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“National “ catastrophe

By Messenger Staff
Friday, December 7
The International Republican Institute (IRI) research results published yesterday have created a sensation. The approval ratings for the United National Movement (UNM) just two months after the parliamentary elections have decreased to 13%. Before the elections IRI research found that the then-ruling United National Movement had approval ratings of around 40%.

On December 4th, Imedi TV aired the results of the IRI poll. In response to the question "Who would you support if presidential elections were held tomorrow?" 63% of those polled responded that they would vote for the Georgian Dream candidate; 13% for the UNM candidate, and 3% for the Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) candidate.

The polls are a bad sign for those UNM members who hope that new parliamentary elections will be called in April 2013. These polling results seem to suggest that if the parliamentary elections were held again Georgian Dream would win with an even bigger majority.

Opinions about the future of the party differ considerably. Some think that the UNM will eventually fragment and dissolve. Others think the UNM is in the process of reorganization and it still has a chance of being a viable political party.

Political analysts are trying to understand what exactly has happened to the UNM in the last few months. Many experts think that the UNM was only united around one single person – President Mikhail Saakashvili. Since Saakashvili has become unpopular the party has begun to collapse. The new government is putting pressure on corrupt officials from the previous administration and this of course maybe another major reason for the deterioration of the UNM. Some analysts have gone so far to suggest that if elections were held tomorrow the UNM would not even qualify for the 5% barrier needed to have seats in Parliament.

Some analysts have suggested that the UNM's 40% approval rating before the elections was an illusion. Experts think that upwards of 20% of the UNM's votes were the result of political pressure, voter fraud and abuse of administrative resources. Support for the UNM was especially high among ethnic Armenians and Azeris who usually support the party in power.

Of course public opinion is highly volatile and if Georgian Dream doesn't fulfill its campaign promises then its popularity might deteriorate. However, if Georgian Dream loses popularity it doesn't necessarily mean that the UNM will regain it. More likely smaller political parties will gain momentum in the political vacuum.

So it seems likely that if the UNM becomes insignificant then another party will take its place. However, it is too early to predict who that will be.