Georgia: The Current Atmosphere is Optimistic
The atmosphere in Georgia is currently at its most buoyant since 1990. The vast majority of the adult population is happy about the direction in which Georgia is currently going (70% of surveys say that the country is going in the right direction compared with 5% just 4 months ago).
The survey, conducted by members of Gallup International in November and December in 60 countries and comprising interviews with more than 65,000 citizens across the world, shows that Georgia is now among the top 3 most optimistic countries in the world.
In some countries, specific local events have produced a dramatic effect on the population. Last year, Hong Kong was in the grip of the SARS epidemic; therefore, emerging from it in the end of 2003 the population was far more optimistic. Meanwhile, in Georgia the overthrow of Eduard Shevardnadze has also resulted in an upsurge of optimism an d new hope. UN-administered Kosovo has been one of the most positive countries for the last 3 years, and this year it tops the list again demonstrating that peacekeeping brings both stability and optimism.
Interestingly, no Western-European countries are included in the top 10, perhaps reflecting the political strains within Europe that marked 2003, but also indicating the lack of improvement people predict for their economies in 2004. In comparison with the rest of the world, Georgia boasts the lowest percentage (9%), who think that strikes and industrial disputes in Georgia will increase.
The recent presidential elections have proved that the population is willing and eager to start a new era in Georgian politics.
After the presidential elections, the problem of an elected leader has disappeared, now all that remains is to conduct parliamentary elections so that all government bodies can begin to work in a normal rhythm.
But let’s examine what would happen if we were to have parliamentary elections tomorrow.
At this stage, the result would be very interesting it almost resembles a return to the Soviet era and a one party system (assuming that the National Movement and the Democrats stick to their earlier statement of presenting the same party list and standing together at the elections). Though actually there would have two parties, because of the electoral peculiarities in Ajara. So in effect what we would have would be the Nationals and Democrats vs the Revival union of Ajara.
If the parliamentary elections were to be held tomorrow, which party would you vote for?
During the presidential elections, around 80% of the population said they would most likely participate in the elections. Furthermore, 79% of the Georgian electorate thought that the elections would be conducted fairly, as compared to 11% in August of 2003.
In reality, political parties still have time to recover and get together for the parliamentary elections, scheduled for 28th of March 2004. However, there is one obstacle: the 7% election threshold.
There have been many discussions about reducing this barrier and if Parliament was to lower it to 4% the results could be positive for Georgian politics.
Below, some of these possible benefits are listed:
a. politicians and political parties could be less reluctant to participate in the elections
b. more than 3 political parties will be represented in Parliament
c. there will be less political bargaining after the elections, as to who overcame the 4 or 5% barrier.
Though, the newcomers (Ms. Burjanadze, Mr. Saakashvili and Mr. Zhvania) have secured the trust of the population, there is still concern about coping with corruption and the inevitable economic and political reforms. So, according to public opinion, who are the magicians who can wave a wand over corruption, and start real reforms in the country?
Only two politicians came within the top 7 -
Natelashvili, the Labour party leader, who previously appeared in the top 3 with Saakashvili and Burjanadze; and Mr. Patiashvili, former secretary of the Georgian Communist party and now leader of Unity . In general, all politicians who were not visibly seen to be supporting the rallies and demonstrations against Shevardnadze s regime have ended up with very low ratings from the population.
And finally, the likely outcome of all this is that the opposition parties will sit down together around the table and create one, or perhaps two, opposition coalitions in the hope of getting some seats in Parliament. Though most of them should realize that, compared with 2 months ago, their chances have been severely reduced. One can only hope that they have come to terms with their new slim-line profiles.
by Avto Suluhia
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