Saakashvili fails to gain revenge once again

Saakashvili fails to gain revenge once again

Georgia's elections on Sunday -  parliamentary by-elections, sakrebulo by-elections and extraordinary mayoral elections in a number of districts and cities - created new tensions in the domestic political situation. The opposition threatens the authorities to hold widespread protest demonstrations if the CEC announces the preliminary results of the elections final.

At other times, the vote on Sunday could have gone unnoticed or would not have attracted much attention. But today it turned out to be in the foreground, since it could have marked either the beginning of the former ruling party United National Movement's revenge, or even greater approval of the ruling Georgian Dream party. The recent presidential election, which required the runoff to determine the winner, despite the government's virtually unlimited support for one of the candidates, Salome Zourabishvili, demonstrated that the ruling party's positions were shaken. Further events in Georgia, in particular, the epic with the Supreme Court, which caused a split in the ranks of the GD, only confirmed this observation - the government is losing popularity, and sometimes causes frank irritation of a part of society with its persistence in certain issues, weak competence and lack of initiative - in others, and general cynicism in general. That is why the vote on Sunday caused an increased interest.

However, they could not be called full-fledged elections. Voting took place in those areas where, for some reason, a void was formed in one or another power branch. In the Mtatsminda district of Tbilisi, for example, they elected a deputy to the Georgian Parliament - the place became vacant after Salome Zurabishvili, who won the presidential election, resigned as a deputy. And the population of Zugdidi, in Western Georgia, was electing a new mayor, since the former mayor was put into jail due to his participation in corruption schemes. In some areas, there were vacant seats in local legislative bodies or in administrations.

It's not by chance that the elections in Tbilisi and Zugdidi are outlined. Those are the ones where much was not clear, while voting for certain candidates in other Georgian regions seemed predetermined by virtue of the GD positions, and the inevitable use of administrative resource, albeit well-kept. And eventually, the GM people won everywhere.

But in the end of the month the re-elections will be held in Mtatsminda district of the capital: the candidate from the GD has bypassed rivals, but did not reach the 50% threshold  - the authorities explained it by the passivity of the population. But in Zugdidi, Mikheil Saakashvili's wife, former first lady of Georgia Sandra Roelofs claimed the post of mayor. Her victory could have marked the beginning of the UNM's return to previous positions, and Mikheil Saakashvili's return, against whom several criminal cases were initiated, to his homeland.

Sandra Roelofs, who is of Dutch origin, moved to Zugdidi during her election campaign, which was led very aggressively, which immediately made her more sympathetic in the eyes of Zugdidi people. When her husband was the president she won over the inhabitants of the Megrelia region, the administrative center of which is Zugdidi, with her  rather good knowledge of not just Georgian, but also Megrelian language. But it, as well as the maximum possible support of UND and her husband was not enough for the victory - at least official.

Her opponent from the GD, Giorgi Shengelia announced his victory and thanked the Zugdidi people against the background of an unopened ballot box. Roelofs immediately announced that it was the joint success of the dictatorial power, security forces and criminals. She sarcastically congratulated the authorities with an unprecedented level of merging with the underworld and warned: if the CEC approves Shengelia's victory, protest actions will be held across the whole country, including Megrelia.

Megrelia is a complex region bordering Abkhazia. A large part of the post-Soviet period, it expressed discontent, not resigned to the overthrow and expulsion of first President Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Full reconciliation with Tbilisi happened only after the removal of Eduard Shevardnadze from power, who was considered in Megrelia the main 'offender' of Gamsakhurdia. It turns out that the 'nationals' who managed to stabilize the region’s relations with the center now threaten to undermine them.

There is no shortage of comments on Sunday’s election. The GD supporters are celebrating yet another failure of the revanchist-minded UNM. Opponents are accusing the government of falsifying, bribing, pressure and intimidation of voters. As usual, the opposition TV channel Rustavi-2 turns up the heat, announcing a fee of $1,000 for each video evidence of violation of the voting process. It is not yet known how much the budget of the television company has reduced, but there is almost no doubt that a 'series' on this subject may soon be demonstrated. And it will be an open question what is real and what is staged, because Rustavi-2 is known not only for its high-quality operational and informational-analytical work, but also for professionally-made deceits.

Moderate critics believe that the results of any election in Georgia after the 2016 parliamentary election will be questionable as long as it features oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili leading the Georgian Dream - the population is poor and he has no difficulty to buy votes, and in fact it will seem clear - ballots in ballot boxes, the absence of mass pressure on the voter, etc.

"The main thing in such conditions is that the so-called coordinators do not try to embezzle part of the money allocated for the purchase of votes, thus causing resonant conflicts, and pay the voters carefully, leaving no evidence or traces. Then we can witness the unprecedented long reign of the Georgian Dream, when all persons can change, except for one. You know who I'm talking about, don't you?" one of the Georgian users of Facebook predicts.

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Vestnik Kavkaza

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