Corridor of Expectations — Results Mostly Hold

Bidzina Lebanidze

The poll of experts conducted by the Georgian Institute of Politics by and large predicted the outcome of the 2016 parliamentary election. Moreover, it held up better than most published polls. The poll predicted with a high precision the vote shares of United National Movement and most of the small parties. It slightly underestimated the electoral strength of the ruling Georgian Dream party and the unfolding crisis inside the Paata Burchuladze’s election bloc. Yet both of the deviations were due to objective methodological and empirical reasons.

With 49%, the Georgian Dream showed up significantly stronger than anticipated by the polls (upper margin at 42%), which holds the lesson that incumbent parties have particularly strong advantages when the turnout is low. Indeed, our collective turnout estimate was 58%, thus 6% above the actual turnout. In the future, factoring in turnout thus may be important. Still, the estimate projected a likely strong GD lead.

The election results gave a full carte blanche to the GD for next four years. Yet it will probably also force the GD to leave the comfort zone they were enjoying since 2012. The ‘bloody nine-year’ rule of Mikhail Saakashvili and preservation of a number state and public structures under former officials were efficiently used by GD government as a scapegoat to cover their own inefficient governance. Under the condition of a near-constitutional majority in the new parliament, GD will be forced to take full responsibility for all political processes for the next four years which will reduce its odds for the next parliamentary elections.

The actual results for the United National Movement (27%) are squarely in the middle of the range, and mid-range was more accurate than even the exit polls conducted on the day of the election, which had put UNM at either 33% or 19%. Considering that part of party leadership is still in jail or outside the country, the results achieved were by and large acceptable. Additionally, the former ruling party suffered from a number of internal diseases which were also stressed by our experts. Overdependence on former president Mikhail Saakashvili, harsh, often vengeful rhetoric, negative message-box and failure to offer an alternative solution were among them.

The one party that was entirely outside the range was State for the People. State for the People had repeatedly polled above 10% in our polls. Yet, our previous report also precisely predicted the downward spiral in Burchuladze’s party’s rating. Our estimates were taken before the split of Paata Burchuladze’s party from Girchi, which arguably precipitated its collapse. Split of Girchi was only a culmination of a long process of disintegration of Burchuladze’s election bloc which started by desertion of Burchaladze’s close allies. Girchi’s split was probably last drop that dissuaded the loyal electorate to vote for Burchuladze’s coalition. Finally, it is also possible that electoral abstention of many of the State for the People voters contributed to the lower turnout.

For the smaller parties, the actual results are low in the projected range — but still within the range. Here again, the low turnout might have been a decisive factor. We will do a more systemic comparison of this poll of experts with other surveys in the near future. For now, the results are broadly encouraging.

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