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Georgian political spectrum

Thursday, June 3
Over 200 political parties are registered in Georgia. Of course it is a real exaggeration to call all of them parties as most do not actually function, they are one man parties. Ordinary Georgians can only give the names of about two parties accurately.

Some parties have their leader's name in their title and are therefore regarded as that particular person's party, not a conglomeration of like-minded individuals. Many parties are established just before the elections, create very strange electoral alliances and then disappear until the next elections. How they continue to exist, who finances them and whether they have any structure, and many more questions about them, remain unanswered.

36 political parties made applications to take part in the May 30 local elections in Tbilisi and elsewhere. The Central Election Commission registered 26 of these, but two eventually refused to put up candidates. The remaining 24 either stood independently or formed different alliances. Some parties refused to participate in the elections from the outset, the most prominent of these being the Labour Party, the Democratic Movement-United Georgia led by former Speaker of Parliament Nino Burjanadze and the National Forum.

It was obvious that the National Movement would have a big advantage over the opposition at the elections as it could easily mobilise huge administrative, financial and human resources. Despite the fact everyone has admitted that these elections were an improvement on previous ones there was not a fair competitive environment. This is the reality and opposition have to learn to cope with it. If the opposition want to compete with the ruling party they have to unite. When split into individual parties the opposition take votes from each other primarily and confuse the voters, who may be generally opposition oriented but are thus confused about who to vote for and often take the easiest option of not voting at all.

Let us take the Tbilisi Mayoral elections as an example. There was a 47.4% turnout. Of the nine candidates Gigi Ugulava received 55% of the vote, Irakli Alasania 19%, Giorgi Chanturia 10.71%, Zviad Dzidziguri 8.81%, Gogi Topadze 5.2% and Tamaz Vashadze, Nika Ivanishvili, Davit Iakobidze and Giorgi Lagidze the rest between them. It might have been better for the last four to have withdrawn from the race so that their votes would go to somebody else and that would be more worthy. The other four opposition candidates took votes from each other, in effect taking votes from the most popular among them, Alasania. If Alasania had been nominated as the joint candidate the opposition would have collected around 45% and more people would have come to the polling station to begin with, which would have given the opposition a chance to defeat the ruling party's candidate in Tbilisi if none of the parties were playing the ruling party's game. These elections show that the opposition parties should think uniting because their splits may even have persuaded some of their supporters to vote for the ruling party, because whatever controversial things it has done it does at least provide certain, may be not the best, but stability.

If the opposition are indeed determined to continue their fight they will have to unite. Some of the opposition parties have stated that they are now preparing for the next Parliamentary elections and their primary target is the improvement of the election code. But all these preparations, and even changes in the election code, will be of little consequence of the opposition cannot demonstrate that they are more electable than the Government.