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October 1 Is 'Dream' Election Date For Georgian Opposition

Georgian opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili
Georgian opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili
The opposition Georgian Dream coalition couldn't be more delighted with the date of this year's parliamentary election, which will be held on October 1.

What's so special about October 1? Well, on the Georgian Orthodox Church calendar, that's St. Bidzina’s Day. And the leader of Georgian Dream is none other than Bidzina Ivanishvili.

For those producing Georgian Dream's campaign ads, it's a match made in heaven. And the opposition group is already looking to exploit it in key elections, which will set the stage for a presidential vote next year to choose a successor to President Mikheil Saakashvili.

“We are very glad that elections will be held on October 1. It seems that Saakashvili is looking forward to losing elections and we are looking forward to winning elections,” Maia Panjikidze, a spokesperson for Georgian Dream, told the news website Civil Georgia.

Bidzina Cholokashvili was a leading figure in the 17th century Bakhtrioni Uprising against the Persian army. He was killed in 1660 and was later canonized by the Georgian Orthodox Church.

Saakashvili, whose ruling United National Movement party has been in power since 2004, has gone out of his way to stress the importance of saints in Georgian culture.

He named May 6 -- which is St. George’s Day, celebrating the country's patron saint -- a national holiday honoring the police.

So why did Saakashvili and the ruling party, which dominates Georgia's parliament, hand this gift to a bitter foe? The choice of the day is odder still since October 1 falls on a Monday, while elections in Georgia are traditionally held on Sundays.

It's all very unclear. What is clear is that Georgian law stipulates that parliamentary elections had to be held sometime in October. It is also widely believed in Georgia that the authorities wanted to hold the elections as soon as possible, since shorter campaign seasons tend to favor the ruling party.

For these reasons, it was widely expected that the vote would be scheduled for Sunday, October 7. But there was just one problem with that. Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition holds the seventh position on the ballot, and will be clearly marked by the numeral 7.

This would have presented the opposition with an irresistible marketing opportunity: “On October 7, circle number 7 for Georgian Dream.”

RFE/RL's Georgian Service contributed to this report

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