

The opinion polls released prior to the runoff differ substantially and both political forces accuse each other of manipulation.

The opinion poll conducted by Edison Research and opposition TV Rustavi 2 two weeks prior to the runoff indicates that United Opposition candidate Grigol Vashadze is ahead of the government-backed candidate Salome Zurabishvili by 3%.

However, the poll carried out by Gallup International and pro-government TV channel Imedi shows the opposite, Zurabisvhili leading by 4%.

Grigol Vashadze at a rally in Sagarejo. (Facebook.)

The report issued by three major watchdog NGOs on Tuesday, list a number of misdeeds mainly by the government, including direct violence, threats, vote buying and improper meddling in the electoral process by public servants.

“Unlike the first round of the presidential election, during which there were not observed incidents of physical confrontation and violence, there have been cases of violence during the pre-election period prior to the runoff,” says a statement released by ISFED, TI Georgia and GYLA.

The list includes GD supporters bursting into an opposition office and beating activists in Akhalkalaki and the stabbing of an opposition politician in Oni.

The three watchdogs call the government’s recent initiative to write off debts of 600,000 individuals as ‘unprecedented’ move in order to elicit voters’ favor.

“In addition, organization monitors in various municipalities reported that [voters] were offered money in exchange for casting their vote for Salome Zurabishvili, and in some cases those persons who are supposedly supporting Grigol Vashadze were offered money in exchange for [withholding their] IDs. In parallel, the organization’s observers were aware of distribution of food products to voters in these municipalities,” the report says.

Additionally, both parties have launched unprecedented smear campaign both in traditional media and on social media, blaming each other of collaboration with the Kremlin and other outrageous accusations.