Echoing many other Georgian Dream politicians’ remarks, PM Irakli Garibashvili questioned credibility of NDI-commissioned public opinion survey, which showed sharp fall of support for the ruling coalition.
The poll, fielded in August by CRRC for the U.S. National Democratic Institute (NDI) and released on Saturday, showed increase in number of those likely voters who are either undecided or would not vote for any political party to 41% amid drop in support for the ruling GD coalition, putting the latter neck-and-neck with the opposition UNM party with 14% and 15%, respectively.
“I probably can’t comment seriously on NDI polls; we spoke previously about it frequently and others from our team [referring to politicians from GD] have already commented on that,” PM Garibashvili, who is the leader of GD coalition, said referring to criticism, which many politicians from the governing political forces are usually voicing when NDI releases its public opinion surveys.
“There have been lots of question marks not towards NDI itself – and I want to reaffirm my respect to this institute – but towards those people, who have been working and were involved in carrying out polling, and who are directed linked with the [United] National Movement. Therefore, this is not interesting for our population, population is interested in what the government is promising, what the government is doing – that is what is being reflected on the condition of our population. The major poll is an election day – that will show whom the people trust,” Garibashvili told journalists on Sunday.
Commenting on NDI polls, ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is now governor of Odessa region in Ukraine said in a Facebook post shortly after the poll results were released: “My party… is winning elections.” Formally, Saakashvili remains a chairman of the UNM party.
On the same day, after the poll results were released on October 17, a graphic video of sexual abuse of two detainees by law enforcement officers that took place in 2011 was posted on Ukraine-based video sharing website. The video was from the cache unearthed by the current authorities in 2013 in Samegrelo region. 11 people were convicted, some in absentia, in connection to torture of detainees, but some of the verdicts have been appealed to higher court. Timing of leaking the video prompted allegations that it was done by the authorities to distract public attention from unfavorable polls and to give ruling coalition politicians a reason to speak again about those crimes that were committed when UNM was in power. The Interior Ministry said on October 17 that it opened investigation into a leak of video. Pointing out the fact that the authorities are not the only ones in possession of the video, the prosecutor’s office said that the video, which is a piece of evidence in the detainees’ torture case, is also available to the defense.
“This is a video footage, which was found when I was the Interior Minister,” PM Garibashvili told journalists on October 18. “Investigation will probably find out how this video footage was distributed, but there were many other copies of this video… But important is that the previous government, Saakashvili’s regime, was – I do not want to speak about it, but it was demonstrated once again clearly that it was sadistic regime, which was torturing own population brutally. I do not want to get back to those past issues, but the fact is that these people, who still have ambition to rule the country, fail to understand grave crimes they have committed against our people and our country. The Georgian people delivered verdict against them in 2012 [parliamentary elections] and this video footage is yet another confirmation that there was no democracy whatsoever in Georgia [when UNM was in power].”
“There are many different versions of how this video was distributed, including the one that it was sold by representatives of the previous authorities to the Ukrainian citizens and so on – I do not want to go into details,” he said. “I know, I am sure, that Saakashvili and his team members, those who now speak so much, members of the parliament [UNM MPs] used to watch such video footage and then discussing them – such sick people were in the leadership of the country.”