No presidential candidate is currently capable of winning over 50% of the votes necessary to win the election in the first round, Paata Zakareishvili of the opposition Republican Party said.
“I am absolutely sure there will be a second round. None of the candidates has a 50% rating,” Zakareishvili told the Georgian daily Rezonansi in an interview published on December 22. “Saakashvili will definitely lose in the second round. So he is trying to win in the first round. It will be very difficult for Saakashvili and his team to concede victory and here our western partners should come into play and provide him with guarantees, while the opposition should clearly state that there will be no political persecution. There should not be any persecution for political mistakes, but [such a guarantee] may not cover criminal cases.”
In contrast to Zakareishvili’s prediction, Givi Targamadze, an influential lawmaker from the ruling party, said recently that he expected Saakashvili to take at least 60% of the popular vote. His optimism, he said, was based on the results of public opinion surveys.
The BCG survey, which surveyed 13,000 respondents throughout Georgia in December, showed that 29.5% of voters were still undecided. 36.7% said they would vote for Saakashvili, followed by Levan Gachechiladze, a candidate nominated by the nine-party opposition coalition, with 9.7%; Badri Patarkatsishvili – 4.7%; Davit Gamkrelidze - 3%; Shalva Natelashvili – 2.5%; Gia Maisashvili and Irina Sarishvili had less than 1% each. One percent said they would vote for none of the candidates.
The survey showed that 63.5% of those who have decided to vote for one of the candidates, will vote for Saakashvili, followed by Gachechiladze and Patarkatsishvili with 16.7% and 8.1%, respectively.
According to the ACT research, which involved 1,500 respondents, 41% will vote for Saakashvili, followed by Gachechiladze – 11.1%; Patarkatsishvili – 6.5%; Natelashvili – 3.5%; Gamkrelidze – 2.1%; Maisashvili and Irina Sarishvili - less than 1% each. 20.6% were undecided and 2.3% said they wouldn’t vote for any candidate. Of those who have decided to vote for one of the candidates, 64% said they would vote for Saakashvili, followed by Gachechiladze and Patarkatsishvili with 17% and 10%, respectively.
The ACT survey results were initially only available to the company’s “business clients and partners,” but following increasing criticism of public opinion surveys by some political groups, the results were eventually made public, according to ACT.
Opposition parties had condemned the surveys as attempts to manipulate public opinion rather than measure it. They claimed they were designed to give the perception that Saakashvili was the frontrunner. The BCG research in particular came in for intense criticism with the opposition claiming that it couldn’t be trusted as the group’s director, Ani Tarkhnishvili, is the wife of the Central Election Commission chairman, Levan Tarkhnishvili.