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How to distinguish political parties from each other?

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, August 22
There are several hundred political parties registered in Georgia. Out of these perhaps a couple of dozen are active. So in reality only a handful of them are viable and have a realistic chance of forming a government. They cover the political spectrum-Democrats, Liberals, National-Democrats, Christian –Democrats, Republicans, Conservators and so on. Voters can hardly remember all the names they use. Therefore ordinary citizens cannot easily distinguish one party from another.

Most Georgian voters base their political allegiances on the personal appeal of party leaders rather than political platforms. But still, how can one distinguish one party leader from another? What do they offer to people, what are their profiles?

In Georgia the distinction between right and left has different connotations than elsewhere. The political left in Georgia is very unpopular because of strong popular associations with communism and the Soviet period. Therefore most political parties claim to be on the right. Sometimes a party openly declares a centrist direction. Even more absurdly many avowedly right-wing parties have what would be generally considered left-wing political platforms. For instance the ruling National Movement declared itself as on the right and implemented ultra libertarian politics. However, it now gives out leftist promises about eliminating poverty, increasing social allowances, etc. The Christian-Democrats, New Rights and even the major opposition party Georgian Dream make similar statements. So the voters have to choose between whose promise is more convincing and this is very much dependent on PR tactics.

Another defining characteristic of Georgian political parties is their declared foreign orientation. There is limited choice: either towards Russia or towards the West. Russia's aggressive and short-sighted politics against Georgia in recent years have resulted in the countries breaking off diplomatic relations; understandably very few politicians openly claim Russian direction. For the 2012 parliamentary elections most of the participating parties are pro-Western in orientation. The different political parties vie among themselves in claiming who is truly pro-Western and who is pro-Russian. A common tactic for discrediting political opponents is to label them Russian puppets. For instance the National Movement accuses Georgian Dream of being a Russian project, claiming that if Georgian Dream wins it will bring the country back into the Russian orbit. Georgian Dream leader Bidzina Ivanishvili however has multiple times confirmed his party's pro-Western and NATO orientation. Moreover, some analysts claim that it is in fact President Saakashvili’s government which does everything to please Russia. It surrendered two territories (almost 20% of the country) to Russia; it has allowed Moscow to control very important strategic industries in Georgia and in fact is implementing Russian-oriented politics.

Of course, detailed analyses of the pre-election political platforms reveal some differences. But most Georgian voters do not closely read the political agendas of the various parties. Georgians are very emotional; it is very easy to please someone with words. The Georgian “supra” (table-sitting)is the real picture of eloquence of the Georgian character. Georgians trust promises. So the arena is clear and the gladiators are ready for battle.