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Georgia Elects Its Fifth President in October 2018

By Khatia Kardava
Thursday, January 25
Starting from 2023, due to the new constitutional amendments, Georgian people will no longer elect the President by direct voting. October 2018 elections are the only elections when the Georgian population will be able to directly make their choice.

The 2018 presidential election is interesting in many ways:

Who will be the candidates? Will well-known, popular political leaders or new faces appear? What will be the tactics of the opposition: will they agree to contest with one candidate or will they separately participate in the elections? Will Giorgi Margvelashvili run for Presidency?

The candidates have not yet been announced but the topic has been actively discussed in mass media. It is unclear whether the contest will be shared among new faces or well-known political leaders, or if Margvelashvili will take part in the elections or not. It is interesting if the recent and successful trend of independent candidates will remain.

The United National Movement (UNM) is planning to propose their candidate, however, the person is unknown yet. Experts assert that former Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze can be considered as their possible candidate, however, they are suspicious of his chances.

“The fate of the nearest future of this party largely depends on the Ukrainian Odyssey of its leader, ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili,” says expert Gia Khukhashvili.

The opposition faction European Georgia will also take part in the Presidential elections. According to them, their Presidential candidate will be ex-Mayor of Tbilisi, Gigi Ugulava. However, this statement has not been officially confirmed yet-

As for the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party, there are speculations about a number of candidates: ex-Minister Salome Zurabishvili, current Healthcare Minister David Sergeenko, Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia and current Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili. One of the candidates is Irakli Gharibashvili, who is no longer actively involved in Politics.

"As for Gharibashvili, I'm very skeptical of his candidacy. But this is his constitutional right and nobody can ever ban. However, as I understand you cannot enter the same river twice," says Khukhashvili.

PM Kvirikashvili and Minister Sergeenko have rejected the rumors about their candidacy.

Khukhashvili anticipates that GD factions will propose their own candidates and serious battle is expected among the factions to lobby their candidates.

“There are many groups in the ruling party who have their own political interests. They will try to find a candidate from their own group. GD is not a single organism, on the contrary, it is far from it,” states Khukhashvili.

Still, political analysts say GD has higher chances to win the elections.

The media outlet Netgazeti quotes a founder of the Georgian Institute of Politics, Korneli Kakachia, that for non-governmental candidates it will be difficult to promise a change, due to the restricted authority of the President. Political analyst Khukhashvili also thinks that the governmental candidate will be the favorite. According to the political scientist and ex-Minister of Education Gia Nodia, the chances that the opposition candidate shall win in the presidential elections “are very weak.”

There are theoretical chances that the current President will win the Presidential elections.

"From his [Margvelashvili’s] actions, it is not clear that the continuation of the political career is interesting for him. It seems that the power is the burden, not the privilege for him… Theoretically, he has chances, but I do not have much expectations,” Khukhashvili said.

Korneli Kakachia thinks that the biggest threat to the government is the “undiscredited” Presidential candidate with a new political configuration who will offer voters not just the Presidential plans but a long-term vision. According to Kakachia, a candidate named only to participate in the Presidential elections cannot oppose the government.

"In my opinion, the real alternative of the government cannot become a party candidate. The only candidate who will defeat the GD candidate will be an independent candidate and the demand for such a candidate in the society is really high, but for now nobody has ever shown up. The government has obvious advantages, but nothing is ruled out, "says Khukhashvili.

According to Nodia, if within the opposition a trustworthy person with charisma appears and “the opposition forces support with the resources, he/she may be a strong candidate. The one that will create obstacles to the government," he adds.