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A Georgian understanding of democracy

By Messenger Staff
Friday, March 23
Georgians have different understanding of democracy than other countries. It is especially vivid if one compares how democracy is understood by the government and by the opposition. The ruling administration is proud of the democratic and developmental achievements it has made. The opposition, meanwhile, calls the system authoritarian, bordering on totalitarian.

It is interesting to note how the general public assesses the situation. Some of our questions were answered by the National Democratic Institute between February and March of this year. In response to the question, "Is there democracy in Georgia?" 49% of respondents answered in the affirmative, compared to 34% who answered no. Forty-three percent of those surveyed think that democracy should be improved in Georgia, while 21% think that there is no democracy, although it is leaning in that direction.

The survey gave us much to think about. Almost half of the population believes that there is democracy in our country, but it also believes that democracy is faltering. One of the leaders of the Georgian Dream coalition, David Usupashvili, remarked that if only 49% of the population thinks that there is democracy in Georgia, then that is catastrophic.

This brings up two questions. How honest were the respondents when answering the questions? Some analysts believe that respondents are frightened to give a direct and open answer, because their identity is known to pollsters. People may deliberately exaggerate their pro-government position, at the expense of their real beliefs. Second, how does the public understand democracy? There is no unanimous understanding of democracy in Georgia. For some people it is just freedom of speech or freedom of movement, and not a unity of different values.

What is also interesting are the answers to a question about Georgia's "direction". Sixty-two percent respondents think that Georgia is going in the right direction, while 18% disagree. This undoubtedly made the government happy, however, 70% of Georgians support the restoration of Bidzina Ivanishvili's citizenship, with only 8% opposing. That must have come as a shock to the administration, so they had MP Nugzar Tsiklauri state that respondents want to restore Ivanishviliís citizenship merely so they may vote against him. This is ridiculous.