Hey look, more protests!

by Marc W on 3/10/2008

Sigh. This time in Georgia. 7,000 in Tibilisi against Saakashvili for allegedly stealing the presidental election back in January. The protestors are mostly supporters of Levan Gachechiladze, who was the runner-up in the election. The election was very similar to the Armenian election last month, in that I don’t think anyone really disputes that Saakashvili got more votes, but there were enough reports of irregularities that one could make a case that he didn’t really clear the 50% mark necessary to avoid a run-off (the official results were Saakashivili 53%, Gachechildaze 27%).

It really seems like the trend now in post-Soviet countries is that any time you lose an election, you stage protests and claim that the incumbent used illegal and undemocratic means to steal the election, and that you’re the true representative of the people. If, like Saakashvili and Yuschchenko, you actually manage to get into office, the roles quickly reverse. I don’t mean to trivialize the situation, as free and fair elections are of course fundamental to a democracy, but at some point I think these protests start to lose their impact and just become part of the ritual. I remember reading once that one of the biggest tests of a democracy is whether the losers of elections, or those whose terms have expired, can accept that they’re not in power and step aside. Clearly, most of the post-Soviet countries haven’t gotten there yet.

On the other hand, it’s certainly a positive sign that so many people feel so emboldened that they join these protests, often at risk to themselves.

Tomorrow, I promise a post with nothing at all to do with protests or disputed elections.

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