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The foreign policy the voters want

By Messenger Staff
Monday, April 26
The local elections in Georgia will not only be about local problems but the country’s foreign policy as well. Quite often voters admit that they choose who to vote for based on the foreign policy orientation of the candidates. On the verge of the elections all the various parties have taken off their helmets and openly declared whether they are pro-Western, pro-Russian or neutral, which still effectively means anti-Western and pro-Russian. Therefore the voters have a basis on which to make their choice.

The most acute problem for Georgia at present is the Russian occupation of part of its territory, so whether the country takes an anti or pro-Russian line and which parties are advocating which direction are matters of the utmost interest and significance. Different opinion polls are conducted by different organisations here in Georgia and as soon as these produce results someone doesn't like they immediately start accusing the polling organisations of being biased. But there are some institutions so respected in the rest of the world that they cannot be accused of taking sides. The results of the IRI poll conducted in March 2010, funded by UNDP, should therefore be treated with respect as polling took place throughout Georgia apart from the occupied territories and the questions were about the very factors which will sway people's votes.

One of the most important questions the poll asked was how big a threat of a repeat Russian aggression people think there is. 44% of the respondents thought this is the biggest threat facing Georgia today. However 78% of respondents thought there is a need to conduct dialogue with Russia. 74% thought that it is necessary to return Georgian goods to the Russian market and 96% that the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region problem should be settled through dialogue. 70% of respondents thought that dialogue with Russia should be conducted by the Georgian Government, not political parties (10%) or the public (11%). The poll shows that on the one hand Russia is perceived as the biggest enemy but on the other hand most people think that holding dialogue is the best way to deal with Moscow. 74% of respondents thought that the Russian aggression against Georgia is continuing and 83% Russia is the greatest source of insecurity for them. 59% thought that the US is the most important partner of Georgia, as opposed to Ukraine (29%) and the EU (24%). 50% of respondents supported Georgia’s NATO integration.

94% of respondents expressed their confidence that Georgian politicians shouldl do everything they can to prevent civil confrontation and tension occurring in the country. 74% thought that people should refrain from holding street protests. 87% thought that the Government and opposition should talk to each other.

The general tendency to be observed here is that people are fed up with protest rallies and possible confrontation. This might mean that we will not see a repeat of Kyrgyzstan here, although some analysts and politicians have predicted one. It is also evident that despite Russia being the greatest enemy most of the population wants to resolve the problems with it through peaceful negotiations and dialogue. All this will have an impact on the local elections, as parties advocating greater dialogue with the enemy in order to tame it are likely to gain greater public support on the strength of this poll.