Georgia’s May 30 local elections are providing an opportunity to gauge the mood of tens of thousands of Internally Displaced Persons, many of who will be voting for the first time since Tbilisi’s disastrous war with Russia in 2008. The governing United National Movement has made some effort to court IDP votes. Opposition parties, meanwhile, have done little to attract support from a constituency that might otherwise be amenable to calls for change.
The vote is widely seen as the opposition’s best chance to strengthen its relatively weak position in Georgia’s regions prior to the 2012 parliamentary and 2013 presidential elections. The United National Movement headed by President Mikheil Saakashvili currently controls all of Georgia’s town councils.
At first glance, the estimated 20,000 IDPs who lost their homes during the 2008 fighting might appear a prime target for opposition campaign efforts. But opposition leaders maintain that a lack of resources -- and the sheer number (64) of local councils participating in the May 30 local elections – made it “physically impossible” to cover Georgia’s 36 IDP settlements.
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Molly Corso is a freelance reporter based in Tbilisi. Deborah Wild also contributed reporting to this article.