Monday, August 29, 2016


Georgia's Historic Transition Faces Crucial Tests In 2013

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (left) greets the leader of the Georgian Dream coalition, Bidzina Ivanishvili, in Tbilisi in October.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (left) greets the leader of the Georgian Dream coalition, Bidzina Ivanishvili, in Tbilisi in October.
By Robert Coalson
With the first-ever peaceful transfer of power through competitive and universally accepted elections, 2012 was a momentous year for Georgia.

And for this small and politically volatile South Caucasian nation of 4.7 million people, 2013 promises to be equally important.

When President Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement (ENM), the ruling party for nearly a decade, conceded defeat to billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream after October's parliamentary elections, it marked a historic development for a country that had previously only changed rulers through civil war and revolution.

Tornike Sharashenidze, a Tbilisi-based political analyst, says that “the main thing that will be remembered in Georgia's history [from 2012] is the systemic breakthrough -- the holding of peaceful elections, [the result of which] was acceptable to all sides and which brought about a change of government.

“Regardless whether these results are good or bad in themselves, this happened, and it is a positive thing for everybody. This is the main achievement," Sharashenidze adds.

Another Ukraine?

But the landmark election and transfer of power was just a first step, analysts say. As the new year approaches, several vital questions loom. Will Ivanishvili's government manage to successfully cohabitate with Saakashvili, who remains president until October 2013? Or will Georgia descend into the type of political chaos that plagued Ukraine after the 2004 Orange Revolution? How will the ENM adjust to being in the opposition? And will Georgian Dream succeed in strengthening the country's democratic institutions and in building a law-based state?

Political analyst Levan Tsutskiridze says the election campaign was “an extremely tense one, distinguished by a high level of confrontation and polarization. This, I think, once again illuminated the fact that Georgia's political system is still in need of significant development and sophistication. And on top of the system, the political culture and traditions in Georgia also need improvement."

Tsutskiridze adds that he is optimistic that the successful result of the elections themselves bodes well for the future development of the political system and culture.

The elections, however, left Georgia with an uneasy and entirely new cohabitation between Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream bloc, which controls the government and parliament, and Saakashvili's ENM, which -- in addition to controlling the presidency -- commands a strong faction in the new legislature.

Since Georgian Dream took over the government in October, a number of officials from the former government have been arrested on corruption charges and many others are under investigation. It remains unclear whether the cases represent political payback or if Georgian Dream is merely fulfilling its campaign pledges to crack down on corruption.

Thomas de Waal, a senior associate specializing in the Caucasus at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, says the challenge now facing Georgian Dream stems directly from the incomplete reform legacy inherited from Saakashvili.

"The problematic legacy that I see that the Saakashvili government left behind is that it did a lot in modernizing Georgia in a very impressive way, but in quite a technocratic way,” De Waal says.

“It did build up good, functioning service institutions but very few institutions of law. The court system was still delivering a 99-percent guilty rate. The prison system was highly repressive and Georgia currently has the highest prison population per capita in Europe. So this was a system which was basically monopolized by the ruling party, which did many good things."

Institution Building

De Waal adds that a key issue for Georgia in 2013 will be to what extent the new government can build up the missing rule-of-law institutions.

"The current government has got some very good people, but they are kind of stumbling around a bit because they don't have much of an institutional legacy and they also have some very tempting instruments which they can use, such as this quite repressive legal system," De Waal says.

Shorena Shaverdashvili, editor in chief of the weekly magazine "Liberali," agrees that going forward it is essential that Georgian Dream's prosecutions be demonstrably fair, despite widespread public calls for revenge from those who claim they were victimized under the Saakashvili government.

Shaverdashvili adds that another source of danger is that the ENM is also learning how to be an opposition party. She argues the ENM's knee-jerk claims that all arrests and investigations are automatically politically motivated erode public confidence in the process and will damage the ENM in the long term.

If Georgian Dream and the ENM are unable to make their cohabitation work, Georgia could follow the path of Ukraine, which has seen many of the hopes of its 2004 Orange Revolution dissolve in the face of political gridlock and suspect criminal prosecutions.

"I would say things can move in two directions -- one positive and the other negative. The good way would be for all sides to accept the [roles and structures of] parliamentary democracy,” Sharashenidze says.

“The bad way would be to follow the route of Ukraine. Now, in comparison with Ukraine, fortunately or unfortunately, our country is a poorer one and is much more dependent on the Western aid. So the threat of us following Ukraine's route is not that imminent, even if for just this one reason."

Successful cohabitation is essential because, in addition to bolstering the country's legal institutions, Georgia's 2013 political agenda is long and daunting. Analyst Tsutskiridze lists the tasks of strengthening the political-party system, reforming local governance, improving the election law, conducting a free and fair presidential election in October, developing the economy and improving the investment climate, and improving national security.

On the last point, Tsutskiridze notes that the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia -- 20 percent of Georgia's territory -- have been occupied by Russia since the disastrous August 2008 war and that this agenda item cannot be put on the back burner while domestic reforms are carried out.

"Considering Georgia's general situation, it is of course not possible to avoid the issues of national security. It is of vital importance to continue and, moreover, improve the policy of developing closer ties and integrating with the United States, the EU, and NATO," Tsutskiridze says.

RFE/RL Georgian Service correspondent Salome Asatiani contributed to this report
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Boris from: London
December 16, 2012 14:04

Please stop citing TOMAS DE WAAL, who is pro Russian comentator, and has always reported against the government of Saakashvili.
In Response

by: Jack from: US
December 16, 2012 15:50
you have to excuse RFE/RL authors because they are on a lowest end of CIA pay rate. Which is why they cannot always make the _right_ decision on whom to quote. I bet RFE/RL will correct this particular error and will only quote John McCain.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
December 22, 2012 05:45
Jack, admitting here that Russia paying more to you than CIA paying to few agents, remaining on RFE, that not yet recrouted by Russia?
Are you offering the last few switch serve Russia for more money?
The few might be less effective (because of USA greedy but narrow education, comparing to Russian "Shtaby" canning), still, don't you move fast enough through non-Russian nations destruction?

I knew one day Russia will avange saving of Georgia from Russian cannibals in 2008.
They already murdered my mother and continue killing me.
Simce Russian game bow to authorities, starting with Queen and US presidents, avoided doing it to McCain -
as Russians pulled it on me in 1947, during an interrogation by Russian KGB bosses.
They brought "karikatura" of Trumen and Cherchil and telepaths, and started to laugh.
I was only 4.
When I laughed too, they ran away, brought into half open door British and USA diplomats and accused me, Stalin, Georgians and non-Russians of hating their leaders, while Russians ready to serve them.
I re-battled their lies, as I doing it here again.
Trying avange John McCain?
For being unbroken prisoner in Russian-Vietnam camps?
For helping stop Russia for invading whole Georgia in 2008?
For both?
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
December 16, 2012 17:03
If you judge Tomas by the books and comments on Caucasia he is anything but pro-russian.The guy will write in favour of anybody who will bankroll his propaganda efforts.Do you think the Carnegie Trust is pro-russian???
In Response

by: Boris from: Londo
December 17, 2012 06:23
Camel Anaturk, of course I haven't read De Waals books and don't intend to, but he's been one of very few western reporters, who continuously wrote against very successful and unprecedented for the region Georgia reforms.

Agree with you, that this is just a matter of good pay, which GAzprom could certainly afford. There is no sense to engage in Russian propaganda otherwise.

Another guy who's been reporting in Russian favor is Lincoln Mitchell of Comumbia University, and it doesn't mean Columbia is pro Russian.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
December 21, 2012 12:28
Boris is right, thought Western reporters might look money-bound, he is pro-imerio-resurecting as one of many platcdarms for expanding Russia, which success would be platchdarm for deviding the Eastern Europe with Germano-Austrians and the rest of it with British - it didn't happen yet.

Sertainly Carnegy is not totaly pro-Russian, but Carnegy and Frick, once butchers of Eastern European labour in name of race war of Brito-Scotish, Germano-Austrian and Varanga-Prussaka colonial rule against all other World nations - tradition dies hard.

Sertainly not all Mitchels are pro-Russians - one Mitchel was editor of history reference book, in which first agriculture and insofar civilizations started from heart of pre-Georgia and Caucasus, according to some 12 Milleniums archeologic excavations.
That is contrary to anti-scientific propaganda of Russian "shtaby", with quiet aproval of British and Germano-Austrian imperial resurrectors, saduced by Russians, that make rediculous claims about birth of Human Civilization being found
in Adygeya - some 3 milleniums old Skifian (from Ukraine) and pre-Georgian burial sides, overburried by coarsed tribe of Israel Gad with brought 25 Centuries ago from Israel trinkets...
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
December 24, 2012 07:33
The moves of new Georgian parliament, lead not that much by Ivanishvili, but by some old cospiracy of Russian occupiers and their "Quislings" in all former USSR republics and old East Europe is quite depressive.

Ivanishvili simce agreed for unity.
But is it Georgian Unity, sabotaged by Russian invasions and genocide?
But is it old Common Wealth nations benevolant unity, sabotaged by economy, energy, terrorism-pseudo-feude and cleansing deads of Russia?
Or is it "unity" with Russia - "to be saved from USA evil",
set-up by Russia's evil (not unlike they used CIA to murder my mother) - in order sleep down to slavery and vanishing under Russian race wars - be repopulated by Russia?
I hope not.

However, why so many Saakashvili party officials are arrested?
Is it to please Russian ambitions of Superpower, being stopped from expanding further their aggression in 2008?
Or is it even more sinister - to disarm and paralize Georgia before final solution of vanishing Georgian people, not unlike Gorby's disarmoment of Georgia before stench of nerve gas in Tbilisi?

Prison reform is OK, it is needed all over former Eastern Block
countries, amnisty is also good.
However, is it only to release the lesser ofenders, or create a hype of "anti-Saakashvili" and anti-"Nationalists" pseudo-momentum to "Russify" another Georgian Holocost?
Is it why sentenced for terrorism and spying for Russia beeng released too?
To lead missguided crowd, like last time in Tbilisi riot, when they were lead by hulligans with clubs and a Russian face?

Is it another Russian ambition of Superpower, to have their spies having a free hand in CIS and Eastern Europe, supposetly, not unlike other World Power, to work for bigger thing, "legitimized"
by ballance of powers - preventing Global Termo-Nuclear War?
No, it is not!
Georgians didn't interfere in such matters, just opposite, they paved the road to end the "Cold War" and improve East-West relations for many decades, including Shevardnadze role.
Arrogance of expanding and breeding-out Russia using all this people in all former "Eastern Block" space to promote evil and hate.
Like before Abkhazian war, when Georgian magority elected presidents, including Kantaria, the one that rased flag on Reighstag at the end of WW2, Russia and its rivers of spies
unleashed genocide, expultion of population and graabbing-repopulating Abkhazia's land and property by Russians and
hanchmen, screaming:
"(Kantaria's?) NATO and nazis threatening Russia!"

We do not know about "legitimate spying" of Russia in post-Soviet space - only danceling and gaseling race war of Varanga-Prussaka-Sam-Gad-Pechenega grabbibg-breeding frenzy...
Hopefuly, Russia complains that non-Russians breed faster than Russians - strange.
Where all this Russians are going?
Spreading all over the Globe armies of "Salamandras"?

by: MF from: London
December 16, 2012 20:59
ENM, really?

Saakashvili's party is called United National Movement - UNM (in English).

* United Georgia Movement still does not translate into ENM is only a click away, Mr Coalson.
In Response

by: RFE/RL Editors
December 17, 2012 07:00
Thanks for your comment, but Georgian for United National Movement (not United Georgian Movement, that was a mistake) is Ertiani Natsionaluri Modzraoba, thus ENM.
In Response

by: MF from: London
December 17, 2012 11:08
That's true but if you are to use the Georgian acronym you should also provide a transliteration of the Georgian name. And anyway UNM is used much more widely, any reason to use ENM instead?

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
December 17, 2012 00:38
I want to remind you, gentlemen, that Mr.De Waal considered by abkhaz-bandits as a representative of an inferior race.(аrticle 49 of the сonstitution of Abkhazia.)
One consolation, that in this category under the laws of the abkhazians is also Jack, camel and Putin...
Just imagine the scene gentlemen, abkhazians measure with dividers head to Putin, who covered them from justice..
As for the future of Georgia, everything is clear,if the Georgians will do not punish abkhazians-criminals , there will be no future,,
And because the Georgians cannot punish an abkhaz criminals, then the future of the Georgians are not very promising,
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
December 17, 2012 10:59
The future of georgians is very promising if they only follow the example of Vahtangovitch and run away as far as possible from their motherland to the land of their arch-enemies-mother Russia.Jack did the same running away to the USA to find his political asylum there!!!
In Response

by: John from: Los Angeles
December 27, 2012 16:02
I think I speak for all sane and rational individuals who read this crummy site when I say you should shut up and stop writing stupidity. It's getting really tiring seeing you bashing Abkhazia, Ossetia, or anything that had the courage to stand up to Georgian ultra nationalism and fanaticism and overcome it. Shame on you.

by: Ben
December 22, 2012 15:52
After the massed assault of the American broadcasting ,bolstered up by the former senator, the Ivanishvili`s democracy came!.
But instead of pride, the brave journalists are hiding covered by reports,RFE headline and others.What democracy you proclaimed?Mr Coalson?

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