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Georgia’s political elite remains unchanged

By Khatia Kardava
Friday, November 3
On October 21, Georgian citizens elected the local governments in the whole country. The Georgian Dream (GD) received majority of the proportional votes and won an overwhelming victory, gaining most of the majoritarian mandates in city councils and mayor’s offices throughout the country.

The result of municipal elections was not surprising neither for the Georgian society nor for international experts. In fact, the majority of analysts have predicted the GD winning by higher margin. They have outlined a number of reasons for this victory.

In its preliminary assessment, National Democratic Institute (NDI) Georgia, states that the political arena during the pre-election period was “uneven,” as the GD received 90% of all donations made to political groups.

“The playing field was uneven, with the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) receiving approximately 90 percent of all campaign donations and enjoying ample media visibility, including coverage of government achievements and events. In contrast, opposition parties faced a lack of resources and significantly lower visibility and reach. This imbalance, combined with a lack of extensive policy messages and debates in most of the country, hindered a real contest of ideas and values,” is stated in NDI’s assessment. “The consolidation of power by one party will put the risk of development of strong and pluralistic democracy in the country,” the statement continues.

Analysts also emphasize the strategies employed and mistakes made by the opposition candidates in the pre-election period. They believe that the common challenges the opposition faces in Georgia are: “dissipation,” “inability to consolidate” and “non-unity around a common candidate.”

The October 21 elections revealed that Georgia desperately lacks opposition parties that could be trusted by the people and would stand as guarantors for a pluralistic society.

So, how can the existing situation be changed? And, will it be possible to break the chain of vicious circle? Analysts are not optimistic about the issue. They do not expect significant changes to the political environment for the next parliamentary elections either.

“Opposition votes are still a challenge. It is unclear who will oppose the Georgian Dream, who will be the main opposition force and who will be able to mobilize the uncertain voters,” Vice President of the Atlantic Council, Damon Wilson, told Voice of America.

Analysts in Georgia say that according to the results of October 21 elections, the United National Movement (UNM) remains the main opposition force, while European Georgia has established itself as a party to be taken into account. In the meantime, the support of the GD by voters still depends on the factor of former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Compared to last year’s parliamentary elections, experts are discussing the society’s political sympathy.

They claim that the overall picture is almost unchanged. However, what is unique to October 2017 local government elections is emergence of an independent Mayoral Candidate Aleko Elisashvili and increasing distribution of forces among the pro-Russian parties in Georgia’s municipal authorities.

At the same time, Georgia continues its old tradition to have one-party governance, although, many understand this characteristic remains a serious threat to the country’s democratic development. And until now, political observers do not predict any radical changes to Georgia’s political elite either, unless a new strong opposition party emerges in the future.