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Fight over ratings in the run-up to 2020 elections

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Wednesday, October 21
With the elections approaching, the government and the opposition refer to various polls from time to time, showing off their high rating. The Georgian Dream keeps claiming that it is about to win the elections and run the country as a majority again. The opposition is questioning the Georgian Dream’s confidence, but they are not unanimous in their opposing the government- different main opposition parties keep criticising each other, unwillingly promoting the government.

The ‘author’ of the recent clash regarding ratings is Bidzina Ivanishvili. On October 8th, he made a statement claiming the winner of the upcoming elections is the Georgian Dream, ‘according to every poll.’ The chairman believes that the Georgian Dream’s rating is 54-60%, and sometimes- 63%. According to him, the party shouldn’t focus on the elections campaign, which would only bring 1% or 2% more votes. Instead, the government should make sure that the election is transparent and peaceful, making sure that “nobody can doubt the Georgian Dream’s victory.”

Other members of the party quickly picked up the idea, highlighting their confidence in the victory. PM Gakharia believes the success is definite and that the Georgian Dream will strengthen the economy and create ‘a European, democratic country.’ Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze also believes that the Georgian Dream is the only party able to bring peace and development. The inevitable victory announced by the Georgian Dream was immediately criticized by the pro-Western opposition with a joint effort. According to them, the ruling party has a low rating, 63% declared by Ivanishvili is an ‘election fraud plan’, the government in the pre-election period, despite the signing of a code of ethics, actively uses violence and tries to blame everything on ‘radical opposition groups’.This is also the term of the government to refer to the ‘bad’ opposition. According to Giorgi Vashadze, the leader of the strategy ‘Agmashenebeli’, Ivanishvili's statement shows that “their rating is falling catastrophically and they are actually losing the elections,” while Grigol Vashadze says that “the government is preparing for large-scale rigging of the election.”

On October 12th, the results of the Edison Research study were published:Georgian Dream - 36%, UNM - Power is in Unity - 17%, European Georgia - 5%, Giorgi Vashadze - Strategy Builder- 4%, Labor Party-3% Alliance of Patriots -3%, Girchi- 2% and Lelo - 2%. Most importantly, 24% said they have not yet decided who to vote for.

These results are more acceptable to the opposition parties, but at the same time do not meet the fixed percentage and claim that they have a better rating. This is where the confrontation between the opposition forces begins. In this regard, the attacks of European Georgia on its former members - the National Movement are noticeable. Last week, Gigi Ugulava responded to the statement made on October 12th, the essence of which was expressed by the words ‘Fist to Bidzina, elbow to Misha,’ meaning that Ivanishvili should leave, but Saakashvili is not an option either. According to the opposition, as a result of the upcoming elections, the "Georgian Dream" will leave power and the new government will be a coalition, composed of the current opposition spectrum. But some opposition parties do not support Mikheil Saakashvili's candidacy for prime minister, which is one of the main opposition forces for the Georgian Dream at the moment, and their candidate for Prime Minister is Saakashvili.

The government is trying to win over "undecided voters" in the conditions of real competition from the opposition. The government is in a really bad situation, the economy is in crisis, the lari has depreciated sharply, the impoverishment of the people has reached unprecedented proportions, it has not even come to the image of Covid's loser before the elections.

The scale of the epidemic is growing rapidly and is becoming increasingly dangerous. Allegations are already being actively made against the authorities that they were not properly prepared for the virus attack and made many mistakes.

It is vital for the government to at least temporarily cover up these problems before the elections. Such a load seems to have been given to the topic of ‘selling’ Davit Gareji and the ‘cartographers' case’ arrested in connection with it. According to the opposition, the government intended to raise this issue, which ‘suddenly became known’ a few days before the elections, but the "main channel" found out about it through its channels and made it public.

The Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia Archil Talakvadze criticized the MEP Andrius Kubilius for ‘finding the topic of Davit Gareji ridiculous’ and demanded an explanation. However, Kubilius sees the issue of David Gareji as an attempt by the government to “shift the focus from real problems - poor response to the pandemic and a stalled economy - to something else.”

Maybe in the run-up to the elections, political parties, and first of all the government, have some ‘surprises’ in store to influence the hesitant voters. Such an assumption is based on previous ‘election experience’.
(Translated from Georgian by Mariam Mchedlidze)