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Georgian elections and foreign policy

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, May 24
Government officials have attributed Georgia’s perceived success at the Chicago NATO summit to the country’s successful foreign policy. Georgia’s opposition meanwhile believes that the country’s achievements in regards to NATO are mostly the result of Georgia’s commitment to the current ISAF operation. Moreover, some analysts suggest that due to recent backsliding in Georgia’s democratic reform process, it is the current administration that is creating obstacles to the country’s path to NATO.

Everybody admits that the forthcoming parliamentary elections are the most important test. And authorities claim that they will implement these elections fairly and transparently. However, those within the opposition camp are skeptical.

Unfortunately, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia boasts a less than stellar record when it comes to elections. No change in government has been achieved through democratic elections. Georgia’s first President- Gamsakhurdia was ousted; and the second- President Shevardnadze, was removed through the Rose Revolution. So, if Georgia wants to improve its democratic standing within the international community, it is obliged to hold these elections in a fair and transparent fashion.

The date of the elections has not been confirmed. Presumably they will take place in October. But the leading forces –the ruling United National Movement and the opposition Georgian Dream have already begun their election campaign. The UNM is fairly concerned about the current situation and uses all its administrative resources to stop and restrict Ivanishvili’s moves.

Countrywide, TV stations under state-control have been mobilized to undermine Ivanishvili’s campaign through discreditation and smear tactics. The police have abused the rights of ordinary citizens and have intimidated others. Support of the Georgian Dream coalition is almost tantamount to a crime. The ruling administration has introduced several amendments to the constitution aimed at defeating the oppositional coalition. With regards to the country’s foreign policy, Saakashvili and his team label Ivanishvili as a Russian project, and attempts to convince the population that Ivanishvili’s coming to power would mean subordination to Russia again.

Ivanishvili and his team meanwhile are opposed to such accusations. Ivanishvili keeps repeating his party’s commitment to Western values, as well as EU and NATO integration. A recent refusal by Ivanishvili to participate in the elections under the new amendments in the constitution created yet another challenge to the ruling administration that undoubtedly will further become a target of pressure from the West. The current changes in the constitution which permits EU citizens of Georgian origin to participate in the election is an arrogant fact, which has caused the surprise and dismay of Western legislators, political figures and commentators alike.