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Highlights of the pre-election regrouping

By Messenger Staff
Monday, February 6
The forthcoming parliamentary elections are to be held in October. While this may sound as if there is plenty of time for campaigning, debates, and alliance-formation, it is very likely not. Slowly but surely political forces are regrouping and certain pre-election movements have become noticeable, even as official campaigns have yet to be launched.

As usual, the ruling United National Movement (UNM) has the first advantage, having the power to set the election date, and therefore knowing when to start pre-election campaigning. Indeed, President Mikheil Saakshvili has been carrying out pre-election campaigning since November of last year Ė and hasn't stopped campaigning even while in the United States.

The UNM seems confident in its role as government. It, of course, plans to be victorious at the parliamentary elections and possibly move current president Saakashvili to the Prime Ministerís chair. However, that path may not be as easy as it looks. First of all, if Saakashvili does choose to become Prime Minister, he risks having his decision appear as a "Putin-esque" move, one which would damage both his credibility and that of his party. As it was in Russia, this would be only an imitation of democracy, one that would be criticized by his former friends in the international community.

Secondly, the United National Movement has been already seriously challenged by the appearance on the political scene of billionaire opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili. His connections and his finances are already creating a headache for the UNM. Furthermore, there is talk about a unification of the opposition, including suggestions of an alliance that could best Saakashvili at the polls, then dissolve once in power. However, those calling for such an arrangement are generally those parties without representation in Parliament, suggesting that such a scheme is less about defeating Saakashvili and more about increasing their own power. These are the same voices that often accuse other opposition members, the so-called "constructive opposition", of collaborating with the UNM.

Apart from the group of opposition parties united around Ivanishvili, there is a loose association of parties which were not invited on to Ivanishviliís team, prompting speculation that these parties will create a third pole. However, it is a bit premature to make such assumptions, since Ivanishvili has yet to register an official political party or declare his own position. Perhaps October is a long way away, after all.