Georgia – Presidential election: First-round results and expectations for the second round

The last direct presidential election in Georgia before the constitutional change to indirect election was held on October 28. The presidency will be weakened following last year’s constitutional amendments. However, the battle for the presidency has still been intense.

A large number of candidates contested the presidential election, but the results of the first round showed that the main fight was between the so-called Independent Candidate but, in effect, the candidate of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Salome Zourabichvili, and Grigol Vashadze, who was nominated by the United National Movement. Despite claims by the ruling party that its candidate had won at the first round, the Central Election Commission confirmed that a second round would be needed. In the end, the Central Election Commission announced that Salome Zurabishvili had won 38.64% in the first round and Grigol Vashadze 37.74%. Davit Bakradze from the European Union came third with 10.97%.

source: Photo from https://on.ge/elections/2018/results

These results were somewhat unexpected for the ruling party. However, confidence in Georgian Dream is very low as the country’s socio-economic situation has deteriorated significantly and citizens are dissatisfied with the government’s activity. If we look at the election results, we see that just 46.74% of the electorate participated in the elections. The outcome of the election is a protest against the policies of the ruling party. For example, Zourabichvili’s statements regarding relations with Russia and the Russia-Georgia war in 2008 were not supported by a large part of society. Most voters supported pro-Western political parties. In addition, Georgian Dream lost support because they did not have a candidate from their own party. The general secretary of the party said that citizens sent us a message that many things in the country need to be replaced, quickly and efficiently, and taking into consideration the interests of each citizen.[10] However, Gedevan Popkhadze, a member of the parliamentary majority said that if Grigol Vashadze were to win the presidential election, this would be a real step towards the beginning of the civil war.

The second round will be very tense as the opposition candidate has a real chance to win. At the same time, though, Georgian Dream will need to persuade those voters who did not come to the polls to vote at the second round and support their candidate. It is equally important for the opposition forces to support each other. The European Union’s candidate, Davit Bakradze, said that he would support Grigol Vashadze. He was also supported by the Republican Party, which did not have its own candidate in the presidential election. Zurab Japaridze, the presidential candidate of Girchy, said that he would vote for Grigol Vashadze in the second round. The candidate of the Labor Party will not support any candidate. The leader of the Free Democrats, Levan Samushia, called on voters to choose Grigol Vashadze. The Patriots Alliance announced that they and the government are “natural partners” and that they will support Salome Zourabichvili. [1]

One of the nationalist groups, “Georgian Mars”, said that the Georgian Dream needed to take two steps to get their support: announce that there will be no marijuana cultivation law and early parliamentary elections. [2] The position of the Georgian Orthodox Church is important in the elections. The Catholic Patriarch of Georgia met with representatives of the Georgian Dream and then the candidate of the United Opposition Grigol Vashadze. The candidate of the United Opposition said at the meeting with the Patriarch of the meeting that the second round should be held in a democratic environment without any insult and confrontation. [3]

Everybody knows that the fight in this election is not just for a presidential post whose power is formally restricted and whose deliberate weakening and discrediting has been carried out by Georgian Dream since 2013. In the second round, voters will have to make a difficult decision. On the one hand, confidence in the ruling party is very low. On the other hand, the government is threatening voters that if they support the opposition, former President Saakashvili and his government will return to Georgia. One thing is clear. The division of power today is essential and the victory of the opposition candidate in the presidential election will be more useful for the country’s future democratic development.

Notes

[1] ვინ ვის (არ) დაუჭერს მხარს II ტურში  http://netgazeti.ge/news/315636/

[2] ქართული-მარში-მეორე-ტურში-ზურაბიშვილის-მხარდაჭერისთვის-ოცნებას-მოთხოვნებს-უყენებს https://on.ge/story/29685

[3] https://1tv.ge/news/grigol-vashadze-patriarqtan-shekhvedraze-visaubrebt-rom-meore-turi-mshvid-demokratiul-garemoshi-sheurackhyofebisa-da-dapirispirebebis-gareshe-unda-chatardes/

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