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Ruling party and President lead in IRI polls

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, October 26
Polls issued by the International Republican Institute, which declare that the ruling National Movement and the President are the most popular party and individual, have been hailed by Government members and criticised by most opposition parties.

The results of the poll, conducted between September 20 and October 5 with a sample of 1,500 people from all over the country, were supposed to be kept confidential, a usual IRI requirement. However the National Movement swiftly announced its own result. It said that 43 percent of those questioned had named the National Movement as the party they would vote for “if Parliamentary elections were held tomorrow.” Our Georgia-Free Democrats, led by Irakli Alasania, would attract 9 percent of the vote, the poll suggested. The Labour Party would gain 7 percent and the Christian Democrats 6 percent, according to Rustavi 2 TV.

According to the National Movement the same polls also stated that 43 percent of those questioned preferred to have Mikheil Saakashvili as President. In response to the question, “who would you vote for if the Presidential Elections were held tomorrow,” 38 percent said “all others” and 25 percent were undecided in addition to the 43% choosing Saakashvili, though this adds up to 106%.

Some opposition parties have claimed the polls were rigged. “I do not trust the results of this poll,” Zviad Dzidziguri, co-leader of the Conservative Party, said. “It is very unpleasant for me when representatives of this company come and tell us only our own ratings and then we hear the administration announcing the full results to promote itself. None of the IRI polls have produced anything but PR for the Government and this is a great pity,” Dzidziguri said on the Position political talk show on Rustavi 2 late on Friday.

Some, including leader of the Movement for United Georgia Eka Beselia, have claimed that the polls serve the interests of the Government. “These kinds of polls usually have their results altered to serve the interests of the Government,” Beselia said. “The results do not coincide with those of polls conducted by political parties and independent NGOs,” she added.

The Republican Party, part of the Alliance for Georgia, has also claimed that the results of the polls are “incorrect and incomplete.” Leader of the Republican Party Davit Usupashvili said that the IRI polls show that Irakli Alasania is the most popular prospective Presidential candidate in Tbilisi, with a rating of 25%. “IRI polls are conducted once every 6 months and their results are supposed to be kept confidential; however the Government ignores this and uses the results for its own PR. That’s why we are forced to announce our results as well,” Usupashvili noted.

The Christian Democratic Movement has announced that 16 percent of those questioned by IRI want its leader Giorgi Targamadze to be the next President of Georgia. As for “trust ratings”, movement representatives say that Targamadze is trusted by 62% of IRI respondents. Commenting on the reason for the opposition’s low rating, Targamadze said, “after the spring events, such results were expected.”

Ruling party MPs have said the polls were fair and reflected the mood of society. “It is not our job to follow the ratings every day. Our job is to listen to the people and find out what their concerns, needs and problems are,” National Movement MP Petre Tsiskarishvili said. “This has probably created the high rating of the ruling party,” he added.

Some political analysts suggest that the opposition has in fact lost the trust of some former supporters, thus partially explaining its apparent low rating. “On the other hand, people think that Saakashvili should solve the problems that he has created himself,” independent political commentator Mamuka Areshidze has said. “It should also be considered that generally people are afraid to give their true opinions to pollsters. They are scared that whatever they have said will not be confidential,” Areshidze noted.