TBILISI, DFWatch – When asked on Facebook ‘Who would you vote for, Bidzina Ivanishvili or Mikheil Saakashvili?’, 24 000 out of nearly 32 000 Georgians answered they would support Georgian tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, while only 7 500 voted for the current president.
This is a large number and ‘it shows a clear tendency’, according to a specialist in social research methodology.
The Georgian philanthropist Bidzina Ivanishvili unexpectedly released an open letter on October 7 saying that he had decided to enter politics and run in the parliamentary election in October 2012. In a number of statements and interviews he said he is going to set up a political party, and if he wins the elections he will impeach Saakashvili, unless the president resigns.
“This poll is incorrect and pointless, because none of them will take the part in the elections,” Sandro, one Facebook user, comments.
Saakashvili is serving his second term, which will be his last, due to the Georgian constitution, which prevents him from staying on for a third term.
A few days after Ivanishvili declared he would join politics, his Georgian citizenship was revoked. This means he will be blocked from participating in the election or finance political parties, or engage in political activities more generally, unless he gets back his citizenship.
“The fact that 24 000 people votes for Ivanishvili and 7 000 to Saakashvili offers us a a moment for pause,” says Ramaz Sakvarelidze, political analyst and psychologist. “This is a specific and important layer in society. But it applies only to the city population. It is also important that youth are mostly involved on the internet. This tendency is also significant because youth usually are more indifferent.”
There are nearly 600 000 Georgian users registered on Facebook. 35% of them are between 28 and 14 years old and 28% between the age of 25 and 34, according to http://leavingstone.com. Both sociologist Eka Pirtskhalava and Ramaz Sakvarelidze think that this poll is not reliable, but the result is still important and shows a clear tendency. Polls are usually based on a random sample of people in terms of age, gender and other characteristics. In this case people have actively chosen to answer.
The experts also point out that only a specific part of Georgian society have participated in this poll: those who have a Facebook account.
“According to this number, the most we can say is that among Georgian Facebook users Ivanishvili has three times more supporters than Saakashvili,” Ramaz Sakvarelidze says.
“Not every person has a Facebook account in Georgia, and we don’t know how this poll is distributed. Maybe only specific communities of friends answered the question. We don’t know this, and we can’t make a scientific interpretation of this data,” Pirtskhalava says.
Sakvarelidze emphasizes that there is almost a year left until the election.
“The long time before the elections is working to Saakashvili’s advantage, because this is the result of an emotional wave. Bidzina Ivanishvili’s appearance was undoubtedly effective and this has evoked hope about his persona,” Sakvarelidze says. “Over time, these emotions may wear off, if Ivanishvili doesn’t do anything during this period. But this can be excluded, because he’s active. Saakashvili and his group also will be active, so the time factor is useful for the president. But both will make use of their time and we cannot say anything conclusively.”
Sakvarelidze says that the part of the population who live in villages are mostly not Facebook users, and ‘we shouldn’t forget that the fate of the elections is in the hands of people who do not live in the city.’
“I think this poll doesn’t show the reality. Many people may vote for Saakashvili, due to various reasons. But when he or she is alone in the voter’s cabin, they may make a different choice,” Tamuna, 32, one of the voters on Facebook writes.
Some of the users complain that the question doesn’t have a third alternative: ‘none of them’.