What does the Georgian opposition plan to do about the election results?
After the October 31 elections, the opposition took to the streets. A week later, the opposition have announced large-scale rallies in Tbilisi and other cities in Georgia.
None of the opposition parties running in the elections have recognized the election results and are demanding a repeat vote.
Opposition leaders signed a memorandum confirming that “they will not enter the new convocation of the parliament.”
•Opposition parties in Georgia sign joint statement renouncing their seats in parliament
The opposition has two main demands – a repeat vote and a change in the electoral administration.
Was the election rigged?
In the parliamentary elections on October 31, according to official data, the ruling Georgian Dream party won 48.24% of the vote. This is the first time since the independence of Georgia that the ruling party has remained in power for a third consecutive term.
However, the opposition points to massive protocol falsification, voter bribery and intimidation, and claims the election was rigged, and put forward several arguments:
The most documented argument is the imbalance found in the election summaries. Some of the summaries’ math doesn’t add up – for example, one of them says that 795 voters came to the polling station, but 3,050 people voted.
The CEC counted 100 percent of the ballots. The official results are as follows:
1. The ruling Georgian Dream party – 48.24%
2. National Movement – United Opposition – 27.15%
3. European Georgia – 3.79%
4. Alliance of Patriots – 3.14%
5. Lelo – 3.16%
6. Strategy Agmashenebeli – 3.15%
7. Girchi – 2.89%
8. Citizens – Aleko Elisashvili – 1.33%
Opponents of the government also point to bribery and intimidation of voters both on election day and during the pre-election period.
TV cameras have captured coordinators with lists, as well as criminal authorities, who created tension by their presence at the polling station.
The opposition, as well as non-governmental organizations, point to bribery of voters prior to the elections.
Another argument is parallel counting results: during each election, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) conducts a parallel vote count (this is not an exit poll, the organization counts votes in parallel with the CEC), and its results always coincide with the official results.
However, that was not the case this time.
According to the NGO, the Georgian Dream received 45.8% in the elections (margin of error – 0.7%), and they also indicate that due to the detected imbalance in election protocols, this error may increase.
While international observers also referred to cases of intimidation, bribery and pressure, they generally recognized the legitimacy of the election results.
“Fundamental freedoms were generally protected in the parliamentary elections, but the October 31 elections were not flawless,” said Jillian Stirk, head of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission in Georgia.
The US embassy made a statement saying that intimidation and bribery were present, which damaged the electoral process, but “this is not enough to invalidate the results.”
A stricter assessment of the elections was given by local observers who observed the electoral process for a long time.
•Georgian NGOs: “The government failed to ensure democratic elections”
A joint statement signed by nearly all influential NGOs in Georgia said the 2020 parliamentary elections were the least free of all elections held under the Georgian Dream government and “were characterized by a particularly low degree of democracy.”
What the opposition is planning to do
The statement on boycotting parliament was signed by seven opposition parties that gained seats in the parliament. Another party who gained seats – the Alliance of Patriots – does not cooperate in the format of consultations with the rest of the opposition, but has also declared that it will not enter parliament.
The memorandum is also signed by those parties that could not overcome the 1% threshold.
At the moment, the opposition’s action plan for the future is vague – apart from the fact that a large-scale rally is scheduled for November 8, other more specific plans of the opposition are unknown.
It is clear that oppositions leaders make decisions along the way – they get together, hold consultations. Rallies have been held in Tbilisi and Batumi for several days.
There has already been a public conflict – between two representatives of the opposition United National Movement party Nika Melia and Gubaz Sanikidze after Sanikidze said live on the Mtavari TV channel that former President Mikheil Saakashvili needs to arrive in Georgia, otherwise “without Misha, the opposition is not capable of anything. “
This incident illustrates that the figure of Saakashvili for the opposition at this stage is more a dividing than a unifying factor.
Saakashvili’s party United National Movement is the largest and most popular opposition party, and the ex-president himself is actively involved in the political process from Ukraine.
Two days ago, he again posted online: “If the Georgian opposition jointly decides that my arrival will become one of the decisive means of defeat for Ivanishvili, I assure you, I will find a way to get to Georgia and I will not be afraid of anything.”
Saakashvili also called on opposition supporters not to be afraid of the coronavirus and join the rally, observing all safety standards.
The coronavirus is a factor that can indeed change the future plans of the opposition.
The number of infected people in Georgia is increasing significantly every day. On November 4, kindergartens were closed, and the educational process in the primary grades of schools was transferred to a distance mode (high school students have been studying remotely for several months).
Although the government says it is not going to announce a full-scale lockdown, it is difficult to say with certainty what will happen in the coming days, because the country’s health system is in a serious crisis.
Some experts believe that by refusing parliamentary seats, the opposition loses its political platform and risks becoming marginalized by remaining on the streets.
However, the lack of opposition is a big headache for the government, which may be left all alone in the parliament.
In response, the government decided to punish parties that boycott the parliament.
Irakli Kobakhidze, executive secretary of the Georgian Dream party, came up with an initiative to cease funding of the parties that intend to boycott the parliament.
“Naturally, it would be good to amend the legislation accordingly. For example, if a party neglects the will of its voter and refuses seats in the parliament, then it must, of course, refuse state funding. It will be, of course, very logical and, the parliament will probably discuss it,” Irakli Kobakhidze said.
It seems that this idea is being actively discussed in the government, since an interactive poll was even conducted on the government channel Imedi – should the state stop funding political parties that refuse to enter the parliament?
The opposition assessed this government statement as blackmail.
“Ivanishvili thinks that he will tell political parties ‘If you don’t enter parliament, you will lose funding’ and the parties will change their minds and agree to rigged elections. He himself is made this way – he believes that blackmail always works. This is how he runs his party and this is how he thinks he could control opposition parties, but nothing will come of it,” said Sergi Kapanadze, one of the leaders of European Georgia.
What’s next if the opposition does not enter the parliament
“If the opposition renounces its seats, there will be no legal consequences,” – said Vakhushti Menabde, a board member of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association. He explains that the parliament has the right to start work if more than half of the full membership is present at the first meeting, i.e. at least 76 deputies – and the Georgian Dream can gather this number without outside help.
“The main result is that Ivanishvili must be left alone with himself like Turkmenbashi [leader of Turkmenistan],” said Salome Samadashvili, a member of the United National Movement.