President Giorgi Margvelashvili recently announced that he would not be seeking re-election after it became clear that Georgia’s opposition was not going to unite behind him. Georgia’s opposition groups are now fielding a broad group of candidates which make it easier for the ruling Georgian Dream government to elect its own preferred candidate. Speaker of Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze even claimed in a typically bullish announcement that there is no chance at all for the opposition to win the elections. However, with no currently registered candidates polling higher than 15%-20%, and Georgians’ electoral preferences historically hard to predict, Kobakhidze’s claim might turn out to be premature.
Trust is in decline when it comes to the peoples’ relationship with all government institutions, as well as within society itself. Even though the economy continues to grow, social mobility has stagnated since about 2012, and the confidence boost after the 2013 peaceful transfer of power from Mikheil Saakashvili’s government (2004-2013) to Georgian Dream quickly subsided.
Current accusations against the Central Electoral Commission — that have not been independently verified — are coming from a small opposition coalition led by the United National Movement (UNM). They revolve around alleged nepotism and coordination with the government as well as an audit of the Presidential Administration which found that officials had received bonuses totalling US$1 million more than official salaries and this will further erode trust.
There are two ways of interpreting this trend: a pessimist might see a more cynical and atomised society emerge, while others would point out that a healthy dose of scepticism towards the government is essential for democracies. Either way, with 67% of Georgians saying that the country is moving in the wrong direction, Kobakhidze and the Georgian Dream could be in for what in is often described as an October Surprise.
This analysis is taken from our regional Caspian Focus report, which provides political, economic and sector specific intelligence on the Caspian states. If you would like to receive the rest of the report, or would like to discuss its contents with us, then please contact one of our consultants here.