The hardly fought election campaign in Georgia is fully under way, characterised by a competitive environment, even though the main opposition bloc remains under what many consider to be, unnecessary pressure.
A feature of this campaign that had been largely missing in previous Georgian elections with a few exceptions is the competitive nature in the part of the elections reserved for majoritarian candidates, namely those contesting for the single member constituency seats that make up nearly half of the 150 person parliament.
The two main political forces, Saakashvili’s United National Movement and Bidhzina Ivanishvili’s opposition “Georgian Dream bloc have both assigned some of their top people to contest the so-called majoritarian seats as their importance in this election has now become evident.
The United National Movement will be represented in the single seat election in Batumi by Giorgi Baramidze, who resigned from his position as State Minister for European integration in order to contest the election. President Mikheil Saakashvili personally introduced Baramidze to the voters of Adjara, describing him as a long time friend who had helped introduce him to Georgian politics. Baramidze had previously run as a majoritarian candidate in the Tbilisi constituency of Didube and the decision to field Baramidze in Batumi is not clear.
The Georgian Dream coalition has fielded the leader of one of the Parties forming part of the bloc, Irakli Alasania to contest the constituency of Zugdidi. Alasania held various positions in Saakashvili’s government, including that of Ambassador to the United Nations, before resigning to join the opposition. He has extensive family connections in Abkhazia and amongst the Georgian community displaced by the war in Abkhazia. Introducing him as the majoritarian candidate for the western Georgian town of Zugdidi the leader of the Georgian Dream coalition praised Alasania’s patriotism and skills and said that he was sure that he will win the seat.
The opposition is also afraid that voters may be confused by the personalities involved. Leader of opposition Georgian Dream coalition, Bidzina Ivanishvili,campaigning in Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti regions on August 26-27, called on supporters not to differentiate between supporting Georgian Dream in party-list and majoritarian contests when casting ballot in the October 1 parliamentary elections.
“You have to realize it very well that a majoritarian MP candidate supporting [ruling party United] National Movement can’t be your friend; such a candidate can only be a friend to the National Movement… You can not perceive such a candidate separately [without UNM],” he told supporters at a campaign meeting in Lentekhi on August 26.