The Georgian government and election officials might well be inclined to heave a small sigh of relief. A combined 60 percent of 2,038 Georgian respondents in a poll for the National Democratic Institute (NDI), to be released on September 7, predict a passably or "totally" clean vote in Georgia's October 1 parliamentary elections. By comparison, a combined 21 percent believe that there will be some form of funny business, in whole or in part.
But is Georgia a democracy to begin with? The poll implied that there is no easy answer to that question among many Georgians. Just over 40 percent of the respondents think they live in a democracy, while another 40 percent are convinced they do not. The remaining 20 percent included a tiny group of glazed-eyed enthusiasts who believe no further improvement is necessary and misanthropes who say that Georgia is not a democracy and never will be, either.
Arguably, Georgia is better off than repressive neighbors like Russia and Azerbaijan, but that does not make it Sweden. Nearly 10 years after the Rose Revolution, independently corroborated complaints persist about harassment of opposition parties and suppression of media liberties.
Critics charge that, for all its democratic reforms, Georgia is still not at a stage where it's imaginable that the ruling party would submit to losing in a fair election or where the opposition would be graceful in defeat.
Some time ago, that mix of traits prompted several academics, analysts and commentators with an interest in Georgia to brainstorm about the terms that accurately represent the country's current political system.
The winner? "Supra democracy" -- a reference to the traditional Georgian feast, or supra, emceed by a chosen toast-master-in-chief, or "tamada."
At a supra, a tamada calls the shots about who says what toast and when, but, depending on how protective he is about his status, he can also delegate some of his functions to guests and allow a measure of freedom and improvisation.
As in politics, rash decisions-- or inebriation - by a tamada can cause a crisis.
But if the tamada tradition, which has stood the test of time in Georgia, indeed helps define or understand Georgian politics, there is at least one aspect of it that some Georgians would like to see changed.