The pre-election period against the backdrop of growing epidemic and inflation rate
By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Wednesday, September 30
In recent days, the coronavirus has continued to intensify and may collapse the health care system. The economic crisis has led to increasing inflation and further impoverishment of the population. The Georgian Dream is preparing for a third term in the upcoming parliamentary elections, and the opposition is not only unable to unite, but the confrontation has become more heated.
For two weeks in a row, new cases of Coronavirus infection have been reported higher than the previous day. On September 22nd, 218 cases were reported. Authorities say the situation is under control, they do not intend to declare a state of emergency across the country and will fight the pandemic with localized restrictions. However, experts say the situation is alarming - if an average of 200 new cases are detected per day (and the number of daily cases rises to 300), the situation will become dire somewhere around the end of the year when the healthcare system will no longer be able to treat all the infected. The Georgian healthcare system will currently be able to care for 2,000 to 3,000 patients in the hospital.
The ‘Italian scenario’ may repeat in Georgia as well, when the medical sector is breaking down. The government was proud of stopping the epidemic in the spring, which they sacrificed the country's economy to. The Prime Minister’s and the ruling party’s rating was boosted for the time being, but now, the dire economic situation and the rapid growth of infection are doing the opposite.Now the key problem for the government in the pre-election marathon is to maintain the public’s support at least before the election by convincing the electorate that the epidemic will be controlled and the healthcare system will cope with the challenges well.
The opposition has been critical of the government's policy regarding the epidemic for long. According to one of the opposition leaders, in the spring, the government took inadequate measures, and crashed the economy with severe restrictions, while the peak of the epidemic was only postponed and coincided with the flu season in the fall, which will create an even more difficult situation. In addition, in the summer, the government did virtually to prepare for the rise in the number of cases.
The economic situation has long been a more serious challenge than the epidemic. In a stagnant economy, inflation is becoming more widespread. If during Saakashvili's rule the GEL exchange rate against the dollar was around 1.60, now it has already exceeded 3.20. This means rising prices, and halved pensions and salaries.
Opposition criticizes Georgian Dream for wrong economic policy, in general. During the rule of the Citizens' Union, Shevardnadze (1995-2003), the country's economy doubled, during the rule of the National Movement, or during Saakashvili (2003-2012), the country's economy grew 3 times, and the foreign debt was reduced by 10%.During the 8 years of the rule of the Georgian Dream or Bidzina Ivanishvili (since 2012), the economy not only did not grow, but the country's debt increased by 50%.
Despite everything, the Georgian Dream is preparing for the victory in the parliamentary elections for the third term. However, according to several opinion polls, the Georgian Dream has a rating of 25 to 38%, meaning that the majority of voters support opposition parties and expect a change of government as a result of the election.
Judging by the results of these polls, more than 60% of voters support the opposition political forces, but the fact is that the leading opposition forces, along with criticism of the government, criticize each other no less harshly, with the most fierce opposition to those political leaders They were members of a political force - the National Movement. Their foreign and domestic political views do not differ much from each other, the reason for the disagreement is the third president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, who is in Ukraine.
Mikheil Saakashvili, far from Georgia, has been actively involved in the election campaign, with his National Movement party nominating him as a candidate for prime minister. Saakashvili has vowed to pull the country out of the crisis if he comes to power and will not remain prime minister for more than two years.
But his former allies, who now represent European Georgia, Strategy Builder or Girch, believe Saakashvili is still preparing for a one-man government and is not focused on forming a coalition government if Ivanishvili is defeated. But his former allies, who now represent European Georgia, Strategy Builder or Girch, believe Saakashvili is still preparing for a one-man government and is not focused on forming a coalition government if Ivanishvili is defeated.
The harshly critical and insulting statements made by the representatives of the opposition against each will eventually frustrate the ordinary voters. This ‘internal dispute’ reduces the rating of opposition parties altogether. If the opposition wants to change the ruling team, they have to negotiate and unite against the Georgian Dream party.
(Translated from Georgian by Mariam Mchedlidze)