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On the eve of elections

By Messenger Staff
Friday, September 28
In the post-Soviet period Georgia has held eight elections (1990, 1992, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2008). However we cannot say that these parliamentary elections were all democratic. The only one which could be considered truly democratic was held in 1990 when the communists were defeated by an anti-Soviet coalition.

However since then all changes in leadership have taken place by force. In 1992 the first Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia was ousted as the result of coup d'etat. The current administration itself came to power after the so-called Rose Revolution in 2003.

The Rose Revolution took place due to public discontent because of the violations of the November 2, 2003 parliamentary elections. President Saakashvili and other leaders of the Rose Revolution promised the Georgian population that it would be the last change of power through revolution and violence. They promised that from that point onwards changes of government would only take place through fair and peaceful elections.

Nine years have passed since the Rose Revolution. Unfortunately for Georgia elections have not become democratic, fair and transparent. Though international organizations have accepted the results, they have all reported certain violations, with the political opposition claiming many more. This time the Georgian Dream coalition led by Bidzina Ivanishvili has the chance to change the current government peacefully through elections. However the current administration is using many unfair methods to block this outcome, including excessive fines, uneven broadcast time on state- owned television stations, etc.

Up until last week few observers thought the Georgian Dream coalition was popular enough to win. However on September 19th video footage was leaked of guards at Gldani prison torturing inmates. The public reaction was absolutely indignant at the shocking footage and visibly more sympathetic towards the opposition.

The ruling United National Movement responded by releasing evidence of Ivanishvili supporter’s contacts with criminal forces in and out of the country. However, this incident did not overshadow the Gldani prison scandal which has given Georgian Dream a significant advantage in the final run-up to the elections.

The argument made by ruling officials that Georgian Dream is pro-Russian has not worked either. Therefore the situation has become very tense. The ruling administration is continuing to put pressure on opposition members through arrests, beatings and intimidation whereas the opposition is responding in a calm and balanced manner, trying not to escalate the situation into civil confrontation. Three days prior to the elections the rival sides are mobilising their final reserves.