(UPDATE: adds ruling party’s statement on Penn Schoen Berland poll in tenth paragraph)
Leader of Georgian Dream opposition bloc, Bidzina Ivanishvili, said that winning three-fourth of seats in the 150-member Parliament in the October 1 elections was “the best-case scenario” for his coalition.
The worst case scenario for the Georgian Dream, he said, would be winning 40% of votes. He said it would happen “if we make some catastrophic mistakes” or if some unexpected developments, not depending on Georgian Dream, occur.
“But even this worst-case scenario will be devastating for them [the authorities],” Ivanishvili said.
In an opinion piece, published in the Wall Street Journal on August 2, Ivanishvili says that currently there was a tie in race between his coalition and the ruling, United National Movement (UNM), party.
“Recent polls show our coalition in a dead heat with the government for the October elections. If we are given a fair chance, I believe we will win,” Ivanishvili says in his opinion piece.
He was apparently referring to an opinion poll, which was recently completed by polling and consulting firm Penn Schoen Berland and commissioned by Ivanishvili-affiliated organization. According to this poll, conducted in the first half of July, Georgian Dream had 42% and the ruling party 41% among 1980 likely voters.
Ivanishvili’s previous statements about his coalition’s support differed from his recent remarks about the issue. A month ago he said at a meeting with active and retired sportsmen that the Georgian Dream's support in most of the regions was from 60 to 90% and few days later he reiterated that he was expecting that the Georgian Dream would receive 90% of votes in the October parliamentary elections.
Poll commissioned by the U.S. International Republican Institute (IRI) and fielded in late June and early July showed UNM with 43% and Georgian Dream with 24%, 19% either refused to answer or were undecided. A separate poll for the National Democratic Institute (NDI), fielded between June 4 and June 22, showed ruling party with 36% support among likely voters – 11 percentage points down from NDI-commissioned previous poll in late February, and Georgian Dream with 18%, an eight percentage points more than in February; 16% refused to answer and 22% were undecided.
The ruling party said in a statement on August 3 that stark difference between Penn Schoen Berland poll and “those carried out by authoritative organizations”, including IRI and NDI, “raises questions”; the ruling party called on the Georgian Dream and Penn Schoen Berland to “disclose the fact that the survey in question was fully funded by Bidzina Ivanishvili and his party.”
In Georgia's mix electoral system, 77 out of 150 seats in the new Parliament will be distributed based on proportional, party-list contest among the parties and blocs which will clear 5% threshold. Remaining 73 seats are allocated to candidates who are running in 73 single-mandate constituencies; a majoritarian MP is elected in a single-mandate constituency through winner-takes-all rule, but a candidate should garner at least 30% of votes.
In the interview with Obieqtivi Ivanishvili also said that with uneven playing field ahead of elections, the authorities were actually already rigging the elections, “but it won’t affect us.”
“We will win by large margin; when I was speaking about [winning] two-thirds [of parliamentary seats], it was not pulled out of thin air,” Ivanishvili said and added that the authorities would only be able “to rig some five percent of votes, but it won’t actually effect on overall results.”
He also said that the authorities would not be able to resort to large-scale ballot fraud, adding that international observers and Georgia’s western partners would not recognize such elections. Pressed by an interviewer whether he would call for street protest rallies in case of ballot fraud, Ivanishvili responded that in such case voters would protest to show to western partners that there was a large-scale fraud.
“But I will never call on people for confrontation; this is ruled out… They [the authorities] won’t be able to legitimize [rigged election results],” Ivanishvili added.