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How will Russia interfere in the parliamentary elections of Georgia?

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Thursday, March 14, 2024
Everyone agrees that Russia will interfere in the 2024 parliamentary elections of Georgia - both the government and the opposition. President Zurabishvili speaks often about the threat, but so far nothing has been said about how this threat can be neutralised.

Russia actively interferes in the election process of other countries. There are many examples of this - US presidential elections, French presidential elections in 2017, German Bundestag elections in 2015. Elections, as the main attribute of the democratic system, are one of the important targets of the Russian hybrid war.

Russia's attempt to interfere in the political life of Georgia and especially to influence the elections is nothing new. Moscow has always actively done this. Russia has many levers to influence the ongoing processes in Georgia, and it is easier for it to interfere in the 2024 parliamentary elections of Georgia and influence its results. The vector of Georgia's foreign policy depends on these elections, and Moscow will do everything to ensure that this vector is directed towards Moscow.

The President of Georgia drew attention to the threat of Russian interference in the parliamentary elections of Georgia. Salome Zurabishvili made the statement on February 20 during a conversation with 'Deutsche Welle' that "we should expect a lot of intervention, a hybrid war is going on against Georgia," Salome Zurabishvili noted. She repeated the same in an interview with Sky News on February 27 and emphasised that it is very disturbing.

The Georgian government was warned about the threat of Russian interference in the elections by its strategic partner, the USA, whose position was clearly stated by the US ambassador to Georgia. "I think there are real risks that disinformation from Russia will threaten trust in the democratic system," said Robin Dunnigan.

The statement of Mamuka Mdinaradze, one of the leaders of the Georgian Dream, was interesting: "Russia might intervene, but no one knows for whose benefit". Mdinaradze was probably pointing towards the opposition, but his words provoked a mocking reaction in the opposition. Russia, of course, wants the current government to stay in power. The Georgian Dream pursues policies desired by Moscow, and a block made of pro-Western parties in power instead of the current one is not in Moscow's interests.

The Kremlin does not spare words of praise for the current government of Georgia, but it can't be denied that Moscow will not be completely satisfied with the policy of the Georgian Dream, as they dislike its pro-Western rhetoric. It would be better for Moscow to have openly pro-Russian forces come to power, or at least to bring them into the parliament.

Moscow will try not to create additional problems for the Georgian Dream before the elections. For example, the Tskhinvali proxy government received an instruction from Moscow to refrain from such actions that would negatively affect the rating of the Georgian Dream. For example, to temporarily forget about the 'referendum' on 'joining' the Russian Federation.

After Bidzina Ivanishvili returned to politics for the third time, some pro-government commentators said that one of the goals of Ivanishvili's return would be to restore Georgia's territorial integrity. It is possible that this topic will become more active as the elections approach, but for this, certain 'confronting' statements from Russia will be required. Whether Moscow will go or not is another question.

One of the main directions of Russia's interference in the parliamentary elections, which the president also spoke about, is the support and covert financing of the open or disguised pro-Russian forces in the country. And these groups should strengthen their anti-Western propaganda.

It is a fact that Russia is actively interfering in the political life of Georgia. For example, it became known that the organisation Skolkovo, sponsored by the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, is planning to hold an "independent international conference" - OpenTalks.AI on March 6-7 in Tbilisi. The entire army of propagandists close to the Kremlin will arrive in Tbilisi.

In the Georgian Dream, there were two reactions to the threat of Russian interference in the elections. Some do not see such a danger. Some representatives of the government, for example Kakhi Kaladze, cannot recall Russian interference in Georgian elections and note that the electoral system of Georgia is well protected from such things.Vice-Prime Minister Levan Davitashvili considered the general talk about the strengthening of Russian propaganda for elections in Georgia to be unfounded.

Others do not openly reject the possible Russian interference in the elections. For example, the speaker of the Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, responded to Salome Zurabishvili's statement, who saw nothing new in the fact that Russia would try to interfere in Georgian politics. He turned his attention to the interference from the West.

Papuashvili noted that with the statements made about the threat of Russian intervention, "they are trying to make it seem as if the only source is Russia, and thus diverting our attention to other directions".

According to his own statement, the European Democracy Fund, founded by the European Union, directly finances political parties and interferes in elections. The chairman of the parliament attacked the pro-Western opposition, which, according to him, is directly financed from abroad through fake NGOs. "Foreign money has nothing to do with Georgian politics, such financing should be stopped," Papuashvili said sternly.

The Georgian Dream will easily find the money coming from the West, because it is open and aimed at supporting democracy, as for the money coming from Russia, it flows into Georgian politics in illegal ways and is difficult to detect, especially if you don't consider it a threat.

Russian interference, in addition to supporting specific political groups, will be manifested in the operation of the entire information propaganda machine - false information, active use of kompromats and active efforts to worsen polarisation and disorient the Georgian society.