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NDI Accused of Favoritism as Polls Put UNM Far Ahead of Opposition

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, October 17
The National Democratic Institute (NDI) continued releasing the results of its survey research on October 13. This time the NDI shared public opinion on political parties and their leaders. Around 2,400 respondents participated in the research which showed that 52% would support the ruling United National Movement (UNM) if elections were conducted the following day. Other political entities, which received public support were the Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) with 5% of possible votes, while the Labor Party, Our Georgia - Free Democrats and National Forum received around 3% each.

The NDI also released the names of possible candidates for the upcoming presidential elections scheduled in 2013. Although the UNM has not yet named their main candidate for presidency, 37% of respondents still expressed their readiness to support any of the candidates named by the ruling party. Those interviewed by NDI seemed to be equally sympathetic towards the three oppositional parties and their leaders. A total of 9% of NDI’s respondents supported Giorgi Targamadze, the leader of CDM, 5% - Irakli Alasania, the leader of Free Democrats, while 4% said they would vote for Shalva Natelashvili, the leader of the Labor Party.

Moreover, the two political leaders who received the greatest support from respondents were the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and the CDM leader Giorgi Targamadze. Commenting on the survey’s results, the UNM member MPs emphasized the “exclusive responsibility” of the ruling party in solving the problems people are facing nowadays. As MP Goka Gabashvili stated, unemployment and other social issues are still worrying citizens. “The absolute majority of the respondents support the reforms carried out by the government and is confident of their importance,” Gabashvili said, stressing that the country is going in the right direction.

As another ruling party MP Petre Tsiskarishvili stated the personal rating of the Georgian president is above 60%. Tsiskarishvili welcomed the public trust towards the authorities. The National Forum meanwhile accused the NDI of choosing improper target groups for their survey but also welcomed the results saying that 3% support is an excellent figure for their party.

Nestan Kirtadze, International Secretary of the Labor Party accused NDI of falsifying the survey. Having sent critical letters to the Georgian and Washington offices of the NDI, Kirtadze suggested that all their surveys reflect Washington’s “political wishes” in Georgia. “Soon IRI will also release their results and I doubt that the political picture will radically change,” Kirtadze told The Messenger. “When 5 out of 7 respondents are anonymous it causes too many questions. If 70% of the people interviewed face social problems, how can the same 70% like the current government?” Kirtadze wondered.

Sharing the ratings of the political parties provided by the various Ambassadors to Georgia, the Labor Party’s International Secretary confirmed that the UNM is leading the list with 32-34% of supporters, while the Labor Party holds the second position with 22-24%, followed by CDM with 10-12%. How these data were calculated is unclear. It diverges from NDI's data significantly and increases the Labor Party approval rating by 20%.

Pointing out that the UNM has started their pre-election campaign through social clips on different TV channels the Kirtadze forecast snap parliamentary elections in February 2012. “I’m not sure whether the government knew about Bidzina Ivanishvili’s decision to join the Georgian political spectrum, but he has really pressed the UNM. That’s why I think the UNM will find some reason to announce pre-term elections,” Kirtadze said confident that a multi-party democracy is the only thing that can save the country.