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Final news update ahead of the Georgian election

With only two days until the upcoming Georgian parliamentary elections on October 31st, New Eastern Europe is watching the developments in Tbilisi closely. This election will be the first since the electoral structure was reformed from a majoritarian system to a predominantly proportional one. Georgia, like the rest of the world, is also facing the economic and public health difficulties that have accompanied the global pandemic. Make sure to follow Georgian Election News for regular updates. #GEElectionNEWS

October 29, 2020 - Mackenzie Baldinger - Articles and Commentary

Freedom Square in Tbilisi. Photo: Zacqary Xeper flickr.com

This week in Georgia…

Latest polls show strengthening support for Georgian Dream and UNM

The most recent survey from IPSOS, released on October 28th, shows the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party is polling at 40 per cent, a 14-point gain from the last survey in mid-October. The largest opposition party, United National Movement (UNM), has also made significant gains in the last two weeks. The party is currently polling at 33 per cent, a 15-point jump from the last survey.

This significant jump in support shows that both parties have been able to capture some of the undecided vote in recent weeks. Per the March 8th agreement between the opposition and the government, Georgian Dream can only claim a majority of seats in parliament if it garners 40 per cent of votes, making this recent increase in support noteworthy. If the party cannot reach the threshold, it will need to form a coalition with other parties to form its next government. According to the poll, there are currently eight other parties that are polling above one per cent, which is the new threshold for entering parliament.

Party leaders and politicians test positive for COVID-19

Georgia’s epidemiological situation has worsened in recent weeks, averaging just under 2,000 COVID-19 cases a day in the last week of October. The increasing caseload has affected both the voters and the political class, with candidates and party leaders testing positive just days before the election.

In the last two weeks…

  • Businessman and founder of the new Lelo opposition party, Mamuka Khazaradze, announced on October 18th that he had tested positive for COVID-19. As the prime ministerial candidate for the Lelo party, which is currently polling at 4 per cent, he will be holding his final campaign rally remotely.
  • The head of the Girchi party, Zurbab Japaridze, has announced he will not be participating in final campaign events after his son tested positive for COVID-19 on October 22nd.
  • Otar Kakhidze, a majoritarian candidate for the European Georgia party, tested positive for COVID-19 on October 10th and subsequently suspended his campaign events.
  • One of the Georgian Dream’s top candidates, Mamuka Mdinaradze, announced on October 20th that he was entering isolation after contact with a member of parliament that had tested positive.
  • Free Georgia’s party chairman, Kakha Kukava, announced on October 26th that he was positive for COVID-19 and will be isolating as well.

These COVID-19 cases have hindered campaign events and forced many political pundits to enter isolation just days before the election.  However, it still remains to be seen how the epidemiological situation will affect voter turnout on Saturday’s election.

Large UNM rally planned for Saturday evening

Tbilisi City Hall announced on October 28th that the United National Movement party had filed a request to hold a large rally in front of the parliament after the closing of the polls on Saturday. UNM leaders argue that the rally is place for supporters to view “how the election results are submitted to the Central Election Commission, and most importantly, celebrate the victory together.” However, members of the Georgian Dream party have characterized the rally as part of a revolutionary movement that they allege UNM is planning.

Irakli Kobakhidze, campaign chief of the Georgian Dream party, has accused UNM of opening a “revolutionary headquarters” with the intent to “provoke citizens, encourage violence, and turn the political process into a revolutionary scenario.” His words were followed by Defence Minister, Irakli Garibashvili, who called for the “clown Saakashvili” and his “traitorous force” (UNM) to be abolished.

Central Election Commission struggles to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions

With an increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases and thousands of citizens currently in government-mandated isolation, the Central Election Commission (CEC) has been tasked with ensuring that all voters have the opportunity to cast their ballot.

After a short window was announced for constituents to register their intent to vote remotely, the CEC came under criticism by Transparency International (TI) for significant bureaucratic barriers in the voter registration process. According to TI, the CEC failed to sufficiently inform isolated voters of the registration deadline and process, and the Ministry of Health’s incomplete list of citizens in isolation caused some voters to be told they were ineligible for the process.

In addition to TI’s criticism, protesters and members of the party European Georgia gathered outside of the headquarters on October 27th to demand an extension to the registration process. The CEC maintains that they sufficiently informed isolated citizens but still agreed to extend the deadline until later in the day. Despite these developments, TI maintains that “thousands of eligible voters” may not be able to vote on Saturday.

Mackenzie Baldinger is a contributing editor with New Eastern Europe and a political researcher focusing on political extremism and populism in Central and Eastern Europe. She has a Master’s Degree in International Relations from Central European University and is currently completing an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree in European Politics at Leiden University.

Stay updated this weekend with New Eastern Europe as we bring you the election results and all things Georgian election related. #GEelectionNEWS

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