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Growing Pro-Russian Political Forces and Georgian Dream Ahead of 2024 Parliamentary Elections

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Thursday, April 4, 2024
In recent years, the number of political parties openly oriented towards the Kremlin has been growing rapidly in Georgia, they neither complain about lack of funds nor are their activities hindered by anyone. The Georgian Dream, which is in power, quietly monitors their activity. But before the parliamentary elections of 2024, the mushrooming political parties also face a dilemma: if they fail to pass the 5% threshold, their votes will be lost.

Before the parliamentary elections of 2024, the Georgian Dream refused to reduce the 5% electoral threshold and also prohibited the creation of party blocs before the elections. Western-oriented political forces perceived this action of the government as directed against them, because it is doubtful whether all pro-Western political forces will be able to overcome 5%. Mikheil Saakashvili, who is in prison, said on March 27 that none of them could overcome the 5% barrier except for the National Movement and called for unification.

The representatives of the Georgian Dream agreed with this statement of the third president, who is hated by them - let the truth come out. The 5% electoral threshold is indeed a serious problem for pro-Western political forces, but political commentators and journalists forget about the other side of the political spectrum. Pro-Russian parties, whose not only activity, but also their number is growing rapidly. You cannot surprise Georgian Dream with anti-Western statements and pro-Russian rhetoric, sometimes it is impossible to distinguish whether this or that statement was made by a representative of the Georgian Dream or by some open pro-Russian force.

Nevertheless, the Georgian Dream will never become openly pro-Russian, it will not give up the Western vector, the desire to join the European Union, and so on. The political trajectory of People's Power is interesting. Known for its anti-Western statements and the author of the Foreign Agents bill, People Power was created by the parliamentary members of the ruling party and the Georgian Dream.

In August 2022, they withdrew, so that they could freely criticise the West, but together with it they still formed a parliamentary majority. Less than two years after this news, People's Power was registered as a separate party.

"We are not separated from each other," - they say in the Georgian Dream, this separation raises questions about the Western foreign vector of the ruling power, but now let's look at the issue from a different angle - People's Power is going to participate in the elections separately, because the creation of a bloc is prohibited. He hopes to overcome the 5% barrier.

The electorate of People's Power is openly pro-Russian, and such an electorate, in the end, is not large. This kind of electorate "people power" should take away from the current ruling party and other openly pro-Russian forces. The Georgian Dream will not be able to give a guarantee of overcoming the 5% barrier to its split party, it itself has a serious problem of mobilising the electorate.

In addition to People's Power, other openly pro-Russian political parties are active. Among the pro-Russian parties, the activity of the Conservative Party founded by Alt-Info is noteworthy.

According to experts, this force differs from other pro-Russian parties in that it is openly focused on violence. Alt-Info started preparing for the 2024 elections about a year ago and is actively opening its offices in the regions. Alt-Info with its conservative party criticises both People's Power and Georgian Dream for 'spoofing' their slogans. They also intend to participate in the next elections separately and overcome the 5% threshold. Levan Vasadze of pro-Russian orientation became active, who recently openly criticised Bidzina Ivanishvili and insulted her personally.

Levan Vasadze was politically active and was known for his anti-Western stance, in 2021 he created the party 'Ertoba, Raoba, Imedi - Eri', but then disappeared from politics. His attack on Ivanishvili was explained by some with the fact that Alt-Info feels oppressed after being removed from the premiership and doubts that the government will support its electoral division People's Power and the Patriot Alliance of Inashvili and Tarkhan-Mouravi, which is a much older pro-Russian force.

At the beginning of this year, Inashvili and Tarkhan-Mouravi reminded the public of themselves by donating a huge icon of the Matrona of the Moscow saint to the Trinity Cathedral, where Stalin was also depicted.

But this is not all, and the number of pro-Russian groups and organisations does not end there. 8 months before the parliamentary elections of 2024, the organisation Unity of Georgians in open connection with the Kremlin was formed into a political party. Experts point to the connections of this organisation with former chief prosecutor Otar Fartskhaladze. They will have enough finances and support, but it is unknown what its founders are going to do and whether or not they plan to participate in the next parliamentary elections.

The Georgian Dream is trying to combine seemingly incompatible things - to present itself as a force oriented towards the West, because the majority of the population of Georgia sees the future of the country as part of the West, and at the same time to strongly criticise the West, thereby attracting the pro-Russian electorate.

But, as we can see, several political forces are going to work independently on the pro-Russian electorate, some of which can already establish ties with Moscow independently. The planners of the election strategy of the Georgian Dream seem to consider it expedient to 'disperse' the pro-Russian forces and not allow some of them to participate in the elections, so that these political forces do not interfere with each other and do not all end up below the 5% threshold. However, whether they will manage to control all such forces or not is difficult to say.