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Presidential race underway

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, May 22
October of 2013 will be a significant month for Georgia. The two terms of Mikheil Saakashvili’s presidency expire and Georgia will choose the fourth president in its modern history. Some skeptics might say that Saakashvili’s term of presidency expired on January 20, 2013, the date he was inaugurated five years ago. However, the Georgian constitution, which was tailored many times for the comfort of Saakashvili during the Rose administration, stipulates that the presidential election should be held in October.

The leaders of the new Georgian Dream administration, Bidzina Ivanishvili, is principally against applying any kind of violence in changing power and therefore, was categorically against removing Saakashvili before October.

Some politicians and analysts keep saying that Saakashvili is usurping his presidential power and position for an extra eleven months. But this way or another, this is reality: Saakashvili is an acting president for the remaining five months. However, in October of this year, he will quit for good and Georgia will have a new personality as president.

There has been a lot of speculation about the person that will become the country’s fourth president. The most popular opinion is that it will be a candidate nominated by the Georgian Dream coalition and eventually supported by its leader PM Ivanishvili.

In mid May, after several weeks of suspense, Ivanishvili nominated his favorite Giorgi Margvelashvili, the current minister of Education and Science. Margvelashvili is a doctor of philosophy, and an intellectual, with long history of administrative experience¬– in particular during his career as head of the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA).

Even without the Georgian Dream's support, Margvelashvili would have been a solid candidate for presidency. Because he is nominated by the ruling party, his chance to become Georgia’s next president has increased immensely and is realistic.

In a democratic country there should always be fair competition for any political position. So, Georgia, which claims to be targeting democracy, in particular after the parliamentary elections of October 1, 2012, there is certainly need to nominate other candidates for other political parties which could compete with the Georgian Dream candidate.

It should be mentioned that to qualify for the president in Georgia the candidate has to collect 50% + 1 vote. What are the chances of the other possible candidates? There are different people and parties who claim that they will participate in the presidential election. First of all, it is the former ruling United National Movement (UNM). However, as many politicians, analysts and journalists agree, whoever is nominated from the UNM, they will barely collect more than 10%.

So far, the UNM has stated that it wants to hold primaries and select among the three possible candidates, these are: former Parliamentary Chairman Davit Bakradze, former PM and Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili and former State Minister and Deputy PM Gia Baramidze.

According to popular opinion, Bakradze has the biggest chance to become the presidential candidate from the UNM. This leaves a solid portion of the political spectrum left from the non-parliament parties with distinct leaders such as Nino Burjanadze and Kakha Kukava, and possibly Shalva Natelashvili. However, there can be some other players as well, like Salome Zourabichvili. But all of them have a chance to qualify for at least some results or coming in second in the race in the case that they nominate one single candidate for all these non-parliamentary forces.

However, it is unlikely that Natelashvili will give up his claims in favor of any other possible candidates. Presumably Zourabichvili will unlikely support Burjanadze as a united candidate and so on. Kukava seems to be more flexible, but he has not yet distinctly shared his position.

So our prognosis is that only in an extreme situation will Margvelashvili not win the first round. This option is only theoretically possible so far, but in case it happens, and the second round is needed, Margvelashvili will have to compete with the candidate running second. According to our estimation, Nino Burjanadze will have the biggest chance at this. However, she will definitely lose in the second round. s