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Staying optimistic about NATO

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, February 9
The recent Asaval-Dasavali interview with Georgian Dream leader Bidzina Ivanishvili has prompted much agitation across the Georgian political spectrum by suggesting he will challenge accepted notions.

Ivanishvili made two controversial proposals – one, to run common opposition candidates in majoritarian districts, and second, to potentially support street protests in case of falsified elections.

Out of a total 150 members of Parliament, 75 are majoritarian, meaning directly voted for by constituents, rather than coming from the party list. Out of this number, only three are formally opposition members. The remainder was supported by the UNM during the elections, and generally vote alongside the ruling party. Majoritarian MPs need only 30% of the vote to avoid a run-off and qualify for the parliament; even if 70% of voters vote against a candidate, that individual goes to Parliament. A candidate supported by the UNM could garner that 30% quite easily, whereas opposition candidates split the vote and regularly fail to meet the 30% threshold. Thanks to changes made last fall, this year's parliament will have 73 majoritarian seats – and not surprisingly, UNM aims to win them all.

In order to beat this system, Ivanishvili has suggested that all opposition supporters in a district nominate one common candidate, increasing their odds of winning 30% of the vote. If such an agreement is made between parties, the opposition would be seriously emboldened. Before Ivanishvili entered the scene, all attempts to run unified candidates failed. However, it is possible that his status and personal popularity could unite the anti-Saakashvili parties.

More sensational was Ivanishvili’s assertion that he would support – and participate in – street protests if there is evidence of electoral fraud. He has previously distanced himself from rallies and other forms of large-scale political outrage – but there is a difference between theory and practice. Saakashvili's administration has shown itself to be strong in the face of protest, so Ivanishvili may be simply overplaying his hand.