Parties are preparing for an active pre-election campaign
By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Wednesday, September 2Two months remain before the next parliamentary elections, however, the election campaign has not yet become a major topic of Georgian politics. First of all, an active election campaign will be launched in September, and the attention of the media and the public is shifted to high-profile criminal cases. Until the election campaign is actively launched, experts and representatives of the parties themselves are trying to predict the likely outcome of the upcoming elections.
Under the new election legislation, the party that wins the election must receive more than 40% of the vote, the election is predominantly proportional, and the threshold for parties is only 1%. This gives many small parties a chance to consider withdrawing their representatives from parliament, with only the ruling Georgian Dream claiming to get more than 40% of the vote. Contrary to many predictions, its leaders are talking about their 60% rating and a convincing victory in the upcoming elections.
Recently, the results of two public opinion polls were published almost simultaneously. One was conducted by the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the other by the international organization Survation, commissioned by Rustavi-2. The results turned out to be significantly different from each other, although the layout of the parties is more or less the same.
Georgian Dream has the highest support in both surveys - 33% in the IRI survey and 52% in the Rustavi-2 survey. Then comes the National Movement, to which one of these studies attributed 16%, and the other- 19%.
European Georgia is in third place - 5% and 8%. After the top three, several parties have roughly the same ratings - according to an IRI poll, New Georgia and the Patriots Alliance have 3-3% and the Labor Party, the Civil Movement, Lelo and Girchi-2%. According to the survey of Rustavi-2, Lelo and Alliance of Patriots have 5% support each.
Obviously, it is still far from the elections and judging by the Georgian experience, many things will change in the mood of the voters. However, the layout of the parties is more or less clear. The leader of the election marathon is the Georgian Dream, which has administrative resources and a colossal advantage in terms of financial resources.
However, there is great dissatisfaction in the society with his 8-year rule. According to the Georgian Dream, their election campaign will be built on the positive outlook. But at the same time, criticism of the National Movement and intimidation of the public with the prospect of its return to power remain relevant.
The program of the Georgian Dream aims to stay independent as the head of the government and at the disappearance of the National Movement as the main opposition force. Both of these goals are difficult to achieve, especially the disappearance of the National Movement from the politics. It should be more desirable for the Georgian Dream to remain in power as a coalition with one or more satellite parties. In this case, it would be easier for them to present the victory convincingly to the public.
As for the opposition parties, whose main task is to change the government of the Georgian Dream, they are well aware that no opposition force can do this task alone. The strongest opposition force remains the National Movement, which retains 16-20% of the electorate. This figure may increase in the upcoming parliamentary elections, but the number of voters who want neither the Georgian Dream nor the return of the National Movement to power is very large.
Such an electorate is looking for any other opposition party, though it has not yet seen it, and judging by existing public opinion polls, their votes are divided among many small parties. These parties have big ambitions and believe that they have an advantage over other opposition forces. The upcoming parliamentary elections will more or less reveal the opposition spectrum and show the level of their influence.
The opposition also tried to unite, fought together for electoral reform, and agreed on common majoritarian candidates in Tbilisi, but there were serious disagreements and mutual criticism. Nevertheless, on August 18, about 30 opposition parties signed a declaration that they would cooperate with each other during the elections, protect each other's votes, and not allow the Georgian Dream to manipulate votes.
Opposition parties have denied the allegations in a statement issued Friday stating "Similar, baseless allegations concerning Georgia's foreign policy have been made more than once.
The opposition is also trying to reach an agreement on the principles that they will follow the western orientation of the country, will not cooperate with the Georgian Dream after the elections. As for the ideological controversy, it does not interest the electorate much and, consequently, it is not relevant for the parties either. Given the dire socio-economic situation in the country, with a severe economic crisis as a result of the Corona pandemic, the populist promises of a leftist nature to improve social conditions will be attractive. In addition to the promises, the government has prepared extensive pre-election social programs, while the opposition blames the government for difficult socio-economic problems.
(Translated from Georgian by Mariam Mchedlidze)