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Presidential elections in Georgia: the emptiness of "dreams", the start of Saakashvili's revenge

Is the Georgian political tradition, when the power team comes out of the scene after two terms of government, will be continued?

The first round of the presidential election that was held in Georgia last Sunday did not reveal a victory. 2 in December for the post of the head of state will be fought by "pro-government independent" candidate Salome Zurabishvili and "man Saakashvili" Grigol Vashadze. The last in the first round behind his main competitor is less than 1% ...

"Ceremonial" functions of the President of Georgia

In accordance with the latest version of the constitution of Georgia, the president has limited powers in a parliamentary republic. However, for the current Georgian realities, there are several "but".

First, the president retains the right to initiate a political initiative on early parliamentary elections. This presidential campaign by political forces in Georgia is seen as a kind of warm-up on the eve of the parliamentary campaign (scheduled to take place in 2020 year). The wake-up is serious, after all, it is the president of Georgia who is being elected for the last time by direct expression of will, and the parliament will continue to do so.

Secondly, the popularly-elected president remains the amnesty / pardon function. And this is the key "nuance" to which we will return.

Political false start of "dreamers"

The guiding core of the ruling party "Georgian Dream", headed by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, shook for a long time, whether to nominate a presidential candidate from his own party. Finally, it was decided to sponsor and support a formally independent Salome Zurabishvili, who has a very interesting biography. A politician is a descendant of Georgian emigrants, she is a citizen of France (she was deprived of citizenship only on the eve of the election), had time to be the ambassador of France to Georgia, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, to work in the presidential team of Saakashvili and irrevocably quarrel with him ...

Salome Zurabishvili (photo: Echo Caucasus)

For "dreamers," Salome looked a win-win neutral option. However, they were systematically depleted. Very quickly the presidential campaign turned into a principled confrontation between the two political teams - the main oligarch Ivanishvili and the political wing of the ex-ex-President Saakashvili.

Grigol Vashadze (photo:

Grigol Vashadze was the head of the foreign policy department of Georgia at the time. He never denied positioning as "a man of Saakashvili", accumulated in a political bloc around his party "Unified National Movement" out of dozens of opposition political projects. Zurabishvili during the campaign received unprecedented administrative and financial support, finally consolidating the image of "Man Ivanishvili." During the campaign, "dreamers" were no longer able to move on the move, and it played with them a bad joke. By a combination of reasons. Select the key of them.

Pro-Russian train

During the presidential campaign around the figure of Salome Zurabishvili, the halo of the "pro-Russian candidate" was formed. At this stage, you should not operate a cliché "agent of Moscow influence," and so on. In the end, there is a good thesis that "it's too obvious to be true."

However, Salome Zurabishvili made a fatal mistake in the run-up to the presidential campaign, as for a candidate who is really counting on a victory. This is about her famous resonant statement 8 this August, when she committed a part of the blame for the war with Russia in August in the 2008-year to President Saakashvili's government. You can argue as much as possible about the role of Saakashvili in those events, or appeal to the specifics of the Georgian speech Zurabishvili (because of the emigrant background, the Georgian language is not for her, she studied it, which unequivocally inspires respect, but does not abrogate certain ambiguities from time to time in her statements) ... But all this goes off against the fact that such a statement was unacceptable due to inappropriate circumstances and time (it's not just about the presidential campaign, but also about the date of the decade of the beginning of the Russian aggression "08.08.08", which was noted in Georgia from the response dnymy protocol and memorial events).

All further justifications and explanations for Salome looked unconvincing. The theme began to live its life according to the laws of the "information field". The campaign got a sign "for or against" pro-Russian "candidate". The cutie did not add it to her, to put it mildly, and she began to cause irritation also in the moderate part of the electorate, far from supporting the Saakashvili team.

The factor of the church

The said statement was negatively perceived in the church environment. And the role in Georgia of the Georgian Orthodox Church and its Catholicos-Patriarch Illi II can not be overestimated. Their influences on society - if not total, then definitely determine first of all, as far as its conservative and patriarchal part is concerned.

The statements of the clergy against Zurabishvili became symptomatic given that, in fact, in the year 2008, the church was rather restrained and neutral in its reaction to Russian aggression. Yes, there was a corresponding pressure from Moscow along the line of the Russian Orthodox Church. As a result, a consensus was reached that, despite the Russian occupation of the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and Samachablo (with further "recognition of independence"), in the church's terms, they remained canonical territories of the Georgian Church. Not least this factor, by the way, is explained, if not pro-Russian, then the restrained position of the Georgian church in the issue of giving Tomas the only local Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

In parallel with the church, the authorities got to lobby for the so-called. "The law of marijuana". The Georgian society in the vast majority is not ready to perceive the economic rationale of the project and other nuances that explain that hemp is not necessarily about "smoking the grass" ... Similarly, the Georgian church as the most conservative in the Orthodox world, the organization is quite nervous to the various "European-liberal" initiatives by the authorities about marijuana, tolerant attitude towards LGBT, and so on.

All this "negativity" has one way or another affected the rating of "pro-government independent" candidate. In fact, we received a unique picture of the new history of Georgia when the church de facto opposed the presidential candidate from the authorities ... The uniqueness of the fact that the candidate simultaneously suffers from his own "pro-Russian" and a number of liberal initiatives of the ruling team, which are regarded as "Attributes of the European course" ...

All this is superimposed on the objectively difficult economic situation in the country, which is perceived by society as the result of many years of "dreamers" rule.

Presidential election in Georgia (photo: Radio Liberty)

Freedom of speech and "war of compromises"

Even the biggest antagonists of the "Georgian Dream" recognize one, almost the only, achievement of the power team. It is about real freedom of speech in the country. As a result, Grigol Vashadze's political team was able to rely on mass media support for a number of opposition media headed by the Rustavi-2 channel. Media support has become almost the only aspect of a campaign where the opposition wing could compete on an equal footing with a government candidate.

As a result, the ruling team was drawn into the "war of compromising", where the objects of attacks of various camps were, respectively, Ivanishvili and Saakashvili. There is no sense in discussing the truthfulness of the contents of the plots. It is important that the government caught on this hook and looked places unconvincing, especially with resuscitation, just before the date of voting on Saakashvili's charges of organizing a businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili in London in the year of the 2008.

On the eve of the second round of the presidential election, we have these starting positions of the parties.

Even at this intermediate stage, we can talk about the basic victory of Saakashvili's political team. The election of the president of Georgia finally ceased to be a matter of political debate or political senses, but turned into a struggle between resources and compromises. In such conditions, the percentage of votes cast by Grigol Vashadze is unprecedentedly high. The "national" team managed to preserve the organizational party core and media resource.

The main political assets of his opponent during the campaign were the financial and administrative resource of power and anti-rating itself Saakashvili. The scandals about the possible return of Miho became the main attributes of the campaign, Salome Zurabishvili.

The team and personally Ivanishvili are in the classical lose-lose situation in the face of the prospect of bad or very bad options for themselves. To renounce support for Zurabishvili is to admit his own mistake that is not in the Ivanishvili style (although certain fermentations in the "dreamers" series are already marked).

It is clear that Zurabishvili's victory can be secured purely through the administrative resource and the appropriate mobilization of the electorate hostile to Saakashvili. The latter factor works less and less. Hints of Grigol Vashadze about the failure to recognize such a victory and the appeal to the street have already been heard.

Victory Vashadze, despite the ceremonial functions of the president, will mean an automatic return to Saakashvili's policy - not necessarily through the pardon procedure - but with all the consequences for the "dreamers" on the eve of the parliamentary campaign.

A separate issue is whether Saakashvili's presence is necessary for the presidential team of Grigol Vashadze in case of his victory. However, for the "nationalists" this is a matter of honor.

Georgia is definitely part of a new period of political turbulence. Apparently, in the 2020 year or before, there will be no violation of the Georgian political tradition, when the ruling team leaves the scene after two terms of government.

Volodymyr Kopchak, "Glavcom", Tbilisi