Beacon of Autocracy – Why Mikheil Saakashvili Appointed Elections on October 1st (Monday) 2012?Posted: 2012/08/05
President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili has announced his decision to appoint the Parliamentary elections on October 1st, 2012, Monday. It is the first election since Georgian independence in 1990, which was appointed on regular weekday although for this reason it will be announced as non- working day.
Georgian politologists, constitutional experts and journalists have discussed the probable reasons why would have Saakashvili chosen that particular day. There are political (both domestic and foreign) and constitutional reasons.
First of all, it needs to be mentioned that initially, Parliamentary elections were scheduled for May 2012 – in 4 years since previous similar elections, carried out on May 21, 2008, just before the Russian-Georgian war. However, Saakashvili and his 80% Parliamentary majority holder – ruling party – United National Movement (UNM) have made constitutional amendment, moving elections from May to October. Head of Elections and Political Technologies Center, Kakha Kakhishvili considers that move as political shrewd step by UNM.
1. Elections in May mean that election campaigns will be carried out in March-April (Georgian law considers pre-election period limited by 60 days). Spring is usually very active period. In winter, due to extremely high rates on gas and electricity majority of Georgians cannot afford heating their homes (heating average flat costs around $150 which is nearly 40% of average salary). Therefore, after winter it is not difficult for opposition to get mass protests of impoverished and suffered population. Contrary to that, if elections are hold in October, pre-election campaign period is August-September. Nearly 90% of Georgians are having vacations exactly that time and large cities are empty during that period. Schools and Universities start in mid-September. Therefore, People move to villages, mountains and seaside, and those months are politically “dead season”, which makes task of opposition parties to meet electorate, explain their programs and carry rallies, most complicated.
2. Not only is harder for parties to carry out election campaign during August-September, it is also notable dead season on National TVs. With 3 statewide televisions, all controlled by UNM and their inner circlers, only one having once a week political talk-shows, August-September is exactly that period when even those very seldom political TV programs are off for holiday season! So, along with limited options to meet electorate in personal, parties would have similar hardship to talk with parties and oppose opponents at nation-wide TVs as well. Surely, one can say that both those problems affect ruling UNM as well. Well, not at that extend. They have their own methods to “organize the meetings”. Remember, when Saakashvili was celebrating alone Georgia’s independence day on May 26, 2009 (when opposition held mass rally at National stadium with 80,000 supporters), pupils of 9th grade were summoned on holiday from homes and Saakashvili has carried out a lesson of geography which all National TVs. For whole May-July UNM leaders were holding secret meetings with teachers, bankers, and public servants at restaurants. When it comes to ruling party meetings, everything can be “organized”.
3. For the same reason, starting long awaited “Must Carry” program which would allow some of residents of Georgian regions to see anything but UNM-controlled propaganda, in summer holidays might be more complicated, as cable and satellite companies might complaining on lack of qualified personnel and related technical problems. Such reasons have already delayed effective start of “Must Carry” on 2 weeks.
4. Obvisouly, all polls run in July – NDI, IRI, Oxford Consulting and PSB (http://www.neurope.eu/article/georgian-opposition-takes-lead-poll) have shwon that rate of opposition Georgian Dream movement has doubled since February, whilst rate of UNM continues to decline. Therefore, it was no surprise, Saakashvili decided to carry out the elections sooner – better… The rumors, that election would have been appointed on October’s first week, have been circulating since NDI’s poll’s results. It seemed natural to follow tradition and appoint elections on Sunday – Oct 7. However, as Radio Liberty reports, it could send a signal – circle 7 at October 7 (apparently “7” will be number for Georgian Dream) and Saakashvili would never do such a thing… http://www.rferl.org/content/georgian-parliamentary-election-date-set/24663625.html
5. But now – why on Monday? In every country, suddenly announcing a working weekday as non-working holiday for election reason would mean substantial economic lost. Well, Georgian for president this means nothing compared to chance of power extension (besides, real unemployment hits over 50% in Georgia, and economic lost will probably be not as significant as in economically viable country). The main reason – why Monday, for many Georgian politologists is not domestic, it is international. This is done to keep Georgian emigrants away from elections! As much as possible! It will be holiday in Georgia, but it won’t be holiday elsewhere! Most of foreign experts would probably not accept such categorical judgment, but here is why – Georgian emigrants constitute nearly 25% of Georgian citizens (World Bank and IOM estimate their numbers over 1 mln. Some Georgian experts believe the number is well ahead of 1,2 mln) and they send to their families over $1 bln. Annually, bringing nearly 25% of Georgia’s currency income and stabilizing live of nearly 30% of households at home. And in 2012 Georgian emigrants show firm disapproval of Saakashvili and UNM. They recently formed an international alliance for free and democratic elections in Georgia and proposed Georgian governments to provide 50,000 satellite dishes to those families which lack access to information. Those two facts made Saakashvili’s government furious and they first issued decree demanding from every emigrant passing consular registration 2 months before elections (the decree was issued less than 4 months before elections, but induced strong movement on Facebook and quick organization of yet unorganized Georgian diaspora, especially in Greece, Italy, Germany and USA with largest number of Georgians residing. www.gopetition.com
Then MoFA of Georgia has produced even more draconian decree, demanding not only consular registration, but even a certificate from living place! After acknowledging that such documents do not exist in most of foreign countries, confused Minister Vashadze added a phrase – “or any equivalent document proving residency in that country”. Knowing well, that majority of Georgians live in EU or outside illegally, Georgian government cynically gives a choice – either refrain from elections, or risk a deportation and loosing survival source for your family! But many Georgian emigrants say that this government with its cleptocratic and mob-type racketing, killing any independent business in the country and inducing mass impoverishment of SMEs or individual businessman, is a main reason why they had to leave the homeland and they would take a risk of deportation but will try to vote. Therefore, appointing elections on Monday, Saakashvili knows that in most of the countries only residents of those few cities, where Georgia has embassies or consulates, could probably have chance to come for voting. There is no way to travel to another city for voting on weekday. By making this choice, Saakashvili hopes to cut off from elections nearly every 4th Georgian citizen! Such a cynical move, considering that 2 months ago Georgian Parliament has granted a right to participate in Georgian elections to every non-citizen of Georgia, but citizens of EU!
6. Final query – Why not on Friday, which is Oct 5? Especially, as 5 is all time numebr for UNM and Saakashvili strongly believes in this digit being happy to him. Long time ago I wrote a post called 5/5 and predicting that Saakashvili would prefer to appoint snap election on May 5 or August 5, and if still leaving elections in October, then on Friday, Oct. 5. But here comes the constitutional reason. When Saakashvili has tailored Georgian constitution for sizing it on himself, he was rather accurate to calculate meticulously every step of that transfer from Presidential republic to PrimeMinisterial republic which is unique model in the world. According to new constitution both Parliamentary and Presidential elections must be carried out in October. Newly elected Parliament cannot be dismissed in its first 6 months since election, and in last 6 months before presidential elections. Confronting situation, when Georgian Dream movement can really defeat UNM in Parliamentary elections (Saakashvili knows the real credibility of IRI and NDI open polls, which in a country like Georgia with mass intimidation of the voters – by illegal imprisonment, firing, physical and psychological assaults on persons and family minors – has 40% of people who either hide their political preference or prefer to answer – “I am not sure”), Saakashvili considers an option if he will be confronted by opposition-running Parliament, which will not be obedient notarial office to approve his caprices momentarily. Therefore, he wants to have chance to dismiss such parliament! And for doing that he will have very limited time. Such chance would only exist with Parliamentary elections are appointed at onset of October 2012 and presidential – at end of October 2013. So, right today we can guess, that Georgia’s presidential elections will be set for October 31st, and that would give Saakashvili the whole month of April from 1st to 30st – for dismissing Parliament. As Constitutional Experts Vakhushti Menabde and Vakhtang Khmaladze concluded, Parliament has some chances for overturn, and President may need 27 days for committing his plan. Which means, Georgian Parliament might face dismiss decree from the President on days of April 28, 29 or 30…
But all those mathematical calculations may be void, if Georgian Dream wins constitutional majority of seats in newly elected Parliament. But Beacon of Autocracy has a plan for avoiding that too. I will try to touch that issue in the next Post.
However, there are situations, when he’s got a big blows – for examply, after already naming 1st October as election day, it became clear that this day according to Georgian Church’s calendar is Day of St. Bidzina Cholokashvili, or “Bidzinoba” :))) Saakashvili, with his addiction to symbols, was most probably furious to provide such an unexpected gift to his main rival – Bidzina Ivanishvili! Every church in Georgian will mention on October 1st Bidzina’s name during liturgies! :)))
In my blog “Will Saakashvili pull a Putin or not? – Damned, he will!” https://solomonternaleli.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/1459/ I have expressed an opinion that President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili makes all possible and impossible, legal or whatsoever efforts to remain at power after he finishes his 2nd presidential term. Watching him – his non-stop visits and speeches, his astonishingly and close to absurd and already criminal actions against opposition, media, justice and common sense, it is more and more obvious that this man cannot think himself without power. But there is a dilemma – in what capacity he dreams he could maintain a power? I am sure, he won’t hesitate to pull a Putin! Even to pull a Mugabe…
Based on Georgian materials – interviews/talk-shows with of Kakha Kakhishvili, Vakhushti Menabde and Vakhtang Khmaladze.