The messenger logo

Self-government elections to function as referendum

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Wednesday, August 11
The pre-election campaign for the local self-government elections, which is to be held on October 2, officially started in Georgia on August 3. At the mention of this election, an average citizen immediately thinks of 43%, which, if the ‘Georgian Dream’ wouldn't be able to receive, according to the agreement of April 19, early parliamentary elections in 2022 would be called.

Even though the Georgian Dream unilaterally announced its withdrawal from the agreement, no one has forgotten this promise and will remind the ruling party in case of a lower result in the self-government elections. According to experts, the withdrawal of the Georgian Dream from the April 19 agreement was conditioned by the reservation of 43% support. All other clauses of the agreement would be ‘taken care of’ or ‘avoided’ by the ruling party.

Opposition groups called for a referendum on the ruling party, but the International Republican Institute (IRI) found that 26% of respondents, 14% of the National Movement, and 9% of the former Prime Minister would vote for the Georgian Dream. - Minister Giorgi Gakharia's party For Georgia. Another 11 parties meet the 1% threshold. Of these, one party receives 3%, five parties each receive 2%, and another five receive 1%. The rate is quite varied, but the main thing is that the Georgian Dream is far from the 43% threshold.

The Georgian Dream and its supporters say they distrust the IRI poll and say the current ruling party will win a landslide victory, but those statements are aimed more at encouraging themselves and their constituents. However, it is also clear that the Georgian Dream will do everything to remain in power. The general opinion is that Georgia's heaviest election campaign is expected, not to mention the post-election period. President Salome Zurabishvili made a statement after selecting the election day.

"These elections should be exemplary, the rights of all subjects should be protected, which excludes violence, hate speech, and insults, use of personal data, betrayal of a competitor, obstruction of professional activities for the media, dissemination of fake news and various pressures." Very good, but there is a very good chance that all this will be typical for the beginning of the election campaign. Do not rule out the possibility that the election campaign will not come to an end - the scale of the spread of Covid-19 is such that epidemiologists have spoken of the need to reintroduce restrictions. However, the government is also looking at this issue in terms of receiving political benefits."

Georgian Dream Waves of Criticism from Western Friends over Statement of Withdrawal from April 19 Agreement. However, the leaders of the "Georgian Dream" categorically rule out the possibility of returning to the format of the agreement.

Pro-government and at the same time openly pro-Russian media outlets unanimously endorsed the decision, saying that Georgia had 'regained sovereignty', that developments had returned to a ‘constitutional framework’ and that the Georgian government could not be dictated to the ‘agenda’ by the West. Such statements are made as if the European Union or the United States has occupied part of the territory of Georgia.

By withdrawing from the April 19 agreement, the Georgian Dream did not fulfill its promise and deceived its Western friends, who did everything possible to reach an agreement. The Georgian government has distanced itself from the country's strategic partners.

Instead, the incident was well received in Moscow, where they talked about restoring air traffic with Georgia, because ‘Tbilisi has learned to be smart’, the abolition of the visa regime, and so on. After the cancellation of the April 19 agreement, the leaders of the openly pro-Russian Alliance of Patriots wrote an open letter to Putin asking him to support and assist Georgia.

The possibility of imposing sanctions on Georgia was also discussed in the West. Opposition groups called for a boycott of the country, saying ‘possible sanctions should not be imposed on the country's poor.’ According to the opposition, the sanctions should be directed only against personal figures and high-ranking officials of the Georgian Dream.

However, experts also point out that the introduction of sanctions in the West will only be the result of serious discussions, and it is likely that the Georgian Dream will also try to hold local self-government elections. The conformity of elections to democratic standards ultimately determines the position of the West as well. However, a possible delay in the introduction of sanctions does not mean that critical statements and actions will cease. There was a great response from the opposition to the refusal of the Baltic states to accept Irakli Gharibashvili.

It is clear that this is a serious setback to the government, however, the Georgian Dream is ready to endure criticism from the West.