A year after bringing billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream team to power, Georgian voters barely bothered to show up for the October 27 presidential election that will end President Mikheil Saakashvili’s near-decade in office.
For Georgia, the signing of an association agreement marks a major stride toward the European Union. But the pact should not be construed as an insurance policy against continued meddling by Moscow, experts say.
The Georgian Dream coalition, which controls the parliament in Georgia, seems to be playing fast and loose with parliamentary procedure, at least when it comes to its efforts to relocate the legislature.
Georgia’s Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili claims his intended resignation later this month will help break the South Caucasus country’s dependence on strong political personalities. Yet, even if he gives up his formal title, political analysts in Tbilisi expect Ivanishvili to remain the power behind the Georgian government.
Outgoing Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s role as a state builder, a revolutionary, and a domineering leader determined to thrust his tiny country outside of Russia’s political orbit is well established. But as his nearly decade-long tenure comes to an end, Georgians are still struggling to define this 45-year-old leader and the mark he has left on Georgia.
Thirteen months ago, the appearance of prison abuse videos helped send President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement Party down to defeat in parliamentary elections. Now, on the eve of another national election, rights advocates are complaining that Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s government hasn’t done much to open Georgian prisons to public accountability.
Officials and political analysts in Tbilisi believe the Kremlin is ready to reach deep into its bag of tricks to try to coerce Georgia into ditching its European Union membership ambitions and embracing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Eurasian Union vision.
The last time 76-year-old Venera Oshoridze saw her son, Kakha, was September 15, 1993.
A pensive 20-year-old who loved his friends, his mother’s fried potatoes, and dreamed of going to college, Kakha volunteered to fight in the Abkhaz war just days before Tbilisi lost the battle for Sokhumi on September 27, 1993.
You know there’s got to be a national election in the wind when a prime minister opts to take four hours out of a day to lambast political analysts on television for “improperly analyzing” his government’s alleged successes.
Eleven of Georgia’s most prominent political scientists, considered among the royalty of media and political culture, were taken to task on September 25 by a visibly upset Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili for their “incorrect” opinions on everything from the economy to his freshman Georgian-Dream coalition’s expertise in parliament.
“Experts’ words have a large importance…your words…your positions very often have influence on society…but very often I cannot agree with you,” he said in an opening remark that foreshadowed the dressing-down, staged in his personal, spaceship-style business center.
To demonstrate how carefully he apparently is watching the analysts, Ivanishvili constantly referred back to a stack of papers, quoting their words in published interviews and calling on them to account for them.
They should, he said like a participant in a Soviet-era “criticism and self-criticism” session, apply more “filters” to their comments.
One of the biggest points of contention was how the group is analyzing Ivanishvili’s plans to leave politics after the October 27 presidential elections. Statements that it could make for problems – a view also shared by the overwhelming majority of respondents in one recent poll for the National Democratic Institute – were dismissed as fiddle-faddle.