The upcoming election promises to be an interesting, if not a strange one as the ruling party has not put forward its own candidate
The presidential elections in Georgia are scheduled to take place on 28 October, and the candidates have already begun their campaigns. However, the ruling Georgian Dream party has still not decided whom it will support.
The Central Election Commission has not completed the process of registering candidates, though the main contenders are already known. JAMnews sums up what you need to know about the upcoming elections.
The seventh presidential elections in the history of independent Georgia will take place on 28 October. The population will be choosing the fifth president of Georgia. This will be the first time a candidate is elected for a term of six years, as the previous terms were only for five years. Recent constitutional ammendments call for the president to be elected not directly by voters but by an electoral collage.
The president of Georgia must be a citizen of the country and over 35 years of age. He or she must have lived for at least three of the past five years in the country prior to the election day. The maximum number of terms is two.
The Central Election Commission has registered 16 candidates so far.
Current president Giorgi Margvelashvili has still not decided whether or not he will run for a second term. If he does, he will run as an independent candidate. In 2013 he won the presidential elections as candidate of the Georgian Dream party and was Bidzina Ivanishvili’s favourite. However, their paths later separated and Ivanishvili called him ‘a big disappointment’. The ruling party has not supported him in recent years.
The current elections are the first in the history of Georgia in which the ruling party has not put forward its own candidate. Bidzina Ivanishvili says that the current ruling party is ready to either ‘hand’ the position over to the opposition or to support an independent candidate.
“I believe that the ruling party should not put forward its own candidate. In my opinion, this will be best for the democratic development of the country. Party candidates will not receive help from us, but we are ready to support a worthy and independent candidate should such an individual appear. Should they not, let the victory and institute of the president go to the opposition,” Bidzina Ivanishvili said in an interview with the Public Broadcaster.
One independent candidate that may receive support from the Georgian Dream party is Salome Zurabishvili. Under Mikheil Saakashvili she was the Minister of Foreign Affairs, though she later joined the opposition and became one of the most outspoken critics of Saakashvili’s government. Zurabishvili was born and grew up in France and speaks Georgian with a French accent.
Attitudes towards Zurabishvili are ambiguous, especially after her recent remarks about the 2008 August War in which she said that Georgia started the war, and that Mikheil Saakashvili was the guilty party in the event. She was also criticised for her comments by some members of the Georgian Dream party.
The former ruling party of Mikheil Saakashvili, the United National Movement (UNM), has put together a coalition of ten smaller opposition parties under the title ‘Strength in Unity’, and put forward Grigol Vashadze as its candidate.
Vashadze is an experienced career diplomat who also headed up the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Saakashvili from December 2008 to October 2012. His diplomatic career is closely connected to Russia, where he lived for many years in Moscow. He gave up his Russian citizenship in 2008, and is the husband of prima ballerina Nino Ananiashvili.
European Georgia, a party that broke off from the UNM in 2016, has put forward David Bakradze as their candidate. Bakradze was the chairman of the parliament during Saakashvili’s presidency. A number of surveys indicate that he enjoys a high per cent of trust among the public. In 2013 he was the presidential candidate from the UNM party, and received 21.73 per cent of the vote.
Another candidate is Zurab Japaridze, leader of the Girchi political movement, or pine-cone in Georgian. The movement has liberal views and the main issue which it periodically raises is the decriminalisation of drugs. The Constitutional Court recently approved a suit put forward by the party to legalise the use of marijuana.
Shalva Natelashvili, a candidate from the Labor Party who has not missed a single election since 2008, will also be running.