A new public opinion poll, commissioned by the International Republican Institute (IRI) and released on April 5 reveals that the Georgian public is split on the issue of snap elections, disapproving the opposition’s decision to boycott the new Parliament and concerned with the economy. Politicians from the ruling Georgian Dream and the opposition parties expressed mixed reactions to the poll.
The fieldwork for the poll was carried out during the politically charged period of February 2-26, which marked Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia quitting the post on February 18, with Irakli Garibashvili coming as his successor on February 22. Also during this period, on February 23, police stormed the United National Movement office, and detained top opposition leader Nika Melia.
In subsequent turn of events, on March 1, European Council President Charles Michel visited Tbilisi and launches EU mediation of the political crisis; Scandalous covert recordings involving PM Garibashvili and Bera Ivanishvili dropped on March 6; EU mediation failed twice during March 12-31; Georgia started COVID-19 vaccination rollout; ex-PM Gakharia announced that he would stay in politics;
Below is a compilation of some of the remarks made by politicians in response to the IRI-commissioned public opinion poll:
Ruling Party Reactions
Irakli Kobakhidze, Georgian Dream Chairperson, MP: “When the fieldwork for the study was being conducted, during this time, Giorgi Gakharia was one of the leaders of the Georgian Dream and the Prime Minister of the Georgian Dream. Naturally, at such times the rating of the party helps the personal rating. We were constantly talking about the fact that Giorgi Gakharia had a high rating as Prime Minister and this was once again confirmed by the IRI study that was published… As for the support of the Georgian Dream, this study also confirmed that this support is very strong and stable.”
Shalva Papuashvili, Georgian Dream MP: “Surveys are not necessary [to understand public mood]; we all sense the attitude of those close to us, citizens, neighbors. Do we not see what the public attitude is? This attitude that citizens seem to want early elections is a false narrative. Except for a certain closed group […], this opinion is not supported in society.”
Davit Matikashvili, Georgian Dream MP: “It is well known to the public that there are generally many question marks regarding the IRI poll. These question marks have an absolutely objective basis, as the fieldwork for IRI surveys is carried out by an organization affiliated with the [United] National Movement [party]… There is a radical difference between opposition parties and the ruling party in terms of ratings even today. This evinces that the policy of the Georgian Dream is supported by our society. And this makes it clear that the public is not [backing] street politics, but rather, opposition within the Parliament.”
Salome Samadashvili, the United National Movement: “It is difficult to make judgements based on the results of this survey since such significant changes have taken place since the study was conducted. The public clearly prefers the opposition to be represented in Parliament, although at the same time, it is clear that public opinion is very visibly divided. Literally half of our voters want new early elections to be held in the country.”
Otar Kakhidze, European Georgia: “It is important to note that the fieldwork was carried out prior to a key moment, which was Gakharia’s resignation and Melia’s arrest. Consequently, after this step, that is the resignation of Prime Minister and the first person on the [Georgian Dream] party list, who was the head of the [Georgian Dream] campaign and as the most highly-rated figure, the opposition’s demand for snap elections became more valid. [This is] because Garibashvili did not have a mandate even from Georgian Dream supporters.”
Ana Natsvlishvili, Lelo for Georgia: “Putting aside the political crisis for a moment, the numbers – showing how fragmented the society is (that is the level of polarization), the very dire state of the economy – illustrate, among others, that this [level of] depression and disappointment has not been in the country even after the [2008 Russo-Georgian] war… We need a reset in all directions.”
Reaction from ex-PM Gakharia’s Forthcoming Team
Kakhaber Kemoklidze, Former Government Administration Head Under ex-PM Gakharia: “Quite an interesting trend has emerged – one of the most important and interesting parts, personal rankings of political figures, of the poll conducted by an authoritative American organization [IRI] has deliberately been less accentuated. In the political context, it is obvious that political figures from both sides, tried to ensure that Gakharia’s high ranking was not a subject of a wide-range discussion. This trend was directly reflected in the coverage of the survey by top-rated TV channels.”
- IRI Poll Shows Public Split on Snap Elections, Concerned with Economy
- Former Prime Minister Gakharia ‘Not Quitting Politics’