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Georgian Dream Government Stands on Society’s Fear of Russian Attack

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Monday, May 9, 2022
A public opinion poll conducted by the International Republican Institute (IRI) in March 2022 illustrated the reality in the country well. The vast majority of the public considers Russia a threat, and the mainstay of the ruling Georgian Dream is the attitude of a large part of the public that the government is coping well with the threats coming from Russia.

The IRI survey showed that Georgian society would not openly support a pro-Russian force, as Russia was clearly perceived as a threat. The vast majority of the Georgian population (90%) thinks that Russia is the main political threat to the country, 83% consider Russia a serious economic threat, and 77% think that Russia's aggression against Georgia continues. At the same time, the number of people who support dialogue with Russia has significantly decreased. In a March 2022 poll, only 34% said they fully support dialogue with Russia, while about a year ago, in June 2021, 56% of the population fully supported dialogue with Russia. Instead, the number of people who strongly or partially oppose such dialogue has increased. In March 2022, such a position was expressed by 36% of respondents, In June 2021, only 20% thought so. Given the fact that the Georgian Dream came to power ten years ago under the slogan of dialogue with Russia and the normalization of relations in this way, the growing disappointment of the public is obvious.

Russia is a clear threat to society and people are afraid of a new Russian attack. "Georgian Dream" has been constantly claiming after the Russian attack on Ukraine that the country has avoided a new Russian attack. It has long been the National Movement and other political forces that see the need for Georgia to join sanctions against Russia as a "war party" and accuse it of trying to open a "second front" for Russia in Georgia. Prime Minister Gharibashvili also said on April 27 that Saakashvili had arrived in Georgia for this very purpose and that if Saakashvili had been in power, he would have been the "second Mariupol" in Georgia.

Amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, which the public watches on television every day, the government's "anti-war" rhetoric is effective. From June 2021 to March 2022, the number of citizens who believe that the Georgian government has a positive attitude towards relations with Russia has increased from 23% to 47%. Consequently, this part of the society is probably looking at the opposition, which has been declared a "war party", with fear. The fact that Kakha Kaladze (53%), Salome Zurabishvili (52%), and Irakli Gharibashvili (47%) are leading in the rating of benevolence also speaks in favor of the government.

However, the second half of the population - 46% - should be considered a problem for the government, which negatively assesses the government's activities in terms of how the Georgian government handles relations with Russia.

The poll shows that the Georgian Dream is coping better with the situation than the opposition. According to the poll, "If the parliamentary elections were held next week", the "Georgian Dream" would again take the first place - it was supported by 31%. The United National Movement came in second with 16% of the vote, followed by Giorgi Gakharia's party for Georgia with 4%. Then comes a long line of new or old parties - five with a 2% rating ("It's time - Elene Khoshtaria", "Strategy Builder - Giorgi Vashadze", "Labor Party", "For the People - Ana Dolidze" and "Lelo") and Four parties with 1% support ("Patriots Alliance", "Conservative Movement - Alt-Info", "Girchi - More Freedom", "Citizens - Aleko Elisashvili").

These polls show that in the case of proportional elections (and this is how the next parliamentary elections should be held) and a low percentage threshold (the Georgian Dream has promised to reduce the threshold and the relevant constitutional initiative has been registered), the majority will win. It turns out.

The poll again found two leaders, the Georgian Dream, and the National Movement. The "third political force" that should replace them is still not seen. Despite the existence of many old or new parties, society does not see a "third force" in them. 71% of respondents say that Georgia is increasingly polarized, while 60% want to see new political parties in the upcoming elections, as existing political parties are not seeking an agreement.

Even this new political party, which is gaining public support, is likely to be pro-Western. 54% of respondents consider Georgia to be the EU's main partner, 53% to the US, and 45% to Ukraine. 20-20% consider Turkey and Azerbaijan as such, only 4% consider Russia as Georgia's partner, and the same number - China. Against the background of such public sentiment, statements by the government against Ukraine, or actions that are considered as distancing from the West, will not work in favor of the government. The economic situation is an increasingly serious challenge for the government. 76% of respondents say that the economic situation of the country has significantly or more or less deteriorated over the past year.

As for the opposition's demand for early parliamentary elections, public opinion is also divided: 49% unequivocally or more or less support this demand, while 36% unequivocally or more or less oppose it. It should also be noted that the public mood is changing rapidly and the main thing is not the current results, but its development trends, which largely depend on the international situation caused by the Russia-Ukraine war.