Georgia Publicly Debates Its Future

by Joshua Foust on 7/25/2009 · 2 comments

Irakli Alasania, the leader of the Our Georgia-Free Democrats party, has quite an interesting op-ed in the Wall Street Journal:

Most people will be familiar with the threat Georgia faces from its Russian neighbor. But Georgian society also faces massive internal challenges to its democracy and economy. We need to get past our confrontational politics to create a pluralistic democracy and bring prosperity based on open markets to all Georgians. This would also improve our security in the face of the Russian threat.

Unfortunately, some ruling politicians forget that these goals can only be achieved with a strong but balanced government, the rule of law, room for dialogue and disagreement, a vibrant opposition and fair elections. It is time to press the restart button on democracy in Georgia.

Meanwhile, in the Guardian, David Darchiashvili argues the regime of Mikhail Saakashvili is all about hope and change:

Conversely, the government wants to expand its dialogue with the opposition and the public. We want to do so in a spirit of constructiveness and hope, and we want to get moving with it.

In a speech on Tuesday, Georgia’s president Mikhail Saakashvili announced a series of bold reforms over the next 100 days that will set priorities for “a new wave of democracy”. On electoral reform, these include the direct election of mayors, a new electoral code, a head for the electoral commission who is jointly chosen with the opposition and early local elections in May 2010. On constitutional reform, we are introducing new powers and independence for the constitutional commission and stronger checks and balances on presidential power.

And so on and so on. What’s so interesting about this is not that Georgia has a lively domestic politics—the years of protests and street marches is ample enough evidence for that. What is so interesting is that Georgian politics are playing out in Western publications, in English. There are probably a few reasons for that. Joe Biden’s recent visit indicates the U.S. still has some interest in the region. Many of Georgia’s elites were educated in the West, so they see that as a natural outlet for their politiking (similarly, Saakashvili has restricted independent media). But perhaps most importantly, each “side” of the Georgian political world relies on a sense of legitimacy in the West to thrive.

As I noted last month, “this is an American ally, the recipient of a billion dollars in U.S. foreign aid right after it started a war, the owner of a shiny new “strategic partnership” with the U.S., who has spent the last several months beating up opposition politicians and even journalists… and there is scarcely a peep either in the halls of Washington or even the blogs.” Indeed, whether the Georgian ruling groups emerge from the latest round of political turnover as saviors of their country or as petty autocrats revolves largely on how the West ends up perceiving it. Hence, we have competing op-eds by Georgian politicians, arguing their case in the capitals of the West.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 2 comments }

JTapp July 26, 2009 at 8:54 pm

Did you see VP Biden’s comments to the Georgian parliament? He could have been Dick Cheney or some other neocon.

irakli July 27, 2009 at 4:31 am

or check this op-ed out from nino burjanadze — http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/jul/21/georgia-joe-biden

— 90% of moaning she does about the standard of democracy took place when she was #2 person in the government 🙂

Even more — during the presidential elections in ’08 which she now says were flawed, she actually was the active president! back then the conclusions meant to her elections were free and fair…

what is happening, is that basically these guys are trying to sell themselves as better alternatives to misha – all while Misha is a very, very good conductor of US policy – so why change him at all – could cause instability and uncertainty.

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