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Democracy in Georgia: words and reality

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, May 1
The construction of a democratic state is in the hands of political parties, therefore every political entity claims that it is the one which is constructing democracy. Presumably, this should give ground to a flourishing democracy. However, the reality in Georgia is somewhat different.

In Georgia, political parties are created around a leader. Ordinary citizens remember the names of leaders, and hardly ever the name of the party itself. An ordinary voter can name political figures like Gia Tortladze, Kakha Kukava, Koba Davitashvili, and Nino Burjanadze – but it is unlikely that they could accurately match them to the party they lead.

As leaders domineer over their parties, that is why during election campaigns personalities are promoted rather than a party or a platform. This has been the situation since Georgia regained its independence 20 years ago. For instance, everyone knows that Georgia’s first president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was leader of the coalition Round Table Free Georgia. Everyone knows that Eduard Shevardnadze, the second president of Georgia, was leader of Citizens Union, and that Aslan Abashidze, the former Adjara governor, was leader of the Revival Party. Today, everyone knows that Mikheil Saakashvili leads the United National Movement. All these parties represented powerful and politically dominant personalities.

This is why there is no structural unity in those political organizations, there is no ideology. They are merely united around one charismatic leader – and as soon as he goes the party disappears. This was the fate of all previous governing parties.

The opposition has been criticizing the United National Movement for quite some time, claiming that it has deviated from the democratic path. However, many analysts doubt if any other party will be truly democratic themselves if they gain power.

National Democratic and Republican Parties are the oldest ones in Georgia. The party that has existed since 1995 is the Labour Party, whose leader for the past 17 years has been Shalva Natelashvili. It has participated in every election since and has several times qualified for seats in Parliament. The next oldest party is New Rights, which was founded in 2001. Just a couple of years ago the Christian-Democratic movement emerged, to more success than its peers. There are numerous one man parties also.

Today, the leading opposition party is Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia, which has, in the Georgian tradition, been constructed around one person – Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Georgia seems to be a country deficient in political culture. Hopefully that can change.