Georgia: Local rise for Georgian Dream

Lasha Tughushi, Liberal Academy Tbilisi Foundation (Georgia, Tbilisi)

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The results of the October local elections proved the weakness of the mixed electoral system for the Georgian realities, effectively establishing the monopoly of one party for power in the regions and launching the presidential election company. At the same time, in the international economic ratings, Georgia again improved its positions. And on the international arena it strengthens relations with the European partners.

Domestic Policy. Monopoly on local power

Securing a landslide victory in the aftermath of the local elections in October, the Georgian Dream party won almost in all the constituencies including both proportional representation and majority election principles. Four parties were able to make it  to the local representative body – Sakrebulo – according to the principle of the proportional representation, namely: the Georgian Dream as the winner with 53.15% of votes, the Saakashvili’s party United National Movement (UNM) with 17.66% votes, a UNM splinter party the European Georgia (9.18%) and the anti-NATO Alliance of Patriots of Georgia (5.62%). The remaining twelve parties and electoral blocs were not able to pass the 4% threshold and did not make it to Sakrebulo.

The Central Election Commission decided to host a second round of the elections in the self-governing city of Kutaisi and the self-governing communities of Kazbegi, Khashuri, Borjomi, Ozurgeti, and Martvili on 12, November. Tbilisi, the capital, became the main trophy. The main intrigue could have been the second round including Alexander Elisashvili, a runner-up independent candidate. Famous for his free-spokenness and loved by the Tbilisi residents, the former journalist got 17.48% of votes, having overcome the powerful party machines but for one exception–the Georgian Dream and its favorite Kakha Kaladze. In case of making it to the second round, Elisashvili might have received the support of the other parties’ followers. However, Kaladze, with his considerable financial, administrative and domestic party support secured his victory already in the first round with 51.09% of votes.

The local elections yet again demonstrated the toxicity of the mixed electoral system for the Georgian reality

One against all approach have already been tried. The revised Constitution adopted by the Parliament in the third reading in October became an example of the same political battle with the only difference of both the civil society and the President of Georgia joining the political parties. However, this battle was yet again won by the Georgian Dream with adopting the Constitution and therefore overcoming all the difficulties.

The local elections yet again demonstrated the toxicity of the mixed electoral system for the Georgian reality. In Tbilisi alone the Georgian Dream got fifteen seats by the proportional representation, whereas three other parties finished with a total of ten seats. It was again the Georgian Dream that won in all 25 majority constituencies. To sum it all up, the results were the following: forty seats out of fifty were taken by one party and ten seats – by remaining three parties.

Such results came as yet another proof that constitutional changes regarding the complete transit to the proportional representation from 2024 instead of 2020 is nothing but an attempt made by the ruling authorities to keep their positions for four more years.

Despite the fact that the second round of the elections is yet to take place, the preparations have already been made for the coming presidential elections. According to the new Constitution, the next president is going to be the last ruler elected by direct vote.

Economy: Better ratings

In the Doing Business rating the Best European Countries for Business 2017 rating of the independent non-governmental organization the European Chamber) Georgia improved its performance by 7 points, now showing a record ranking of 9th against 16th.

The Head of the Government made a statement on the matter that was quite optimistic: “Georgia is among the top ten countries on the ease of doing business rating. We understand that this will not make an immediate impact on the country’s population, however, it is extremely important that the citizens know about their future prospects”.

Another considerable positive change can be seen in Starting a Business rating, according to which Georgia is ranked 4th against 8th previous year, while its Resolving Insolvency rating went up from 106 to 57 due to the implementing its sentencing reforms.

Yet the Western Georgia faced a serious agricultural challenge–a small bug caused major difficulties both for the local farmers and the authorities. The Asian stink bug  is a type of bug damaging almost all kinds of crops, as well as berries, fruits and vegetables. It was first recorded in Samegrelo in 2015. This agricultural pest caused considerable damage to nuts, corn, soya, mulberry, and vegetables. However, the bug is dangerous for all plants and is an insect able to spread diseases.

According to the Georgian Ministry of Agriculture, a scientific and consulting group was created to fight the bug, the group is to examine the issue of bringing in the brown marmorated stink bug’s (or the Asian bug’s) biological enemy, as well as to study the experience of the other countries fighting the same problem and apply it to the Georgian conditions. The Ministry of Agriculture is to spend 14 mln lari fighting the Asian stink bug in 2018.

Foreign Policy. Without EU but with Great Britain

“As I never tire of saying, and as the Prime Minister Theresa May never tires of saying–we may be leaving the EU, but we are not leaving Europe, and we regard the Euro-Atlantic vocation of Georgia as being one of the key ambitions of our policy”, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told his Georgian counterpart, the Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Mikheil Janelidze in London.

The United Kingdom always acted as a trustworthy partner for Georgia. According to Boris Johnson, the UK is interested in developing its cooperation with Georgia in many fields, and his visit to Georgia is planned for the nearest future. In his opinion, it is essential for the European continent to strengthen the Georgian security and defense.

As for the Vice Prime Minister of Georgia, he underlined the importance of the further developing of partnership and friendship with the United Kingdom, and stated that Georgia is interested in the developing of a bilateral legal format of the agreements with the UK, including free trade.