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The exact date for parliamentary elections in Georgia is not set yet but the race for 150 seats in Georgia’s newly built parliament in the second biggest city of Kutaisi has long been on. This hot summer, the pre-election fever has already gripped citizens.
United National Movement and Georgian Dream
The United National Movement (UNM), the party of President Mikheil Saakashvili, faces Georgian Dream led by Bidzina Ivanishvili, perhaps the richest man in the country. The UNM currently holds 112 out of 150 seats in the parliament. This gives the party nearly unlimited powers in the legislative structure. Ivanishvili, who was commonly known as a philanthropist in Georgia, entered his country’s politics last autumn and – to great annoyance of the currently ruling elite – has not come down from Georgian screens since.
According to the last polls published by NDI on July 16, 36 percent of respondents said they would vote for UNM if the elections were tomorrow, while Georgian Dream got 18 percent. Though UNM seems to lead, since February the ruling party has lost 11 percent in its rating, while Georgian Dream has gone up by 8 percent. Some tend to trust the poll, while others are sceptical. Anyway, the two seem to be nearly all what the elections will be about, however, the way they compete is a separate story.
State Audit Office, Media and “Sonders”
The State Audit Office appeared in a new light to Georgian public as it closely monitors the finances of the political parties. Thus, along with his Georgian citizenship, Ivanishvili sees his money slowly going away. Ivanishvili himself, as well as companies and political parties around him, were numerously accused of vote-buying and illegal party financing by the audit agency. This was followed by seizures and few large fines upheld by the court. Many are already bored to keep the track but the sum goes well over few tens of millions of US dollars. Ivanishvili and his supporters question the legitimacy of the fines and make counter-accusations.
Disputes are not only legal. It also goes to bare hands sometimes. On July 12, ruling party supporters clashed with Georgian Dream representatives in Karaleti, Eastern Georgia. Dozens were injured by thrown stones and in fist-fighting. Another fist-fight erupted in village Mereti in late June. The parties blame each other that there were “sonders” on the other side who attacked peaceful citizens. “Sonders” seems to be a pre-election neologism referring to some kind of specialized forces.
But who is to be blamed for vote-buying, financial fraud, “sonders” and for other faults not listed here? It depends on which TV channel you watch. Ivanishvili has opened his own “Channel 9,” while long-acclaimed state-loyal “Rustavi 2” and “Imedi” stick to their loyalty. Smaller independent-perhaps-opposition-inclined TV stations claim they keep the balance. Georgians say that if you want to know the truth you need to watch at least two TV channels, one on each side, and there may be truth somewhere in the middle.
And the Rest
Christian-Democrats, New Rights, Labor Union and National Democrats are the remaining few who participate in the coming elections. Giorgi Targamadze, a journalist-turned-politician, the chairman of Christian-Democratic Movement, travels from one Georgian village to another and is commonly seen working in the fields with the rural citizens, plucking peach trees or driving a bus. The rest are less imaginative, but follow the same line managing to gather around few supporters. All keep complaining that Georgian politics have become so polarized that there is no place for third parties but they still hope to get through.
It is all about politics in Georgia even now when the temperature went up well over 30 degrees and summer, the only politically dead season in Georgia, is in its all heat.