The recent parliamentary election in Georgia saw the ruling United National Movement (UNM) party defeated by the opposition Georgian Dream (GD) coalition led by new Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. This election has been variously described as evidence of the strength of Georgian democracy, a turn toward Russia by Georgia, a victory which Ivanishvili bought by spending lavishly in the United States, Europe and Georgia, the end of UNM domination, and more or less everything in between. It is still too early to know the real meaning of this election, but it is possible to make some observations, and raise some questions.
Mikheil Saakashvili, the pro-Western president of Georgia faced with increasing protests among his people, conceded defeat Tuesday after preliminary election returns showed the opposition had won control of parliament and the right to name a powerful new prime minister. In a televised address, the 44-year-old leader acknowledged that the Georgian Dream coalition led by tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili had won, and said his own United National Movement would become the opposition. “You know well that the views of this coalition were and still remain fundamentally unacceptable for me,” he said, “but democracy works in a way that allows the Georgian people to make a decision by a majority.” With nearly half the ballots counted by Tuesday afternoon, the Central Election Commission reported that Georgian Dream had 54.1% of the vote to 41% for Saakashvili’s movement.
Defying expectations, President Mikhail Saakashvili conceded Tuesday that his party had lost Georgia’s parliamentary election and his opponent had the right to become prime minister, setting the stage for political turmoil in the final year of his presidency.
The new Georgian government will be led by billionaire businessman and philanthropist Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia and until recently was little known to the 4.5 million people in his homeland on the Black Sea. In one notable accomplishment, it was the first time in Georgia’s post-Soviet history that the government changed by the ballot box rather than through revolution. Saakashvili came to power through the peaceful Rose Revolution after a rigged parliamentary vote in 2003. By conceding defeat even before the results of Monday’s election were released, the 44-year-old Saakashvili defied the opposition’s expectations that he would cling to power at all costs and preserved his legacy as a pro-Western leader who brought democracy to the former Soviet republic. He also prevented potential violence on the emotionally charged streets of the capital, Tbilisi, where support for the opposition Georgian Dream coalition is strongest. Opposition supporters began celebrating as soon as the polls closed, and the mood could have turned ugly very quickly if they thought they were being deprived of a victory.
More than two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Republic of Georgia passed an important democratic milestone this week when the opposition party won the parliamentary elections and the incumbent president, Mikheil Saakashvili, conceded defeat. The door is now open for the first peaceful transition of power in modern Georgia’s history. The development is also a landmark for the Eurasian region of former Soviet Republics, where most elections have been rigged and often violent. … Since the collapse of the Soviet Union twenty-one years ago, the fifteen former Soviet Republics have followed mostly bumpy paths toward and away from democracy. On Monday, Georgians stunned the world when an opposition coalition led by eccentric billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili won the parliamentary election there. President Mikheil Saakashvili conceded defeat on Tuesday, paving the way for Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream bloc to form a new government. When Ivanishvili becomes prime minister, as expected, it will be the first time in Georgia’s history that the government will have changed at the ballot box rather than through revolution.
Georgia (Sakartvelo): Billionaire tycoon claims surprise victory as key US ally Georgia votes | World News
One of the world’s richest businessmen claimed to have inflicted a surprise narrow defeat on the incumbent pro-Western party in Monday’s elections in Georgia, a key ally of the United States neighboring Russia. Billionaire tycoon-turned-politician Bidzina Ivanishvili claimed his opposition political alliance Georgian Dream had staged a remarkable upset and was heading for control of the former Soviet republic’s parliament. However, incumbent President Mikheil Saakashvili insisted his United National Movement was on course to retain power.
Starting today with Georgia, and followed by Ukraine and Lithuania, parliamentary elections in Europe’s east are revealing the tenuous nature of democracy and sovereignty in countries once entrapped by Soviet-era Moscow. Among the top priorities that Russian President Vladimir Putin set for his third presidential term is the reintegration of former Soviet republics – based on tighter economic links and culminating in a political and security pact centered around Russia. Moscow seeks to create a new Eurasian Union that will balance the European Union in the West and China in the East.
As Georgians head to the polls Monday, analysts are warning that rising tensions could boil over just as the Russian military is conducting exercises near the de facto border line, a situation the Georgia government is worried Moscow could exploit. “We hope it will be made clear to Russia that a military invasion into Georgia with the goal of destroying Georgia’s sovereignty, which is still the goal of the Kremlin, will have a huge at minimum political price for Russia in its relationship with Western powers,” Georgia’s National Security Advisor Giga Bokeria told The Cable in a phone interview from Tbilisi. The European Union’s monitoring mission, which patrols the administrative boundary between Georgia and the Russian-occupied regions of Abkhasia and South Ossetia, noted in its most recent report that while the observers saw no movement of military equipment on the Georgian side that could be perceived as instigating an attack, the Russian forces on the other side of the boundary line are increasing. “The Mission has raised its concerns about this activity with the relevant Russian command structures,” their report stated.
What with the Arab Spring, Israeli threats to attack Iran, and the bloodshed in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, the world has largely forgotten the troubled Caucasus region. But European and Western leaders would do well to take another look at what is happening there, four years after Georgia’s 2008 war with Russia proved the dangers still posed by unresolved military conflicts from the collapse of the Soviet Union. On Oct. 1, Georgians will vote in the least-predictable election that the country has had since it gained independence more than 20 years ago. A quick look at a map or globe shows that Georgia and the pipelines it hosts to transport oil and natural gas to Western markets are all too close to the hot spots that so preoccupy the world’s leaders today.
The former Soviet state of Georgia will hold fiercely contested parliamentary elections on Monday. For the first time since coming to power in 2004, President Mikheil Saakashvili’s fervently pro-Western government risks being ousted – by a billionaire tycoon, suspected of having close links to the Kremlin, who wants to re-establish relations with Russia. Two elderly women selling fruit at one of Tbilisi’s many outdoor markets shout loudly at each other, arguing about who should lead the country. A man carrying his shopping yells over his opinion as he walks past. This is political debate, Georgian-style. Apathy is certainly not a problem in these elections. Both sides regard this vote as an all-or-nothing fight for power. Most of the people standing behind the stalls here scrape by on a few dollars a day, selling fruit and vegetables. They see Georgia’s richest man – the billionaire opposition leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili, as their saviour – and the possibility of renewed trade links with Russia as an economic lifeline.
The Georgian government of President Mikheil Saakashvili, long a favorite of U.S. conservatives for championing pro-democratic “color revolutions,” is under fire for its own alleged suppression of a domestic opposition movement headed by a billionaire tycoon. Saakashvili was lauded as a reformer after he became president in 2004, following the Rose Revolution, and he has bravely challenged Russian hegemony in the region. But he has also shown a tendency to overreach, as in the imprudent military moves that offered Russia a pretext for invading Georgia in 2008. Now, critics charge, his government has been overly zealous in combating political challengers at home. Saakashvili’s rival is a wealthy businessman named Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made a fortune in Russia before returning home to form a political party called Georgian Dream. Ivanishvili’s supporters allege a series of repressive moves by the government, including a cyberattack that has ensnared not just Georgian activists but U.S. lawyers, lobbyists and security advisers for Georgian Dream.
Georgia (Sakartvelo): EU foreign ministers in Georgia to oversee election build-up as political tension rises | The Irish Times
Five European Union foreign ministers are in Georgia to oversee the build-up to its October 1st parliamentary election, amid international concern over rising political tension in the country. The EU, US and leading democracy watchdogs have called on the country to ensure free and fair conduct of the election, in which the ruling party of Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili faces a strident challenge from supporters of the country’s richest man. Billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili accuses Mr Saakashvili’s allies of using dirty tricks to undermine his newly formed Georgian Dream party, complaining that he has been stripped of his Georgian passport and fined millions of euro since entering politics.
Georgia (Sakartvelo): Ivanishvili Says to Accept Georgian Election Results Deemed ‘Legitimate’ by International Observers | Civil.Ge
Leader of Georgian Dream opposition coalition, Bidzina Ivanishvili, said on Sunday that his coalition would accept results of elections if October 1 parliamentary polls were deemed as legitimate by international observer organizations. Ivanishvili, who was interviewed by the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s weekly program Accents, also said that it was President Saakashvili who was interested in having post-election disorders. Asked whether he would accept election results if those results were deemed “legitimate” by “authoritative” international observer organizations, Ivanishvili responded: “Yes, of course.”
The Georgian government of President Mikheil Saakashvili, long a favorite of U.S. conservatives for championing pro-democratic “color revolutions,” is under fire for its own alleged suppression of a domestic opposition movement headed by a billionaire tycoon. Saakashvili was lauded as a reformer after he became president in 2004, following the Rose Revolution, and he has bravely challenged Russian hegemony in the region. But he has also shown a tendency to overreach, as in the imprudent military moves that offered Russia a pretext for invading Georgia in 2008. Now, critics charge, his government has been overly zealous in combating political challengers at home. Saakashvili’s rival is a wealthy businessman named Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made a fortune in Russia before returning home to form a political party called Georgian Dream. Ivanishvili’s supporters allege a series of repressive moves by the government, including a cyber attack that has caught up not just Georgian activists but U.S. lawyers, lobbyists and security advisers for Georgian Dream.
Georgia’s Central Election Commission has rejected applications from two Russian organizations to register as observers for the parliamentary election on October 1. September 9, the CEC decided to deny the State Duma of the Russian Federation and Fund for Free Election to register as observers. The rejection comes as a consequence of a recent amendment of the election code with effectively introduced a ban on election observers from any country that fails to recognize Abkahzia and South Ossetia as parts of Georgia. Russia has recognized both regions as independent states. The initiators of the law explained that the goal was to “keep away observers that might have a conflict of interest or some kind of agenda. Observers should be politically impartial.” Sergey Markov and Maxim Gregoriev, members of Public Chamber of Russia, were among those whose application was rejected.
The Central Election Commission (CEC) has prolonged deadline for registration of Georgian citizens living abroad from September 10 to September 13. In order to cast ballot in the October 1 parliamentary elections, overseas voters have to undergo registration at the polling stations opened in Georgian embassies or consulates in 32 countries. The registration requires no proof-of-residency and will be possible by submitting, either personally or through an authorized person, ID cards to the Georgian embassies or consulates where the polling stations are located.
Georgia has just announced that parliamentary elections will be held on 1 October. They are being seen as the biggest test facing the country’s democracy since the Rose Revolution in 2003. Until the end of last year it looked like President Mikheil Saakashvili’s governing party would win this election easily. A boringly predictable affair – welcome in a country where elections can provoke crisis and instability. But now the volatility is back in Georgian politics. The country’s richest man, Billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose $6.4bn (£4.1bn) fortune is worth almost half Georgia’s economic output, has vowed to oust the ruling party from power. And the fight is getting nasty. Mr Ivanishvili accuses the government of targeting him, in an attempt to stamp out political opposition. He says he has been fined more than $200m, allegedly for breaking party funding rules.