Georgia's administrative subdivisions include the Abkhazian and Ajarian Autonomous Republics. The Georgian Supreme Soviet stripped South Ossetia of its autonomous status in late 1990, following its demands to secede and become a part of Russia. Abkhazia and South Ossetia consider themselves self-ruling, and Ajaria has substantial effective autonomy. There are 53 districts ( rayons ) and nine cities, whose governors or mayors are appointed by the president. Local assembly ( sakrebulo ) elections were held for the first time under the new constitution in November 1998. Thirteen parties participated in the voting for more than 150,000 candidates for 10,000 municipal and district ( rayon ) assemblies or councils. In small towns and villages of fewer than 2,000 voters, 654 majoritarian elections were held, while elsewhere 377 proportional elections by party lists took place. The Citizen's Union Party won the largest number of seats, followed by the Revival bloc, the National Democratic Party, and the Labor Party, though twelve or the thirteen parties won some seats. Inadequate funding and the absence of legislation limited the functions of the new locally elected governments. Opposition parties accused the government and the ruling Citizens' Union Party of retaining the effective power to appoint the mayors of the largest cities and the regional leaders. There remains considerable contention between the central government and the Autonomous Ajarian Republic over the scope of local powers.
Local elections were held on 2 June 2002, and 4774 sakrebulo seats in regional Georgia were decided, along with 49 seats in Tbilisi. Independents won 2749 of the regional seats, with the New Right Party taking 544 seats; Industry Will Save Georgia taking 478 seats; and the Revival Party/21st Century Bloc taking 195 seats. The Citizens' Union of Georgia won only 69 seats in a major defeat, faring poorly in both Tbilisi and the regions. This was attributed to a split between the two main factions of the party prior to the elections, both of which strove for the right to campaign as the CUG. The conservative faction won the right to campaign as the CUG in the week prior to the elections, and the reformist faction campaigned as the Christian Conservative Party.