On October 21, Georgia has come through the key political event of this fall, local elections. Despite the fact that the election campaign started long before the elections and a whole range of Georgian political parties and movements took part in it, they passed without any special intrigue as the outcomes were predictable. Everyone including members of opposition parties did comprehend that they were incapable of competing with the Georgian Dream on a fair basis.
Five years ago, the Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia did what everyone thought to be impossible: through a democratic way it overturned the absolute power of the Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement. Then, Bidzina Ivanishvili, who represented Georgian big business and had been supporting Saakashvili’s team since mid-2000s, not only revolted against its dictatorship, but managed to build up the Georgian Dream opposition coalition on the basis of several parties. The coalition enjoyed a landslide at the parliamentary elections in 2012. A year later, Ivanishvili, as he had promised, left the post of the Georgian prime minister and the big politics in general. Despite this fact, many of his opponents are still sparing no effort trying to prove the whole world that he is still the puppet master in the country and is to blame for all its troubles.
One needs to admit that the current ruling force owes significant part of its success to the influence of its founder and former prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. The proof of this fact is that the Georgian Dream managed to turn into an independent party from a coalition bloc. The party did not hesitate to separate from its coalition partners, the Free Democrats and Republicans, who are led by well-known politicians in Georgia: Irakli Alasania, brothers David and Levan Berdzenishvili, Tinatin Khidasheli, David Usupashvili. These figures took prominent positions in Georgia. However, despite certain ambitions for power, after leaving the coalition both the parties and their leaders sank into oblivion. On this background, the Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia Party not only maintained but consolidated its leading positions in the country’s politics.
The recent election have just confirmed it: one of the most important positions, the mayor of the capital city, was won by landslide by a candidate of the ruling party, Kakha Kaladze. Under preliminary reports, he had 51.06% of the votes (203,000 of 410,000 voters). His closest rival, a reporter and independent candidate Aleko Elisashvili managed to have only 17.46%. The third was a candidate from the United National Movement, a reporter from the oppositionist Rustavi 2 TV channel Zaal Udumashvili.
It also needs to be admitted that the Georgian Dream owes its victory partially to the lack of competition. Undoubtedly, it lowered expectations of the electorate by failing to implement previous election pledges, but when its only alternative is the United National Movement, the party can allow itself not to care too much. The Georgian people do remember the nine-year Fascist tyranny of the United National Movement and they won’t let it come to power again. Nevertheless, the Georgian Dream must not be confident forever that the electorate will be voting for it, because it rival is even worse.
What is about the opposition? The United National Movement that managed to preserve as a political party only because Georgia was imposed the policy of cohabitation, and now it enjoys much more support from the outside than inside of the country. Thus, it is quite significant that they despite having substantial financial resources and Rustavi 2 TV company that was seized many years ago, they are losing in Tbilisi not only to the Georgian Dream, but to independent reporter Aleko Elisashvili as well, while the latter cannot enjoy neither financial support nor assistance from the U.S. State Department or the largest faction at the European Parliament.
The United National Movement tried to make itself unsinkable and more important using successes of its leader, former president Mikheil Saakashvili in Ukraine. Probably, it was not a coincidence that the “MikhoMaidan” was organized in Kiev before the Georgian elections. Saakashvili’s successes could be an effective campaign trump in the hands of his party fellows. But it looks like they failed both in Ukraine and Georgia.
The rest opposition parties had very low voter support, from 7% to basis points. However, it is considered to be bad-mannered among Georgian politicians if one admits one’s failure. They also seek “external enemies” and “electoral fraud” among the reason for their defeat. Well, all international observers keep saying in unison that the elections were held without any serious violations and met democratic standards. Although, there were several irregularities in the proceedings. Irma Inashvili from the Alliance of Georgian Patriots, Shalva Natelashvili, leader of the Labor Party, Nino Burjanadze, former chair of the parliament, and Kakha Kukava from the Free Georgia democratic movement claim that there were cases of the so-called Armenian carousel voting.
One can only wonder why the “villains” from the Georgian Dream are taking part in the election fraud. If they have already everything fixed at the polling stations, why do they need to bring back and forth the envelopes with the bulletins to some place, while they could have done this indoors?
Anyway, the elections have taken place. Georgian Prime Minister, leader of the ruling party Giorgi Kvirikashvili has already congratulated Kakha Kaladze and other members of the team on the victory.
Thus, the time has come for the ruling Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia party to prove to the electorate by fulfilling the pledges that it deserves the voters’ confidence and the people voted for it instead of against its rivals from the United National Movement and its shivers.
Irakli Chkheidze (Tbilisi) for EADaily