Georgia's presidential election: two scenarios for Ivanishvili

Georgia's presidential election: two scenarios for Ivanishvili

Part of the expert community regarded holding the second round of the presidential election in Georgia as a complete failure of the pro-government candidate Salome Zurabishvili and the catastrophe of oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili and his Georgian Dream party. If there is anything in these assessments, then it's not accuracy.

The failure of ex-foreign minister Zurabishvili as an independent politician was predictable. Well, it's fact that most of Georgian society doesn’t like her from the moment when she appeared on Georgia's political stage, or more precisely, after she joined the opposition to then-President Mikhail Saakashvili. Her attempts to establish her party own ended in nothing. People say that she is a difficult person, that she is too capricious and arrogant. The Georgian society, sympathetic to any attempts by foreigners to learn the Georgian language, good-naturedly encouraging the most nightmarish and harsh to the ear attempts by foreigners to speak Georgian, did not forgive Zurabishvili her bloomers in a formally native language, and did not accept excuses that she was born, grew up and lived in France most of her life. Her every lapsus linguae or misspelling was immediately replicated and mocked. But it would not be the worst part, if not for her initial assessment of the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, which drove  the society mad. It looked like that Zurabishvili's subsequent explanations and clarifications on this topic no longer played any role. Maybe they only made it worse. What ultimately affected the October 28 election. 

It turns out that those who cautioned Bidzina Ivanishvili not to get involved with Zurabishvili were right. Some representatives of the Georgian dream ruling party directly said that if Ivanishvili was disappointed in President Georgy Margvelashvili, supported by him, because he was extremely independent, then Zurabishvili would be a total nightmare for the same reason. But Ivanishvili chose to follow his own path, going against the team, and supported the ex-foreign minister's campaign not just financially, but also joining the campaign process. Was he wrong? Maybe. But he is not a seer, and no one is immune from mistakes.

More alarming for Ivanishvili was the population's record passivity on election day, despite appeals - the turnout was barely 40%. Thus, the majority of the Georgian population, having the right to vote, did not use it. Under these conditions, the opposition mobilized all of its resources and supporters, and this was enough for its protege, another former foreign minister Grigol Vashadze to concede to pro-government candidate Salome Zurabishvili just a little bit. But at the same time, together with other presidential candidates, he prevent her from getting 50% of votes she needed to win the first round.

The second round will take place on December 2. In comparison with the first round, Vashadze can get some more votes. Third place winner, former parliamentary speaker David Bakradze, has already called on his supporters to vote for the representative of the National Movement, in whose ranks he was, before his current party, European Georgia, separated from it. Leader of the party 'Girchi' Zurab Japarilze, another former UNM member, intends to do the same.

What will the ruling party Georgian Dream do? There are two possible scenarios.

The first one. Ivanishvili supports Zurabishvili to the end, even having already realized that she is unpopular. He mobilizes the very 60% of voters who ignored the first round, and gets what he wants, appointing her to a pedestal, i.e. presidential post. In this case, the Georgian Dream will surely be hit by a flurry of opposition criticism in falsifying the election, the country will enter the rally phase again, and the task of the authorities will be reduced to settling dissatisfaction with non-forceful peaceful methods.

Second. Ivanishvili "remembers" his own statement, made upon returning to politics in a lengthy TV interview to the Public Broadcaster. Then he said that he did not attach much importance to the presidential election, since the Georgian Dream has all the power in the country, the president with reduced by the Constitution powers is not a game-changer, and therefore he will not be upset if the opposition wins the elections. After that, he starts serious intraparty work, achieves a noticeable increase in the government's efficiency, debugs the broken communication with society and takes part in the 2020 parliamentary election with a renewed party. Which are extremely important for all political forces and, of course, for the population. Which will define Georgia's fate in the near future.

It's up to Ivanishvili. And, of course, he is well aware that, after making peace with Vashadze's victory, after his inauguration, he will be opposed by former prime minister and former interior minister Vano Merabishvili, former defense minister Bacho Akhalai,  as well as Mikhail Saakashvili with the charges dropped and restored Georgian citizenship. The pardon issues under the new Constitution remained in the president's power, and Vashadze, of course, would not miss the opportunity to help his fellow party members. That is why the first option seems more realistic - Ivanishvili mobilizes all the forces and resources for his candidate to win in the second round. It does not mean that the second option will be rejected - before the 2020 parliamentary elections, he needs to noticeably increase the efficiency of the executive branch, establish communication with the society and update the “tarnished” Georgian Dream. He needs to implement such a plan of action so that the wake-up call, heard during the first round of the presidential election on October 28, does not become a death knell of a political bell.