Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Trust and political independence in Georgia’s interior ministry

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC-Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Tinatin Bandzeladze, a senior Researcher at CRRC-Georgia and Mariam Kobaladze, a senior Researcher at CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in the article are the author’s alone and do not necessarily represent the views of CRRC-Georgia, Caucasian House, or any related entity.

A CRRC survey found that trust in Georgia’s Interior Ministry and the police is closely tied to perception of the ministry’s political independence, or lack thereof. 

In summer 2022, CRRC Georgia and the Social Justice Center partnered on a nationwide public opinion survey on state and personal security. It found that while the Interior Ministry was one of the most trusted institutions in the country, many respondents were concerned that the ministry lacks transparency and political impartiality.

Georgia’s Interior Ministry is largely made up of and closely associated with the country’s police, with police officers often seen as representatives of the ministry. Previous research has demonstrated that police need public trust to effectively carry out their mandate to fight crime and maintain public safety

According to the 2022 survey, a majority of the Georgian public trust the Interior Ministry. About two thirds (65%) of the public has full or partial trust in the ministry. This is lower than that of the Defence Ministry (68%), but outperforms the Prime Minister (58%), the State Security Service (59%), the President (51%), and the Parliament (46%). 

Trust in the Interior Ministry varies with a number of social and demographic characteristics.

Residents of Tbilisi are less likely to fully trust the Interior Ministry than residents of other cities and people in rural areas. 

Trust in the ministry is also associated with party preferences. People who support the ruling Georgian Dream party are more inclined to fully trust the ministry than supporters of opposition parties and those who support no party. Almost half of ruling party supporters fully trust the Interior Ministry. 

Ethnic minorities fully trust the Interior Ministry at nearly twice the rate of ethnic Georgians. 

Other demographic characteristics do not predict trust in the ministry.

Research by others suggests that trust in the police is connected more to perceptions of police fairness than with perceptions of police effectiveness in dealing with crime. 

In relation to that, the study also asked about whether the public perceived the Interior Ministry as patriotic, professional, impartial, and transparent. The surveyed respondents viewed the ministry as patriotic (23%) and professional (23%) more frequently than they perceived it to be impartial (15%) and transparent (14%). 

The above opinions are associated with trust in the Interior Ministry. Those that think these characteristics fully describe the ministry, also nearly unanimously trust it. In contrast, majorities of those that do not think each characteristic describes the ministry also mistrust it. 

Respondents were also asked if they believed the Interior Ministry was independent from politics. Only 9% of those surveyed felt that the Interior Ministry was fully independent from political influence, while 23% believed it was more independent than dependent. On the other hand, 47% reported believing that the ministry had no political independence or it was more politically ‘dependent’ than independent. The remaining 21% did not know or refused to answer the question. 

The data indicate that opinions regarding political independence strongly predicted trust in the ministry. While there was a 62% chance an individual would fully or partially distrust the Interior Ministry if they believed it was not independent at all, the likelihood dropped to 2% among those who believed it was fully independent. 

While a majority of Georgians reported trusting the Interior Ministry, and thereby the police, in 2022, relatively few reported they were transparent and impartial, with only a third of respondents viewing them as politically independent. A belief that the ministry lacks independence as well as a lack of belief that it is transparent, accountable, professional, patriotic, impartial, and respects human rights are strong predictors of whether people trust the institution.

Note: This blog makes use of ordinal logistic regression analysis. The dependent variable was trust in the MIA, with don’t know and refuse to answer responses removed. The independent variables included:  sex, age, employment status, level of education, a wealth index, settlement type, political sympathy and ethnic identity. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Obstacles to accessing Georgia’s courts

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC-Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Salome Dolidze, a Researcher at CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in the article are the author’s alone and do not necessarily represent the views of CRRC-Georgia, Caucasian House, or any related entity.

A CRRC Georgia survey investigated who considers and who pursues litigation in Georgia, and the obstacles people face in doing so. 

Georgia’s court system faces significant issues, with reports suggesting that long delays, access to the legal system, and overloaded caseloads are among the barriers that prevent citizens from using the courts. 

A 2021 Social Justice Center report noted that geography, the physical accessibility of buildings, a lack of legal awareness and empowerment, and other physical, financial, cultural, and social barriers presented challenges for large segments of Georgian society. A recent CRRC Georgia survey looks specifically at who goes to court and who considers it, but ultimately doesn’t, and the challenges both groups face in their pursuit of justice. 

Overall, 4% of those surveyed reported they went to the courts over the six years prior to the survey, and a further 4% reported that they considered starting litigation but decided not to. Among those who went to court, 71% were there for civil litigation, 17% for criminal cases, and 12% for administrative legal disputes.

The data suggest there are a number of differences between social and demographic groups in terms of who goes to court.

Those who had tertiary education were more likely to have started litigation than those without.  People living in urban areas outside of Tbilisi were more likely to have considered starting litigation, but ultimately refrained from doing so, than those living in the capital. 

Other social and demographic variables such as sex, ethnicity, employment status and wealth were not associated with whether or not someone considered starting litigation or actually did so. 

The data also provided insight into the main challenges people faced in Georgia’s court system, as well as the reasons why people ultimately decided not to use the courts.

When people who had actually engaged in litigation were asked about difficulties they had encountered during that process, a majority of respondents (52%) stated that the litigation process takes too long. Another significant concern was the cost associated with litigation, which was cited by 34% of respondents that went to court. In addition, 20% highlighted the difficulty of finding an affordable lawyer, with another 12% stating that finding a qualified lawyer was a challenge. Legal expertise can, of course, be critical to navigate the complexities of the legal system, and ensuring a fair and just outcome. 

The lack of legal expertise amongst ordinary citizens (7%) was highlighted infrequently. Approximately one fifth of respondents (21%) mentioned that they encountered no difficulties in the litigation process.

When respondents who had considered starting litigation, but not done so were asked why they had chosen not to go to court, a number of key factors stood out. 

A lack of trust in the judicial system was the most commonly given reason, with 56% of respondents identifying this as a significant deterrent. Another prominent concern for those who refrained from legal action was the cost of litigation, mentioned by 33% of respondents. The length of court trials was also cited by 27% of those who ultimately chose not to pursue litigation. Other significant concerns included lacking knowledge or awareness of legal matters (17%).

One in twenty Georgians have considered going to court in the last six years, and a further one in twenty went to court. Among those who went to court, prolonged court procedures, financial constraints, and a lack of trust in the judicial system were cited as significant barriers to accessing justice in Georgia.

The data used in this article is available hereThe regression analysis used in this article included the following variables:  Age (18-34, 35-54, 55+); Sex (male or female); Settlement type (Tbilisi, other urban, rural); Education level (tertiary or not); Ethnicity (Ethnic Georgian or ethnic minority); Employment status (employed or not working); Wealth index (A simple additive index of ownership of a number of durable goods within a household).

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Can political parties in Georgia survive abandonment by their leaders?

Note: This article first appeared on the Caucasus Data Blog, a joint effort of CRRC-Georgia and OC Media. It was written by Givi Silagadze, a Researcher at CRRC-Georgia. The study was financially supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The views presented in the article are the author’s alone and do not necessarily represent the views of NED, CRRC-Georgia, Caucasian House, or any related entity.

A year before Georgia’s general elections, a CRRC survey found that less than half of surveyed Georgian partisans would remain loyal to their favoured party if its leader were to establish a new party, with supporters of the ruling party more likely to stick with their party than supporters of the opposition. 

In recent years, political experts and analysts have argued that parties in Georgia function more on the basis of their political leaders’ popularity, rather than as genuine political organisations. 

This would suggest that if political leaders left their party and established a new one, a substantial portion of their voters would go with them. 

To test this hypothesis, CRRC Georgia conducted a public opinion poll in October 2023, a year before Georgia’s next general elections. 

The data suggests that only four out of ten partisans would stay with their party if its leader leftHowever, supporters of the ruling Georgian Dream party are more likely to stay with their party, while opposition supporters more likely to be unsure or follow their party’s leader.

Respondents were asked to identify the political party with which they identified most closely. 

Those respondents who named a political party (35% of respondents to the survey) were then asked to imagine a scenario in which a leader of their favoured party decided to cut ties with the party and establish a new party. Respondents were then asked to report how they would vote—would they still vote for their favoured party, or for the one that had been newly established?

Bidzina IvanishviliGeorgian Dream
Mikheil SaakashviliUnited National Movement
Giorgi GakhariaFor Georgia
Zurab Girchi JaparidzeGirchi More Freedom
Mamuka KhazaradzeLelo
Irma InashviliAlliance of Patriots
Shalva NatelashviliLabour Party
Zurab MakharadzeConservative Movement - Alt Info 
Giorgi VashadzeStrategy Aghmashenebeli
Giga BokeriaEuropean Georgia
Aleko ElisashviliCitizens
Elene KhoshtariaDroa
Iago KhvichiaGirchi
Anna DolidzeFor the People
Nino BurjanadzeDemocratic Movement
Zviad DzidziguriConservative Party
Fridon InjiaEuropean Socialists
Levan VasadzeERI

Four out of ten partisans (39%) said they would still vote for their favoured party. Approximately every fifth partisan voter (18%) said they would change their partisan preference and would vote for the new party. A plurality of partisans (43%) said they did not know which party they would vote for or refused to answer.    

Further statistical analysis shows that some groups are more likely to stick with their favoured party even when its leader launches a new political venture. People with vocational education are less likely to stick with their favoured party than people who have a lower or higher level of formal education.

Party affiliation is also associated with whether or not voters are willing to stick with their current preferred party. Supporters of the ruling party are 27 percentage points more likely to say they would still vote for Georgian Dream if the party’s founder, Bidzina Ivanishvili, established a new party than opposition supporters when asked the same question regarding their parties’ leaders.

Regarding whether voters are willing to follow their party’s leaders, similar trends emerge. 

Opposition supporters were 16 percentage points more likely to report they would vote for a party newly founded by their party’s leaders than Georgian Dream supporters.

People with lower levels of formal education were more likely to follow their party’s leader than people with higher levels of formal education. 

Men were also more likely to follow a leader to a new party than women.

However, opposition supporters were also 17 percentage points more likely to be unsure of how they would vote if the leader of their favoured party established a new party compared with ruling party supporters.

People with higher education and vocational education are more likely to be unsure than people with lower levels of formal education. 

The above data supports the idea that Georgian political parties are at least partially driven by their leaders, with only four out of ten partisans reporting they would stick with their favoured party if its leader launched a new political venture. Moreover, one in eight ruling party supporters and one in three opposition supporters reported they would follow their leader to a new party. 

However, multiple other possible explanations for the data likely explain the differences between ruling party and opposition supporters. 

First, the line between the ruling party and the state is often blurred, meaning that Georgian Dream’s supporters might continue to support the party on the basis of it remaining in power. Second, at the time of the survey, Bidzina Ivanishvili had formally distanced himself from politics. As a result, some Georgian Dream supporters might have supported other leaders within the party and the party’s policies, rather than its founder. Finally, many of the opposition parties which the public reported supporting were founded by former members of the UNM who left or are otherwise dominated by a single personality. In turn, many of their voters are likely already voting for the party based on its leader.

Despite the above, ties appear to be stronger to the party itself for Georgian Dream supporters than for opposition supporters.  

Note: The above data analysis is based on logistic regression models, which included the following variables: age group (18-34, 35-54, 55+), sex (male or female), education (completed secondary/lower, vocational, higher), settlement type (capital, urban, rural), employment status (not working, working in the private sector, working in the public sector), religious attendance (regularly, on special occasions, rarely or never), and party identification (Georgian Dream, Opposition).