Bonjour Monsieur Macron?

Bonjour Monsieur Macron?

The vast majority of Georgians (over 80%) have favorable attitudes towards the President of France, Emmanuel Macron. According to unofficial information, Monsieur President will be attending the inauguration of President-elect Salome Zurabishvili. Therefore, and regardless if he arrives or not, I decided to write in this column small analysis of Georgian citizens’ attitudes towards him.

I also want to kindly thank the Gallup International Association (GIA) for their generous decision to allow us to publish this data before it is officially released as a part of their global End of Year poll.

Favorable attitude towards Emmanuel Macron have quite a lot to do with history of French and Georgian relations. The famous French writer Alexandre Dumas, who traveled to Georgia in 1858, wrote about Georgian people: “They are so wonderful, noble, honest, brave, and generous, that a separate research should be made of them….Europeans cannot even imagine the beauty of the Colchian people. Men especially have particularly beautiful bodies and walking manner. Even an ordinary servant looks like a nobleman”

This favorable attitude towards Georgians is also demonstrated in 1921, when after the Russian Army put an end to Georgia’s independence, much of Georgia’s elite had to find another temporary home, who France gave to them. France sheltered not only the Georgian intellectual elite, but also the Georgian treasury which belonged to Georgian government in exile, and was supervised under the Georgian historian and public benefactor Professor Ekvtime Takaishvili. France not only sheltered the treasury, but returned it to Georgia in the early 1940s, and based on various sources, General Charles de Gaulle played a vital role in this return.

Graph 1. Favorable attitudes towards Mr. Macron by supporters of the Georgian presidential candidates (%)

Source: End of Year Poll, Gallup International Assosiation/GORB. November, nationwide omnibus survey of 1,000 adult citizens.

It is interesting to note that the President-elect, French born Salome Zurabishvili, is also a descendant of that Georgian elite that found refuge in France in 1920s. Opinion research conducted by GORBI in 2018 for GIA’s End of Year Survey, demonstrated that Salome’s Supporters were more likely to have favorable attitudes towards current president of France, than for example supporters of her opponent Grigol Vashadze.

If 71% of Vahsadze’s supporters declared a favorable attitude towards Emmanuel Macron, 86% of Salome Zurabishvili’s supporters demonstrated favorable attitude towards Monsieur President. It is also interesting to note that when looking at the favorability ratings of Emmanuel Macron by Party support, we do not see such big differences. Both supporters of Georgian Dream and the United National Movement show similarly favorable attitudes. Therefore, the real difference is seen when Salome Zurabishvili, former Ambassador of France and current president elect of Georgia enters the picture.

The fact that Salome’s supporters have considerably more favorable attitudes towards Emmanuel Macron insinuates that Madame President may be perceived as a some kind of a bridge between Georgia and France. Salome is associated with France, she speaks French, she understands and is part of the culture, and this may give hope to many Georgians that France, and President Macron in particular, will be even more involved in building a better future for Georgia in the European family.

Based on the same survey, Mr. Macron is equally liked among all generations of Georgian voters, but females tend to have more favorable attitudes towards him than males. 76% of males report favorable attitude towards Mr. Macron, when 85% of women state that they have favorable attitude towards French President. In addition, the more affluent an individuals is, the more favorable attitudes he/she has towards President of France. And Lastly, ethnic Georgians are more likely to have favorable attitudes towards President Macron (81%) than ethnic Azeris and Armenians, 65% and 70% respectively.

As mentioned above, we may host the President of France, and this will be not the first time in our recent history. Georgians clearly remember the unprecedented support of France and in particular then, its president Mr. Sarkozy, during and after the war with Russia in 2008, who worked on a peace settlement with Kremlin and helped save my country from more violence and killings. And, truth be told, President Sarkozy has also saved President Saakashvili from being hanged on a tree with his balls as was Putin’s promise.

Fortunately, we are not again in a war situation with the Russian Federation, but it would still be most welcome if Mr. Macron arrives and supports to his and our countrywoman, President Zurbishvili, in her most important initiative: a peace settlement between divided Georgians.

If due to the current yellow vest protests in France, Mr. Marcon could not find time to arrive to Georgia. And naturally, Georgian people will not be upset, regardless the fact that he has recently visited Armenia.

The print version of this column will be published a week before the scheduled presidential inauguration, and unlike making numerous correct predictions on electoral outcomes, this is the moment when I am helpless to predict the odds of Mr. Macron’s visit to Georgia. But hope dies last 😉

Note: I would like to extend special appreciation to Ani Lortkipanidze who assisted with the analysis and charts featured in this article. GORBI is an exclusive member of the Gallup International research network and has more than two decades of experience in survey research (gorbi.com)