CRRC: 1/3 of Georgians Believe Gov’t Inaction, Polarization to Blame for Missed EU Candidacy
A new survey by the Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC) on the Georgia population’s attitude towards EU candidate status and related issues found that a fifth (18%) cited the inaction of the government, while an equal 14% cited political polarization and non-fulfillment of membership candidacy requirements as the reason that the country did not receive candidate status.
European Perspective, pro-EU Rally, and Reform Efforts
On June 23, the European Council recognized Georgia’s European perspective but refrained from granting it EU candidate status as they did with Ukraine and Moldova. Instead, Georgia must now fulfill the European Commission’s 12 recommendations to receive candidate status. The day after the decision on June 24, a massive rally outside the Georgian Parliament called for Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili to resign and for a technical government to replace the existing one within a week over the government’s failure to secure EU candidate status for the country.
A week later when the ruling Georgian Dream party refused to meet the protestors’ demands, thousands gathered on Rustaveli Avenue once again. Following a brief gathering, some of the protestors moved to the Georgian Government Administration’s building and remained overnight with the aim to disrupt the arrival of PM Garibashvili to the scheduled cabinet meeting in the morning. Ultimately, however, the night itself ended in disappointment directed at the failure of the rally to come up with concrete results or a plan of action.
Since then, while there have been no further protests, the Georgian Dream government presented and has started working on a plan with a part of the opposition and select civil society organizations on fulfilling the European Commission’s recommendations. Other opposition parties, however, have taken a critical view of the ruling party’s efforts and commitment to fulfilling the recommendations and launched their own working processes. Notably, Georgian Dream was criticized recently for excluding the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) from the working group on electoral reforms.
Another third (30%) of the population could not name a reason for the European Commission’s decision, while 8% of the population stated that the opposition prevented the country from receiving candidacy. 4% believe it’s because Georgia refuses to start a war with Russia, while 3% blame Russia. Overall, 76% of Georgians had heard of the fact that Georgia did not receive EU candidate status.
A percent point each blamed it on the ruling party’s refusal to implement the EU-brokered 19 April agreement, the informal rule of Bidzina Ivanishvili, the imprisonment of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, Ukraine’s position in relation to Georgia, and lastly, that the EU simply does not need Georgia.
War Blackmail Conspiracy
Asked whether they believe in the narrative propagated by the ruling party that the West asked Georgia to start a war with Russia, a majority of the public stated that they do not. Nor do they believe that EU candidate status was dependent on starting a war with Russia.
- GD Split-off MPs: EU Candidacy “Mousetrap” for Govt
- Ivanishvili Addresses “War Blackmail” Controversy
In answer to whether Georgia would receive candidate status for starting a war with Russia, 60% of the population believes that it is somewhat false or entirely false. 17% meanwhile believe that it is somewhat true or entirely true. 23% did not have an opinion on the matter.
According to the CRRC survey, a large part of the population (45%) does not expect that the Georgian government will carry out the necessary reforms to receive EU candidacy by the end of the year, of that group, 17% do not expect it at all while 29% feel there is a higher chance of it not happening. 29% however, do believe or somewhat believe that the reforms will be carried out.
When respondents were asked about the demand voiced by pro-Europe protestors for a technical government to be established to oversee reforms, 42% said it was an unacceptable request, while 29% believed it to be acceptable, and 26% did not have an opinion.
Deoligarchization and Bidzina Ivanishvili
When the European Commission released its recommendations, specifically in regards to deoligarchization, the ruling Georgian Dream party and members of the public, civil society organizations, and opposition parties split on the issue of whether ex-PM and ruling party founder Bidzina Ivanishvili is an oligarch or not. The ruling party has maintained the strict line that it is not Ivanishvili that the recommendation has in mind.
When CRRC asked the public who the European Commission had in mind when recommending deoligarchization, more than half of the respondents did not know who it had in mind. When dealing with people who were able to name someone, however, most often (35%) cited Ivanishvili. 3% believed the recommendation was directed at Saakashvili, his ex-Defense Minister, and the owner of Formula TV, Davit Kezerashvili. Two-two percentage points believe that it was issued in reference to TBC Bank and Lelo for Georgia party founder Mamuka Khazaradze and businessman Vano Chkhartishvili.
Notably, supporters of the ruling party (51%), those with no party (55%), and those who could not name a party whose views they support (62%) most often stated that they did not know who the recommendation had in mind. Among supporters of the opposition, however, 60% stated that the European Commission had Ivanishvili in mind when issuing the recommendation.
Support for European Integration
Regarding support for European integration, CRRC found that 68% of the population still supports the country’s joining the EU, with 53% fully supportive and 15% partially supportive. In 2020 however, 73% were fully or partially supportive of joining the EU. Notably, in the last five months, support for joining the EU has dropped by 7% points – it was at 75% in March.
According to the study, the decline may be linked to a change in attitude among ruling party supporters. The study cites a 2020 Caucasus Barometer survey which showed that 76% supported Georgia joining the EU, while in July 2022, that number was 68%.
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