The messenger logo

Preparing for elections and the European warning

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Wednesday, September23
With the elections approaching, the coronavirus epidemic in Georgia is becoming more and more widespread, the deployment of pre-election forces is becoming more pronounced, and against this background, the European Parliament reminds the Georgian government of the need to adhere to democratic standards.

In recent days, the cases of Coronavirus disease have been increasing rapidly and the data for each new day exceeds the previous day and approaches two hundred a day. It was also said that Georgia lost the status of a ‘green country’ in this regard and moved to the ‘yellow countries’ category.

However, the Minister of Economy Natia Turnava protested against this and noted that Georgia will not lose the status of a ‘green zone.’ Georgia remains closed to Europe, but has registered more than 50 thousand tourists from Russia, coming from the Lars border with no particular control for the virus, which would have contributed to such rapid growth in the number of cases.

The government's attitude towards the Coronavirus epidemic must first be considered in the context of elections. If before this Autumn, the government was proud of stopping the epidemic, why does it allow the disease rates to rise now, and testing thousands every day?

According to the opposition, the government is encouraging panic in the population. Levan Koberidze, the representative of Lelo, believes that the government is pleased with the panic and fear of the population, because fewer people will go to the polls and fewer observers will arrive.

The possible reduction of the disease rates at the end of October will let the government appear in the positive light. As for the postponement of the elections, it does not suit the government, because after the expected severe winter it will be very difficult to present itself positively.

Last week, the main participants in the election campaign, the Georgian Dream and the National Movement, took important steps. On September 10, the Georgian Dream presented to the public the first platoon of its proportional list, which Natia Turnava called the ‘Dream Team.’ It is headed by the current Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia. According to expert Gia Khukhashvili, Ivanishvili knows that Gakharia will bring the party the most votes.

The list is followed by current and former parliamentary speakers - Talakvadze and Kobakhidze, as well as several parliamentarians. Only Tea Tsulukiani is in the platoon of ministers, who has held this post since 2012 and is the only unchanged minister of the Georgian Dream. There are 5 women in the platoon, but the representatives of national minorities could not be included in it. Of the new faces, two famous athletes are especially noteworthy.

In addition to the proportional list platoon, all 30 majoritarian candidates of the Georgian Dream are known. According to a survey published by Transparency International Georgia on September 11th, 19 of them are involved in entrepreneurial activities.14 of these 30 were donors to the Georgian Dream in 2012-2020. During this period, the mentioned persons, together with their business partners and relatives, donated 3.7 million GEL to the Georgian Dream. Majoritarian MPs are not represented in the proportional list platoon.

The Georgian Dream's proportional list platoon was immediately criticized by the opposition. ‘Ivanishvili's obedient team,’ headed by the presence of well-known faces, indicates that the ruling team is not going to change anything.

It seems that the Georgian Dream is not going to form a bloc for the elections, unlike the National Movement, which formed an election bloc on September 15th with 4 political entities. They will share majoritarian MPs. On September 15th, the United National Movement launched a new campaign ‘Instruct Misha.’

As part of the campaign, the population should instruct UNM candidate for Prime Minister Mikheil Saakashvili to solve their problems. Majoritarian candidates of the ‘National Movement’ will be engaged in collecting these tasks.

The United National Movement and Saakashvili have been under constant criticism from the government; according to Gia Volski, Saakashvili ‘went mad,’ adding that, recently, he has announced his return at least 11 times, with Volsky’s calculations.

Elections in Georgia are traditionally held with facts of cursing and physical confrontation. Therefore, election participants, as in previous elections, were again offered to sign a Code of Ethics created with the support of Western friends.

The Code of Conduct was signed by some opposition parties on September 14 and supported by the Georgian Dream. The document is offered to all subjects participating in the elections. The opposition does not believe that the government will adhere to the principles of the pre-election code of ethics. According to Tina Bokuchava, one of the leaders of the United National Movement, the government is “violating absolutely all agreements” and “is already trying to falsify the election results.”

On September 15th, the European Parliament discussed the report on the implementation of the Association Agreement signed by Georgia with the European Union. The MEPs, along with expressing their support for Georgia, called on the government to take further steps towards the development of democracy.According to MEP Viola von Cramon, "in terms of domestic policy, billionaire Ivanishvili's shadow government threatens democracy, while in the foreign policy, Russia's ongoing hybrid war - military occupation, creeping annexation and cyber-attacks threatens the country."

As Gigi Tsereteli noted, in the speeches of the MEPs, ‘a red line was drawn clearly,’ the crossing of which is unforgivable. This red line essentially refers to the inadmissibility of violating democratic standards of elections.

Criticism from the West has irritated government officials, who say it is untrue, and for the Western-oriented opposition, it means that Georgia will still be under Western scrutiny in the upcoming elections.
(Translated from Georgian by Mariam Mchedlidze)