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After the elections: prospects for democracy in Georgia

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, October 23
The October 1, 2012 parliamentary elections in Georgia were evaluated worldwide as an important step for the country in the way of democratic development. The elections resulted in the change of government peacefully through democratic means. All the essential criteria for assessing democratic achievement in the country were met according to the international standards. Georgia has moved from post-Soviet authoritarianism towards a Western model of democracy. This is the vision of situation from the Western perspective.

It should be said here that the democratic results of the October 1 elections were not derived from what went on during the pre-election period. In fact, by and large, the pre-election campaign in Georgia was conducted in extremely unequal conditions. The ruling UNM imposed immense pressure on the opposition, bribing the population, intimidating their supporters, violated human rights, the freedom of expression, pressured the media, banning access to TV channels, undertook illegal arrests, beatings supporters and most egregiously– used administrative resources in an attempt to achieve victory.

The National Movement was confident that it would win by all means and therefore nobody would have dared to ask for justice. However, the miracle happened and this was 100% due to the achievement of the Georgian population who proved to the world that it is democratic, civilized, tolerant, mature and full of common sense. In reality it was not the ruling UNM which secured democratic change, it was the people of Georgia who were fed up with Saakashvili's hypocritical governance.

Despite this, Saakashvili tried to accept the praise from the world community, pretending that the election results were due to the democratically held elections. This is a lie. Saakashvili and his team lost because after 8 years of it being in power, it frustrated the hopes of the Gerogian population. As a result, Georgia now has a new majority in the parliament, and a new government that is committed to move country toward the democratic pathway.

What is the situation in the parliament currently? The ruling Georgian Dream has 85 seats, the UNM, now in the opposition, exercises 65 seats in the parliament. To have a constitutional majority, 100 MPs are needed. So to adopt constitutional changes or some serious amendments, the Georgian Dream coalition will require 100 votes in the parliament. So, either some compromises will be achieved or further confrontation will take place.

The Georgian Dream coalition hopes that over time, it might manage to attract some of those now in the opposition and change the balance of the forces in the parliament. The president, now in the opposition, plans to stay in power for one more year. Some UNM supporters suggest that in such a scenario that in 6 months time, the president will have a right to dismiss the current parliament and announce new elections. The UNM may artificially provoke a political crisis in the country, thus providing the pretext for Saakashvili to dismiss the parliament and through another election, regain power.

Independent analysts however, challenge such a vision and say that if the elections are repeated 6 months from now, the UNM will not receive even 40% of votes this time. This is largely because the UNM will not have all the available levers it had during the pre October 1 election period. The police and law enforcement bodies will not unanimously support the UNM, cash flow will be restricted into the UNM election budget, and presumably, the court system will not dare to commit the unlimited crimes it did previously. Therefore, if a second round of elections is held, the UNM stands to lose more than it did the first time. Of course this is impossible to predict 6 months ahead of time, but one thing is very clear however, the mess that the UNM passed on to the Georgian Dream was very severe: a high level of unemployment, a large segment of the population beyond the poverty line, problems with the court system, poor healthcare and social protection legislation, a failed agricultural sector, abuses within the penitentiary system and many more headaches. Unfortunately, this mess his will make it difficult for the country to recover quickly. Time will tell...