Georgia's last presidential election to be held on Sunday
The presidential election will be held in Georgia this Sunday. Despite the symbolic character of this post after the new Constitution came into force, according to which the prime minister has real power, this election gained importance as a national referendum. This will be the last direct presidential vote, because since 2023, the president will be elected by an assembly consisting of members of parliament and representatives of municipalities. The last presidential election will be a decisive event in the long standoff between the Georgian Dream (GD) ruling party, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili and ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement (UNM) party.
Faded dream as an pre-election resource
The GD has nominated former French ambassador to Tbilisi Salome Zurabishvili as its candidate, and the opposition - ex-foreign minister Grigol Vashadze. If the opposition loses, then the defeat is unlikely to be fatal - Saakashvili and his team can easily withstand the blow and re-gain strength by the 2020 parliamentary elections, when the issue of real power is resolved. But if the GD loses the presidential election, it will be a fatal defeat for the party - the middle and lower level bureaucracy, including in power structures and in local authorities, will perceive the current opposition as a future power, with which they should establish useful relations until 2020. Therefore, the GD uses all resources to ensure the victory of Zurabishvili.
A few days before the election, Ivanishvili gave an interview to Georgia's top three TV channels: Rustavi 2, TV Pirveli and Imedi TV. The Georgian Dream rating is largely based on the authority of the billionaire and philanthropist. A lot of people in Georgia believe that Ivanishvili is able to ensure the prosperity in the country, if he was able to make 5.4 billion dollars. As a result of the endless economic crisis, inflation and devaluation, people's faith somehow hesitated, but 'Dream' is a dream, and it dies last.
Hell for a billionaire
Ivanishvili is a very poor public speaker. He practically does not know how to articulate his thoughts clearly, he does not know how to communicate with journalists, especially during 'hard talk' interviews. Moreover, two of the three journalists, Ekaterina Kvesitadze (Rustavi-2) and Diana Trapaidze (TV Pirveli), went to the GM office to give the country's real leader a hard time and succeeded in many respects. Ivanishvili was not able to answer convincingly the accusations of "informal rule", "appropriation of the state" (this term was recently used by NPO Transparency International Georgia), investigating the resonant murder of teenagers that took place on Khorava Street in Tbilisi, plans for cultivating hemp plantations, building palaces by the GD leaders, allegations of corruption in the higher echelons of power and unruliness of people from the billionaire’s inner circle, including ex-prosecutor Otar Partshaladze's activities, who allegedly extorted money and a piece in the business from 'cigarette baron' Zaza Okuashvili. The 'baron' is clearly not an angel, but the secret audio recordings made public after is escape to London can be compiled for the needs of the opposition, but Ivanishvili could not refute these "conjectures."
The choice between the present and the past
The interview was reduced to a tedious skirmish with Rustavi-2. In the heat of polemics, Ivanishvili made a mistake by saying: "If you turn off Rustavi-2 for a moment, viewers will see nothing but progress and construction in the country." Of course, the opposition immediately interpreted this as the intention of the authorities to “close” the opposition television station. Against this background, hardly anyone remembered the problems with media under Saakashvili's presidency. Memories of those years, including the2008 five-day war is the current ruling party's last chance to enlist the support of the voters who do not like the present, but who also don't want to go to the past.