A competitive presidential election race is taking shape in Georgia

By Inga PopovaitÄ—

Georgia is preparing for the presidential elections to be held in October. The new Constitution will come into force after Mikheil Saakashvili’s second and last presidential term(Saakashvili is not eligible to run). Under constitutional changes the prime minister will gain additional powers to rival those of the president. This time the race will be not between one strong party and fragmented opposition but between two equal political powers and several marginal parties.


Besides the candidates of the two main parties, there will be representatives of minor parties, namely: leader of Labour Party Shalva Natelashvili, Georgian opposition leader Nino Burdzhanadze, leader of Christian Democrats Giorgi Targamadze and other candidates. But practically their have no chance, since the main fight will be between the camps of Mikhail Saakashvili (United National Movement, UNM) and Bidzina Ivanishvili (Georgian Dream coalition).


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According to the survey conducted by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in March 2013, only 68 percent of the eligible population is going to participate in the elections. From them 60 percent prefer candidate of GD coalition, and only 10 percent would vote for the UNM candidate.


The ruling party named the Georgian Dream candidate only two months ago. Other members of the party didn’t oppose the candidature of Georgia’s education minister Giorgi Margvelashvili who has long been seen an Ivanishvili favourite, although the current defence minister Irakli Alasania was considered to be the most realistic candidate of this party.


According to the NDI-opinion polls, Giorgi Margvelashivili was supported by 29 percent of respondents, Irakli Alasania by 42 of respondents. Alasania’s presidential ambitions got him demoted from his post as deputy prime minister which was given to Giorgi Margvelashivili.


Pursuant to the journal Tabula, critics of the GD coalition say that a billionaire prime minister has deliberately chosen a weaker candidate in order to avoid division of power, and demonstrated what could happen to the ones who don’t play the same game. In fact, Bidzina Ivanishvili promised to withdraw from Georgia‘s political stage if Saakashvili‘s candidate will lose the game.


At the end of June UNM named the four possible candidates to the post of president: D.Bakradze, Z.Dzhaparidze, G.Baramidze and Sh.Malashchia.


David Bakradze is considered to be the most worthy candidate of the UNM. According to the NDI survey, even 48 percent of respondents expressed their positive attitude toward this politician. When it comes to President Mikheil Saakashvili, only 25 percent say they like him; 19 percent of respondents expressed their positive attitude to G.Baramidze. In 2008-2012 David Bakradze was chairman of the Parliament; currently he is the parliamentary opposition leader.  


Giorgi Baramidze currently is Deputy Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia; he‘s been elected to the Parliament for the fourth term. In 2008–2012 he was appointed State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration. Doctor of sciences Z.Dzhaparidze is a lecturer of the Free University; he was elected to the Parliament for the first time. Sh.Malashchia was elected to the Parliament of Georgia for the second time.


Before the 2012 elections the most realistic successors of Saakashvili were the Mayor of Tbilisi Giorgi Ugulava, and former minister of interior (later Prime Minister) Vano Merabishvili. Today Gigi Ugulava is accused of money laundering; and Vano Merabishvili of exceeding official powers related to police action while dispersing an opposition protest in May 2011, and of improper conduct of the investigation of the murder of a bank employee.


In summary it could be said that during the elections the main role will be played not by the personalities but by the political figures (B.Ivanishvili and M.Saakashvili) standing behind these personalities. And though newly elected president will be symbolic rather than political figure, the end of October will be a new start in the political history of the country: either the return of the United National Movement which is practically impossible, or victory of the Georgian Dream after which Mikheil Saakashvili and the Rose Revolution will be marked as history.