Georgian and Western officials reacted with serious concern to statements of now sacked Georgian Defence Minister Irakli Alasania, who last week claimed a series of arrests in his ministry over alleged corruption were “obviously politically motivated” and represented an “attack on Georgia’s Euro Atlantic orientation.”
Anytime a defence minister makes such powerfully worded statements that question state capacity, there are only two logical outcomes – either tanks will roll in streets to put the country back on course, or the country’s leader should immediately fire his defence minister. Fortunately, the latter was the cases, but the credit for this should be given to both parties who didn’t let emotions get in the way of their country’s democratic development. Though some harsh rhetoric might still finds its way into the media spotlight, it appears the main disagreements will be confined to party offices.
The biggest question still remains - how will this affect the political landscape? While Moscow is ‘watching closely,’ Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili held a meeting with the diplomatic community to allay any fears that the country is drifting from its Western orientation.
Alasania is undoubtedly perceived as one of the most prominent Western-oriented politicians in Georgia and he will likely leverage this support in the future. Still, whenever leadership changes occur in a war ministry, it raises questions as to the degree of ruling party coherence.
Naturally, the Euro-Atlantic dimension will remain Mr. Alasamia’s key card and he also should work hard to make new allies and distance himself from others. Building and maintaining party infrastructure would all the while remain a hidden challenge. As in all states, this simply requires cash, and Western allies are not the right doors to go knocking on. Will he manage to introduce what has been proven in the West but never seen in Georgia - a transparent and legal money donation system that provides sufficient funding for political activities? Time will tell.
Until recently, and based on public opinion polling results, there were two key players on the political stage – the GD coalition and the United National Movement (UNM), though both were in different weight categories and the Georgian media was often portraying the UNM as an ultimate opposition. The opposition should become more diverse now that the ex-Defence Minister’s Free Democrats party (FD) has dropped out of the ruling GD coalition. However, can FD in succeed in squeezing the UNM and establish itself as a strong player?
Let’s consider for a moment that the Prosecutor’s Office only has issues with those who have already been interrogated or detained in the Ministry of Defence and will not present criminal charges against Alasania, which would allow him to continue his political practices. As of today, he has more assets than ever. FD party members are represented in both national and local parliaments (and I believe not all of them will go back to GD). Most of them are apprised politicians with extensive experience. Alasania himself enjoys pretty good trust rating among the general public, but this might suffer after his dismissal, especially if he draws criticism from ex-Prime Minister Mr. Ivanishvili.
To reflect these changes, below GORBI will present new ratings of key players and political parties in upcoming weeks. However, for this column I decided to share some data from our September survey that was conducted among 1,000 respondents across the country. Among United National Movement leaders, Mr. Bakradze (ex parliamentary chairman under former president Saakashvili) holds the highest ratings, with 28% of respondent having confidence in him . The same survey revealed that Mr. Alasania enjoyed higher confidence among two in five respondents (41%), placing him among other top politicians. Personal confidence or trust rating should not be translated directly in party support or a party’s rating, but rather a good indicator of possible success or failure for a politician.
As shown in the Table 1, both politicians have more fans among females compared to male supporters and among older respondents. They also have fewer supporters among poor segments of society. However, since 2012 parliamentary elections, the number of citizens who casts their votes has seriously declined and among other reasons for this decrease is a small or very limited political choice. This will most likely change.
Table 1. Demographic variables (confidence in %)
Source: GORBI, Georgian nationwide surveys.
Regardless of the upcoming political developments on the ground, the reality is that Georgia remains occupied by foreign forces and we still need physical protection and assistance for democratic reforms. There are still only two institutions we should continue to strive towards… and this path is still very long.
Since 2003, GORBI remains an exclusive member of Gallup International research network for its two decades of experience in survey research in post-Soviet Union countries, as well as Mongolia and Iraq. The survey was conducted on a national representative sample of 1,000 respondents; data retains a 3% margin of error, with confidence at 95%. This data was provided exclusively to the Financial. Please do not visit our site ( www.gorbi.com ); it is under construction.