Key players in the Georgian parliamentary election 2020
There are four political parties represented within the current Parliament. Most probably, they will be the main front runners of the 31 October elections. However, due to the minimum threshold, the next Georgian parliament will be very diverse, with many minor parties entering the parliament. According to the recent polls, the following parties will potentially appear in the parliament:
Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia (GD) is the current ruling party, with self-described centre-left orientation. The party is affiliated to the centre-left S&D group in the European Parliament through their observer status of the PES. The party has more paternalistic social and economic policies, at the same time being more socially conservative than UNM. The introduction of universal healthcare and insurance systems, as well as subsidies for vulnerable groups, is often attributed to the most successful policies implemented during their tenure. The current political campaign is based on two key issues: maintaining the existing social policies and being the only party able to keep the UNM out of power.
United National Movement (UNM) is currently the biggest opposition party and the Georgian Dream’s main challenger. A centre-right political party affiliated with EPP, they have utilised populist rhetoric to lure voters away from Georgian Dream. The party builds its appeal on the fact that Georgian enjoyed unprecedented economic development during its last tenure in power. However, in power, the party was accused of being authoritarian, limiting democratic opposition, and violating human rights. The 2020 edition of UNM will compete in the upcoming elections with a big coalition of minor parties under the electoral block “United Opposition”.
European Georgia (EG) is another centre-right political party affiliated with the EPP. It was formed as a break-away from the UNM. The key distinction between the EG and UNM is the reassessment of their past in government and the Presidency of Mikheil Saakashvili. While UNM tries to mobilize voters under the banner of Saakashvili, EG tries to distance itself from him.
Alliance of Patriots of Georgia (AP) – the national conservative, anti-EU, and pro-Russian party is the fourth largest party in terms of parliamentary representation. However, their popular support has declined according to all recent polls. The party is indirectly affiliated with the ECR group in the European Parliament, as it sits with ECR in Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The party has socially conservative, anti-immigrant and anti-liberal positions. The party tries to position itself as the “third choice” between current and former ruling parties.
Strategy Aghmashenebeli (Strategy Builder) is an emerging political party established by former deputy Justice Minister and UNM member Giorgi Vashadze, and not affiliated to any group in European Parliament. The party has closely cooperated with UNM during the 2018 presidential elections and in 2019-2020 when the opposition was negotiating with the government regarding the electoral code. Vashadze stated that he wanted to be a joint candidate for Prime Minister from the opposition. This fact created tensions between Vashadze and UNM and their paths have drifted. Vashadze forms a coalition with a minor opposition party Law and Order. They launched an aggressive social media and TV campaign making emphasis on the successful tenure of Vashadze as a deputy Justice Minister. Vashadze positions itself as a politician that wants to modernize the Georgian economy, promote digitalization of the economy, and introduce new ‘faces’ in mainstream Georgian politics.
Lelo is the youngest and least experienced mainstream political party. It was launched less than a year ago by two Georgian bankers, Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Jafaridze. They were running (and still own) the most successful Georgian bank. From 2019 their relationship with the government was put under strain and they were accused of money laundering activities. These legal accusations forced them to form a political party that, like many other opposition parties, claims to be a ‘third way’ in Georgian politics. The party promotes strong government support for economic stimuli, but at the same time privatization of many non-profitable state companies. One of Lelo’s predecessor parties was an associate member of International Democrat Union, an internationale of centre-right political parties, which hosts multiple parties of the EPP group in the European Parliament.
Labour Party (LP) is populist, socially conservative and economically left-leaning party and it is not affiliated to any group in the European Parliament. It is the longest continuously operating mainstream political party in the country. Its unchanged chairman, Shalva Natelashvili, is one of the most long-lasting and memorable characters of Georgian politics. Despite the party name, there is no real connection between the party and other labour parties traditionally known in the western democracies. Labour has changed their attitudes toward Georgian foreign policy, tactic partnerships with other Georgian parties many times. However, one thing has stayed the same: the party has never been in government and it always portrays itself as an incorruptible party.
Girchi is the right-wing political party and is a clear outlier in mainstream Georgian politics—being described as libertarian and anarcho-capitalists. It is not affiliated to any group in the European Parliament. The party is heavily supported by young urbanites and the creative class. They have also put emphasis on creative social media campaigns, often humorous and provocative in its content. Girchi is often criticized for its neo-libertarian approaches that advocate extreme deregulation in all sectors.
Democratic Movement – United Georgia (DM) is a centre-right to right-wing and conservative party. It is not affiliated to any group in the European Parliament. Headed by the former speaker of the Parliament, Nino Burjanadze, the party advocates more close relationships with Russia. Traditionally being an anti-UNM party, they cooperated with UNM and its affiliates during 2019-2020 when they also demanded a change of the electoral code. The party’s electoral platform claims that they want to create an independent and European country, ‘adjusted to its historical-cultural and territorial peculiarities’.