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The election environment so far

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, May 15
While we do not yet know the exact date of the election, we know that it is fast approaching. Come October, we will have a better idea of the parties, their platforms, strengths and weaknesses, and their alliances. Currently there are over 200 registered political parties in Georgia, but only about a dozen that are legitimate players. The largest and most powerful is of course the government party - Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement (UNM). Saakashvili has already asked Georgians to give him "two, three, four more years" and is in an excellent position to win that extension. Both the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute conducted surveys that indicate the UNM will win another majority. The next largest competitor, the Georgian Dream coalition, have steadfastly ignored these results and accused both NGOs of statistical manipulation. While the numbers suggest that Georgian Dream is not even close to garnering enough votes to form a government, that party still believes that they have popular support behind them. Georgian Dream - headed by billionaire businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili - is even organizing a rally at Liberty Square on May 27, in hopes of proving this point.

There are some members of the opposition who believe that all Georgian parties should put aside their ideological differences and unite under the Georgian Dream umbrella in order to defeat the UNM. While Ivanishvili is attempting to create a broad coalition, he has been somewhat selective with his invitees, asking only those individuals whom he believes represents his vision of Georgia.

More important than the results of the election, however, is their fairness. Politicians, civil society activists, journalists, and ordinary citizens are deeply concerned about the transparency of the vote, and how it will affect Georgia moving forward. The government has gone so far as to invite election monitors to set up camp early, thus observing both the election itself and the campaign. The administration is doing its best to prove its democratic image and ensure that the results of the election will be considered legitimate.

The UNM, meanwhile, has unofficially begun its campaign, with prominent party members meeting voters at hospital openings, schools, and new businesses, promising miracles in the name of the government, not of their party. Georgian Dream supporters claim that this campaign has also come in the form of intimidation and the creation of a tense atmosphere.