Elections against the background of rapidly expanding pandemic
By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Wednesday, October 28With less than 10 days left before the October 31, 2020 parliamentary elections, pre-election tensions are growing. Both the Georgian Dream and the opposition are talking about their inevitable victory. One of the key features of the upcoming election will be that it will end up in the midst of a growing Covid-19 epidemic. This epidemic is also discussed in the context of elections.
In the spring of 2020, when the Covid virus first appeared in Georgia, the government took drastic measures to prevent the spread of the virus, which was not widespread in the world and in neighboring countries. Although the ban policy has dealt a severe blow to the economy, the government's rating has clearly risen-
Able to deal with the epidemic, it announced the implementation of a large-scale social assistance program in the run-up to the parliamentary elections. It seemed that the pressure of the epidemic would be useful for the government and would contribute to its victory.
The summer was relatively ‘calm’ in terms of the epidemic. In the fall, just before the elections, the epidemic in Georgia began to grow rapidly. Cases of daily infections have been reported in the tens, then in the hundreds, and in the last few days have exceeded a thousand, and this unfortunate figure sets new records every day.
Some epidemiologists, who expected the "second wave" of the epidemic in the fall, now say that it is the "first wave", the peak of which is expected somewhere by the end of December. The country's healthcare system is already working on the "edge of endurance" and is causing more and more dissatisfaction among ordinary citizens, who are growing in the feeling that if they get sick, they will have to deal with it alone.
The widespread epidemic affects the previously obtained reputation of the government as trustworthy to handle the virus and becomes the cause of sharp criticism. According to the opposition, in the spring the government took inadequate measures to kill the country's economy, did not use the status of a ‘green country’ in the summer, and in the fall it became clear that it was not actually prepared for the expected wave of the epidemic.
The government is unlikely to score any points in the “successful fight against the epidemic.” However, the opposition fears that the government will still use the pandemic to its advantage. In particular, it is expected that in the conditions of the wide-spread epidemic, a significant part of the voters will not participate in the elections. Some experts suggest that the coronavirus will reduce voter turnout by 10-15%.
The government will use its administrative resources to mobilize its supporters and thus gain an advantage over the opposition, and after the elections, referring to the same epidemic, will introduce emergency measures and will not allow opposition protests.
On October 15, the total number of potential voters to be headed by the CEC was announced - 3,558,291 people. According to a study, the total number of participants in the elections is actually about 2.3 million will be.
The idea of postponing elections is sometimes voiced by a few experts and opposition members, but government officials categorically refuse. The Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia stated unequivocally that the elections will not be postponed. Obviously, the Georgian Dream has discussed the issue of postponing the elections. Postponing the elections would guarantee the government’s defeat in the elections as the process would have to be held against the background of a large-scale epidemic and a severe economic crisis. "In case of postponement of the elections, the defeat of the current ruling party will be inevitable," say experts.
Today, four days before the elections, the government insists that, according to their polls, the Georgian Dream will win convincingly and that no coalition government will be needed. This version agrees with the research conducted under Rustavi-2. Another poll commissioned by the opposition Main Channel reveals that a majority of voters will support the opposition and that the opposition will be able to form a coalition government (the results of all three polls are attached in the article).
Part of the opposition political parties, which are expected to cross the 1% threshold, rule out forming a coalition with the United National Movement if its prime ministerial candidate is Mikheil Saakashvili.
The situation in Georgia is so difficult that even in the short period before the elections, significant changes in the mood of the voters may occur. In the run-up to the election, we will likely receive another series of polls and new election surprises to influence voters.
Pre-election poll results (Shows parties that cross the 1% threshold according to the survey)
(Translated from Georgian by Mariam Mchedlidze)