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The parade of possible presidential candidates

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, April 13
The results of the polling carried out by NDI created mini scandals inside the Georgian political establishment. Different sides and parties used the information to stake their respective claims. Controversy surrounds the overall results of the polling, the questions posed by the authors of the polling, interpretation of the results and other issues. Most of the opposition forces express their discontent and distrust towards the results. Some of them claim that much depends on the manner of the questions. Some mentioned that no honest answers or at least very few of them could be seen in the results as according to them there is considerable level of fear among Georgian society and people avoid answering openly and truthfully.

But nevertheless the results of this polling gave some grounds for certain opinions concerning at least one issue and this is the issue of the future president of Georgia. It is clear that from 2013 Georgia will have a new president. The term of current Georgian president is expiring in 2013 and it is unlikely that he will try to prolong his tenure as Georgia’s president. Most probably he will be targeting either the PM or the chairman of the parliament position. So the question is, who will be the presidential candidate from the national movement? Of course there are still around two years until the presidential elections but the parade of possible participants of the race is slowly starting already. The NDI polling asked the question who you would vote for during the next presidential elections. The answers were candidate (not yet known) from National Movement 33%; Giorgi Targamadze – 14%; Irakli Alasania – 7%; Shalva Natelashvili- 6%; Nino Burjanadze and Gubaz Sanikidze - 2% each.

What this showed was that one third of respondents and potential voters would choose the National Movement candidate, regardless of who is selected. However the results given by the opposition candidates give ground to suggest that in the event of unification of the opposition forces, they might build up serious momentum and challenge the ruling party candidate. Despite the fact that, according to the new constitutional text, much of the president’s powers was transferred to the PM, the president's post is still considered as a very significant position in Georgia. The possibility of an opposition member receiving this post will not be welcomed by the ruling national movement which plans to stay in power for a longer period of time.

There was yet another question in the NDI polling creating controversies where respondents had to select some of their preferred public figures in Georgia. Here Patriarch Ilia II received 94%, Mikheil Saakashvili 65%, Gigi Ugulava 63%, Giorgi Targamadze 61% and David Bakradze 51%. These results showed that the ruling power has two popular figures apart from the existing president. These are Tbilisi Mayor Ugulava and Parliament Chair Bakradze. However at this stage we do not know if either has the ambition to become president. This is not yet clear and any possible confrontation among the ruling party concerning this issue would definitely harm their interests. There is also one interesting point worth introducing. The answers show that one of the leaders of the opposition, Christian Democrat Targamadze, will challenge the ruling party candidates. He received a very high level of admiration from the poll respondents. Of course we repeat that there are almost 2 years until the presidential elections and things will change however it is very difficult to predict exactly how. The opposition promises serious street actions, rallies and manifestations. Nobody knows what will happen if those promises are fulfilled. The ruling party has one big lever in its hands and this is the holding of snap parliamentary elections and with serious administrative resources at its disposal, the parliamentary elections could be won yet again by the ruling party with a devastating majority. The serious question is who will be ruling party candidate for the presidency and at this stage we have clues but no answer.