Elections in Georgia: observers, politicians advise opposition on next steps
The opposition parties that ran in the parliamentary elections in Georgia on October 31 have announced that they consider the election results illegitimate and are planning to start protests.
On November 8, the opposition will hold a large-scale rally in Tbilisi.
The opposition has two main demands:
1. Scheduling of a repeat vote
2. Resignation of the chairman of the Central Election Commission Tamar Zhvania and staffing of a new election commission
Meanwhile, experts and politicians have advised the opposition on their next steps – JAMnews has gathered some of these recommendations below.
Beka Kobakhidze, Associate Professor, Ilia State University
“Either Georgian Dream or the United National Movement!” – such is the approach now, and this approach is cultivated by both parties due to their own interests.
As a result, ‘third parties’ were unable to compete with the two leaders and eventually ended up competing with each other.
Hence the result – European Georgia [an opposition party] got three times less votes.
This is a common problem for developing countries – seeing only in black and white. In developed countries, a qualified choice is made by a diverse middle class, which in poor Georgia is in its infancy.
Now the opposition’s only way of blocking the government is full consolidation, as it was in 2007-8 or 2011-12 (the same was the case with Zviad Gamsakhurdia and Eduard Shevardnadze).
One of the lessons from these elections is that it is necessary to keep the 1% barrier for entering the parliament or completely abolish the threshold, otherwise, with a 5% barrier, the third force will simply disappear and these parties will not get a single seat in parliament.
At the same time, the votes of the losing parties will be undeservedly distributed among the two leading parties, and even winning just 42% in fully proportional elections, the government will be in the absolute majority.
Yes, mathematically it turns out like this. The emotions of the opposition that they were not given the promised fully proportional elections without any barrier are fair.
Using administrative, material or other resources on election day, the authorities are already a priori several steps ahead, but didn’t the Georgian Dream gain 54% in the 2012 elections under the same conditions?
Then, 2.2 million people came out to vote. Today we are not even close to such a mobilization. There are two reasons for this:
1. To put it mildly, Saakashvili today is not the hope that Ivanishvili epitomized in 2012
2. Unfortunately, the Georgian everyman is more in line with the Georgian Dream than any movement for modernization
Emotions aside, what will the opposition gain from a boycott of parliament? Before whom will the government lose its legitimacy? Domestically, this will have no effect, Georgian Dream has an electoral foothold, and hatred towards it is not, in fact, universal. We have to admit it.
On the international stage, this will lead to the marginalization of the opposition. It is incomprehensible for the West to think and speak in these categories.
We read that fewer complaints were written to the election commissions in these elections than during any other. At the same time, there are no lawsuits, and amidst all this the opposition declares that they will not take up their mandates in parliament.
A Western diplomat asks – since you have such fears, where are your complaints? Where are the supporting documents? Why are you giving up your mandates in parliament and the second round as your very first step?
Let us remind you that Misha also used such actions of the opposition with great success to demonstrate their extremist image in the West. They’ve seen it before.
Without entering the parliament, the opposition will lose a serious platform and only harm itself. We have already witnessed this. There are very real chances to weaken the government ahead, because this government is already just holding on to the slogan “No to the National Movement!” while a very serious economic hangover awaits us.
The country has been living in debt for a year now, and this borrowed money also has its limits. The time ahead is difficult and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. It will be a legitimate and understandable reason to demand change, both internally and externally. Parliament is the perfect place to demand this change.
I see many new faces on the Georgian Dream list who will not ‘swallow’ everything. The Georgian Dream itself will not be able to withstand the acute crisis and it is quite expected that many will leave their ranks from within, but if there is no opposition in parliament, then where and with whom will these people go?
At the moment, the opposition must file lawsuits with election commissions and courts, prepare for the second round, and then not give up the parliamentary microphone.
In the end, since the 1990s, we had a number of successful parties that simply disappeared after missing one convocation of parliament (People’s Party, Socialists, NDP, etc.), because by missing the parliamentary rostrum they lost their niche, which was filled by others.
Tina Khidasheli, former defense minister
On October 31, Bidzina Ivanishvili carried out a brutal special operation against democracy.
What should we do?
1. The political process is very important. That is why it is necessary to listen to the angry people, to give them means of expression, and, therefore, a rally, a demonstration, a movement are very important and even necessary at such moments. So thanks to the opposition for today’s events.
2. In the meantime, it is necessary to clarify the demands of the struggle. It is clear that this requires discussion and a bit more time, but there can be no political process on the street without demands.
3. You could tell me the demand is obvious – to annul the election results. However, canceling the results is not an abstract process that just happens at someone’s whim. This is a specific legal process that has not yet happened.
The results should be canceled either by the CEC or by the court. Cancellation of election results is impossible without a lawsuit.
4. The second round is ahead, and here, too, unequivocal clarity is needed. I am not going to start talking about what advantage the ruling party has in terms of administration and resources. Taking this into consideration, the opposition must start the fight for victory in the second round today.
5. Now a bit about the figures. In our country, there has never been such a configuration in the parliament. This changes the situation significantly. In addition, we all remember that the Georgian Dream lost people from its ranks in both convocations, despite having a majority.
The advantage of the current situation is that the Georgian Dream is barely holding on to a majority, and therefore at any given moment, this configuration is very easy to change by someone with a moral and intellectual advantage.
6. Just remember Kobakhidze [former speaker of parliament who stepped down] and his company. Can you imagine what scale of an advantage in intelligence and competence we are talking about?
7. Meanwhile, keep in mind that the list of Georgian Dream also includes people in parliament who are not under the influence of any government, and for them a landmark and a center of gravity should be created, and there are not one, not two, but nine of those in the parliament now.
8. As for the elections themselves. Yes, as I said above, we got goofed, so what – was it the first time it happened? Haven’t we swallowed this anger before? I’m not going to point my finger at anyone now, but be careful – lest these people make fun of you later.
9. And I will repeat myself, a fight is necessary to win the second round. It is very important to win these mandates, which are so vital for the Georgian Dream to stay afloat.
The elections are not over yet, and the fight is not over yet!
Now is not the time to give up your seats in the parliament – do you think Ivanishvili or Kobakhidze will be ashamed to be left alone at the rostrum?
Khatuna Lagazidze, observer
Reconsider the electoral districts in which you hope to win. It is also necessary for people to have more trust for you.
State your arguments to foreign partners.
When the American congressmen suddenly disappeared a few months ago and criticism of the Georgian Dream faded away along with them, it became clear that the Georgian Dream lobby had achieved its aims.
Get ready for the second round: don’t lose what you can achieve.
Think about how large and long a rally you could organize in a pandemic, and don’t let people get depressed and postpone any changes for another 8 years; keep in mind that the Georgian Dream will put off the first meeting of the parliament as much as possible in order to dampen the spark of protest amid the extremely aggravated COVID situation.
The fact that you cannot create an alternative to the National Movement is your fault, not theirs, you must understand this.
Your 30% medicaments discount and the cancellation of bank interest rates did not work. You, at least, should now realize that people are waiting for missionaries with a great state idea for real change; little handouts are not enough.
Have you ever seen a political party that promised nothing to the people at all and won the elections?!
This means that you need to look for the problem in yourself, not just in them. It is necessary to answer the question: why do people prefer the useless Georgian Dream even to the centrist opposition? And you shouldn’t deceive yourself again thinking the ultimate answer is bribery, the use of administrative resources and agitation. This is a too simplistic vision.
Someone posted on Facebook that the Georgian Dream has tripled its administrative resources and salaries, thereby increasing the number of stable voters. If this is true, then another tactic should be sought.
Consider why people didn’t believe you were their saviors. And in the end, if people lose hope now, keep in mind that total nihilism and depression will begin. Not only will you not get early elections, but even in the elections in 4 years it will be unthinkable for you to even repeat the current results.
If you cannot achieve this, then most of you will simply have to leave politics.
Shota Digmelashvili, Shame Movement
In my opinion, these elections were rigged even before they started. The ruling power has an excessive advantage in administrative resources, which is the main reason for this result.
Now the opposition must play its part correctly. If the opposition has leverage in the form of giving up parliamentary mandates, that is, 2/3 of the parliament does not recognize its legitimacy, this will be pragmatically correct and fair.
The only unfair thing in this situation is a government that is supported by administrative resources fueled by corruption and the budget. Repeat elections will give the government worse results, while smaller parties will achieve better results.
The pressure is right, but it must be planned correctly so that it does not boil down to just a couple of parties – this would be beneficial for the Georgian Dream.
It would be even better if the campaigns were stronger, and at the same time, if the opposition found the strength to agree on common majoritarian candidates, knowing that the fate of these elections will also be decided by the majoritarian part. What can you do – it is what it is. Now we need to work on the correct strategy with what we’ve got.
Nino Jangirashvili, journalist
The opposition has real leverage to make Ivanishvili pay for the unheard-of impudence and prevent him from forming a parliament elected through unprecedented fraud.
I gave my vote not only for someone’s bottom to occupy a seat in parliament, but for them to save me from this total injustice and insult.
Let’s hope that the opposition will take into account the fact that people voted to replace Ivanishvili, and not for several oppositionists to get into the parliament. If we do not use this lever, this person will leave nothing of our country.
Tamar Chugoshvili, Former Deputy Speaker of Parliament
Two million voters, at the expense of risking contracting the virus, came to polling stations and stated their position.
Before parties can say that the results of these elections should be canceled, they must first do everything in their hands to ensure that the votes are correctly counted and recount or cancel the specific polling stations in which problems arose.
These elections already have international legitimacy, and under these conditions neither voters nor international partners will understand the rejection to participate in the second round.
Refusing parliamentary seats was the opposition’s biggest mistake in the past, and this mistake should not be repeated. You cannot leave the government alone in parliament without any opposition and competition (we already did this once, and it ended badly).
The opposition has won more seats today than ever before, and given the oversight mechanisms in place under current legislation, those seats in parliament are stronger than ever.
It would be a big mistake on the part of the opposition not to use it, and instead just say that October 31 does not count.
Levan Bodzashvili, constitutionalist
A good opposition would act with the state in mind – enter parliament and form a thematic coalition, stand side by side on all issues that, despite differences of opinion, should lead the state out of the crisis, balance the Georgian Dream institutionally and work on issues, such as the economy, court, elections and many other problems that the Georgian Dream either was not able to solve on its own, or has solved incorrectly for the last 8 years.
Several opposition leaders will take seats in the parliament, and this will be significant political weight if such a thematic coalition cooperates and puts pressure on the majority.
If the opposition wants to save itself politically and in the future not to remain in the shadow of the Georgian Dream and the National Movement, it must do it now.
They need to understand that, firstly, they cannot achieve anything individually, and secondly, abiding by the state approach will give them more weight.
Therefore, it is necessary to fight for a fair court system, the Anaklia port, Euro-Atlantic integration in parliament, not on the street.
Fighting in the street still brings nothing in the end and this country no longer needs street politics.