Books on Georgia
Update No: 325 - (28/01/08)
A worm in the apple
Georgia is a marvellous place, with a great climate, fabulous mountain scenery
adjacent to the Black Sea and a Caucasian culture of great sophistication,
including some of the world's finest wines and brandies.
But Georgia also gave the world Stalin and his henchman Beria. The former
enunciated the following dictum: “People think that what matters in elections
is how the electors vote; actually the only thing that matters is who counts the
In the January 5 elections for the presidency in Georgia the electoral
commission consisted of the authorities who had backed the Rose Revolution in
2003, which toppled President Eduard Shevardnaze. A most decisive event.
In the Name of the Rose
Georgia's new leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, won re-election sealing a bitterly
fought victory that his main challenger has refused to accept.
Based on a complete preliminary count, the pro-Western reformer scored 52.21
percent, clearing the 50-percent hurdle for winning in one round. He was far
ahead of his nearest rival Levan Gachechiladze, who got 25.26 percent, the
Central Election Commission said. It is significant, however, that Gachechiladze
was the front-runner in Tbilisi. That is why the inhabitants of the capital are
convinced that the results were rigged. Nobody knows personally anyone who would
have voted for the incumbent. There were after all 100,000 who came out in
demonstrations in November against the government. Revolution is a dangerous
Saakashvili, who came to power after the 2003 Rose Revolution, now may have a
new five-year mandate to pursue radical reforms to transform US-backed Georgia's
economy and push for NATO and EU membership. But he still has his work cut out
to establish his democratic legitimacy.
Opening to the opposition fails
Saakashvili and the opposition are both making moves to secure public
support in an increasingly polarized political atmosphere. In a surprise
broadcast late on the evening of January 8, Saakashvili vowed to include members
of the opposition in his new cabinet.
“[With the opposition in mind, we have to reshuffle the current composition of
the executive government and I believe that we should be much more all-inclusive
and reach out to a broader circle of people for inclusion [into the cabinet],”
he said in a specially scheduled airing of Rustavi-2’s Prime Time talk show.
“In my second term, cabinet posts will not be decided only on party
affiliation,” Saakashvili told Prime Time hostess Inga Grigolia. “I’ve
decided this because after my second presidential term I want to bequeath a
democratic Georgia and not a party-based Georgia.”
Saakashvili’s bid for compromise – which he stressed was not an invitation
for a coalition government – comes amid increasingly serious allegations from
those opposed to him. Opposition parties, including a nine-party coalition
backing parliamentarian-candidate Gachechiladze, are demanding a second round of
voting. According to Georgian law, if any candidate does not receive 50 percent
of the vote plus one during the first round, the race is decided by a follow-up
vote within two weeks.
On January 8, Gachechiladze supporters stormed the Central Election Commission
in Tbilisi to charge that officials are falsifying election protocols to give
the election to Saakashvili. Saakashvili’s pledge to include the opposition in
his potential second-term cabinet has done nothing to abate public anger. During
a short January 9 protest in front of Georgian Public Broadcasting,
Gachechiladze said that he “did not believe” Saakashvili’s promise.
Other opposition parties have also flatly refused to consider cooperation. Irina
Pruidze, international spokesperson for the New Rights – a party earlier
deemed by Saakashvili part of Georgia’s “constructive opposition” – said
that participating in a Saakashvili government at this point is out of the
question. “Our position is we don’t recognize these results.” Therefore,
we are not going to cooperate with an illegal president and government,” said
Pruidze. The New Rights will only consider working with Saakashvili if he wins
in a second-round race against Gachechiladze, she added.
Rumours about the final makeup of Saakashvili’s new government – pending
official election results – have been circulating since the pre-election
period. According to Petr Mamradze, head of the State Chancellery, Georgian law
stipulates that a new government be in place 20 days after the president’s
inauguration. While nominally the prime minister proposes ministers, no
candidate for a ministerial portfolio is decided without the president’s final
On January 9, Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze confirmed reports that the cabinet
will be radically restructured in the event of Saakashvili’s official victory.
“At this stage, I can only say that we will have several vice-premiers,
instead of one, as presently,” he said at a televised government session,
according to the news bulletin site Civil.ge. Although a president-elect has not
yet been officially declared, Gurgenidze stated, “consultations are currently
underway” about the new cabinet.
Political scientist Ghia Nodia commented that while Saakashvili’s initiative
could be positive for Georgian politics in the future, there is little chance
that it will placate the opposition now. “Maybe one or two figures [from the
opposition could] eventually [join the government] … broadening the pool of
people from where the government is recruited,” Nodia said. “But I don’t
think that will have an impact on the radical part of the opposition [now].”
Gachechiladze is now effectively symbolizing that part of the opposition for
many Georgians. On January 8, he announced a hunger strike until the
state-financed Georgian Public Broadcasting (GPB) gave his supporters and him
live air time on television.
The situation in Georgia remains obviously highly volatile.