Georgia is entering an active phase of the parliamentary election campaign. While the ruling party has already presented some of the candidates, the opposition failed to unite.
The Pre-election Race Has Started
Although the pre-election period in Georgia officially starts on August 31, the parties have already poured gasoline into the engine of the “electoral machine” and are moving at high speed through the political labyrinths.
The ruling political actor “Georgian Dream” became the first party to present a list of 30 majoritarian candidates. However, only one out of those 30 candidates is a woman. The ruling party promised to correct the gender balance in the proportional list.
As for 150 members of the Georgian parliament, only 30 will be elected by the majority system, while the remaining 120 will be elected by proportional lists.
On the opposition front, the situation is more complicated. Despite the “optimistic” forecasts, the opposition failed to unite. The only thing that the majority of the opposition parties managed to agree on is a list of common candidates in 6 out of 8 constituencies in Tbilisi, while consultations on the other two are still ongoing. However, it seems that, as with the other 22 majoritarian mandates and proportional electoral lists of 120 people, the general opposition unity should not be expected. In other words, the “all against one” slogan announced by many representatives of the opposition including Mikhail Saakashvili, did not come into reality. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of the opposition is still trying to reach an agreement and to some extent coordinate their activities in the regions.
The step expected by the opposition from the Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili to de-radicalize the elections was never made. She refused to grant amnesty to Giorgi Rurua, one of the founders of an oppositional TV channel. It should be noted that a few hours before the adoption of this decision, Salome Zurabishvili had a meeting with the Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia.
A hot August is coming, which can paradoxically cool the society yearning for rest, and drown the electoral battles in routine party work.
“The ruling political actor “Georgian Dream” became the first party which presented a list of 30 majoritarian members to the public.”
Domestic Tourism is not a Save for the Economy
According to a study by the Policy and Management Consulting Group (PMCG), in the third quarter of 2020, the domestic tourism maximum potential for replacing international tourism by income is only 33%. Upon the government decision, the market opened for domestic tourism on June 15. The study says that “due to the significant share of foreign visitors in Georgia’s tourism sector, domestic tourism is unlikely to offset the revenues expected from tourism in general.”
As for the external tourism, according to the decision of the Interdepartmental Coordinating Council dated July 8, Georgia unconditionally opened the borders for 5 EU member states (Germany, France, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia). This was preceded by a similar decision by the mentioned countries. Citizens of these five countries can come to Georgia with any kind of visit.
Despite the decision to open the borders, the exact date of the regular flights’ resumption is unknown. Negotiations with airlines on resuming flights with the listed countries are underway. At this stage, an agreement was reached only with Lufthansa, which starts with 2 flights a week from Munich in August.
Georgia is optimistic about the readiness of the tourism infrastructure. At the same time, due to low rates of COVID-19 spread, the country is cautiously optimistic about the prospect of external tourism opening.
According to Tengiz Tsertsvadze, the head of Infectious Diseases, AIDS and Clinical Immunology Research Center, a sharp increase in coronavirus cases after the opening of the borders is not expected in Georgia. Tsertsvadze announced this to reporters on July 28.
Criticism from the USA
Six American congressmen sent an appeal to the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which says that the current government of Georgia, under the leadership of the “Georgian Dream”, manipulated by the Russian oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili, is trying to expel American businessmen from the country, and “this is done to increase investments from Russia, China, and Iran.” There are two cases involving American business that became a problem in Georgia. One of them is connected with energy resources, and the other – with a Black Sea port.
Senator Jim Risch, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, responded to the situation in Georgia and asked the Georgian president to grant an amnesty to Giorgi Rurua, one of the shareholders of the opposition TV channel Mtavari.
Such critical letters and appeals from Washington became frequent, which makes the ruling Georgian political actor nervous and wondering if the direction of the wind blowing from the West has changed.
In response to these messages, the Georgian Prime Minister stated that nothing threatens the strategic partnership between the United States and Georgia, just as nothing threatens the interests of American business in Georgia. Regarding criticism from the congressmen, Gakharia said that the political spectrum in the US is diverse, and “some congressmen praise Georgia, while others criticize it.”
Congress of Deputies of the “Georgian Dream”
Photo credits: https://www.ekhokavkaza.com/