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Date known, contestants not yet

By Messenger Staff
Monday, March 22
The date of the local elections has been officially announced - May 30. Who will contest them however is not yet known.

May 30 was expected to be the date but now this has been officially confirmed by the Chair of Parliament. According to the Constitution the President must announce the date of the elections at least 60 days before they are held. This time it was almost 70 days prior. However it is not yet known who will contest the seats on offer. Of course everyone is particularly intrigued by the Tbilisi Mayoral race because the Mayor is being elected by direct vote for the first time. Many people in Georgia think the Tbilisi Mayor elected on May 30 has the biggest chance of anyone of one day becoming President of Georgia.

Before the date was confirmed there was intensive speculation among analysts, politicians and the media. Some thought that the expected date would be changed, while some argued that the President would not change it because he had announced it at the UN convention. There was serious discussion among opposition members and some analysts about who the majority party would nominate for Tbilisi Mayor. Chair of Parliament Davit Bakradze has said that it will be Gigi Ugulava, the current Mayor, who has been indirectly campaigning for quite a while.

Some analysts suggest that some of the National Movement leadership are against Ugulava and Saakashvili prefers Gia Chanturia, who has been nominated by the Christian Democrats. Ramaz Sakvarelidze thinks that it will be easier for Saakashvili to manipulate Chanturia while telling his Western friends that an opposition candidate has become Mayor of Tbilisi. In this version Saakashvili will appoint Gigi Ugulava Prime Minister during the election and thus secure victory for Chanturia.

At present all we know is that Gigi Ugulava is the candidate of the ruling party, the Parliamentary opposition Christian-Democrats have nominated Gia Chanturia, the Alliance for Georgia has nominated Irakli Alasania and yet another candidate will be selected by some other parties by an opinion poll or primary. Nika Ivanishvili, former traffic police chief during the Shevardnadze regime, has also started campaigning as has Gogi Topadze from Industry will save Georgia. There could also be even more minor candidates.

A clear picture of who is leading this race is very difficult to obtain as all the candidates claim to be ahead on the basis of their own polls. Alliance leaders claim that Ugulava has no more than 30% support and since the hoax TV programme about the Russian invasion on March 13 his rating has deteriorated substantially. But nobody knows how reliable opinion polls are in Georgia.

Another complication is that some parties, such as the National Forum and Labour and Nino Burjanadze’s party, will boycott the elections and these parties have considerable influence among the opposition-inclined population. Shalva Natelashvili, the Labour leader, has even stated that in the March 13 hoax programme Saakashvili told the country what he thinks will happen during and after the elections. Natelashvili stated that Saakashvili will rig the elections, shoot at the rally held to protest about this, allow Russian troops to enter Georgia and flee the country himself.

This may be a fantasy but it is a fact that it is in the best interests of the administration to hold genuine and transparent elections and ensure there is no doubt that they were free and fair. However Georgia always comes up with surprises for its population and the rest of the world.