Tag Archives: mikhail saakashvili

Georgia on the Crossroad: Back to the Past?

Georgia held presidential elections and, for the first time in the country’s political history, the state will hold the second tour. This may be easily considered as a huge blow for the ruling political force, Georgia Dream. Local political opposition united around Grigol Vashadze, presidential candidate of United National Movement. Some foreign and local experts/observers may think that fierce political rivalry between position and opposition is a sign of positive democratic changes; furthermore, that Vashadze’s victory will have positive effect. Contrary to this perception, Vashadze’s success won’t lead country to better future but rather to unfortunate past.

Read more in Russian via link. The original article was published by Russian Council and can be read here.

Return of Saakashvili? Political Observer Archil Sikharulidze’s Analysis

On October 28, 2018 Salome Zurabishvili, an independent presidential candidate supported by the ruling party Georgian Dream and its leader Georgian typhoon Bidzina Ivanishvili failed to win in the first tour of the presidential elections in Georgia. Zurabishvili managed to surpass her opponent from United National Movement, Grigol Vashadze only by small margin. In the wake of this tremendous success of the opposition, various experts analyze possible outcomes of Vashadze’s presidency. Previously, Vashadze argued that he will pardon former Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili and his fellow teammates. Georgian political observer, Archil Sikharulidze gives a short comment on possible return of Saakashvili and the reasons behind opposition’s victory.

You can read more in Russian here.

The Best of 2017!

Year of 2017 has come to its logical conlusion. Below there is a list of the most important and popular articles that have been published. Please have a look and we are looking for reasonable and well arguemented feedbacks/comments:

The Georgian crusade against Kiev: Can Saakashvili bring together the Ukrainian opposition into a new Maidan? (ReThinkingRussia), December 23:

…if he is removed from the political rivalry, this will mark the end of the Georgian political influence on the Ukrainian policymaking…Yes, Saakashvili contributed a lot to the post-Soviet space, but many stakeholders are tired with him and want his show to come to an end…

The Abkhazia and South Ossetia conflicts are not just about Russia (OC-Media), December 11:

…Russia is a political, economic, and military guarantor of Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s independence and statehood. But these Georgian lands are not ‘without a people’. There are also a variety of other ethnic groups living in the disputed regions, and their…

Rustavi 2 Case: “Georgian Dream’s” Sword of Damocles (RIAC), November 23:

…Рустави 2 – это один из сильнейших и влиятельных частных телеканалов страны. На протяжении двух десятков лет он влиял на политические события. Именно благодаря этому каналу революционное…

Russian Public Diplomacy in Georgia: Tendencies, Challenges and Perspectives (RIAC), November 23:

…на фоне отсутствия дипломатических отношений российская сторона активно продвигает идею публичной дипломатии. За годы работы сформировались разные научные, экспертные и молодёжные платформы сотрудничества…

Mission is Incomplete: Georgia in the Middle-East (RIAC), November 3:

…представители подрастающего политического и академического классов всё больше и больше задаются вопросом о надобности нахождения Грузинского контингента на Ближнем Востоке, если…

Georgia’s Culture of “Breakthrough” Celebrations (GeorgiaToday), October 20:

Georgia has a long history of “breakthrough” celebrations following various political decisions announced by the government as a great victory. Lately, to the dissatisfaction of local society, it has become politically motivated exaggeration and/or an attempt to overshadow the incapability or…

The King is Law: Georgia’s Never Ending “Perestroika” (GeorgiaToday), September 11:

…the current government’s constitutional reform is highly criticized by various actors for being a unilateral decision not backed by society and lacking a common agreement among political actors. Some say it may even trigger the worsening of domestic processes, though, generally, this is a false statement. In fact, the reform is a continuation of Georgia’s never ending “perestroika” and will not significantly change the environment…

Out with the Russian framework: The Untold Story of the Georgian March (GeorgiaToday), August 31:

…Georgia’s political and other elites must stop using the ‘Russian framework’ to turn a blind eye to the challenges that such marches raise; they should work hard to start open debates to show their readiness for dialogue and awareness of the existing political, social and economic challenges…

The problem with Georgia’s political brand (NewEasternEurope), July 25:

…this event, just like the 2008 August War, the recent clashes during an anti-homophobia rally and various other events, reflects the existence of two parallel Georgias: Georgia as a political brand, created by the former president Mikhail Saakashvili, and Georgia as a political actor of international relations which has to maneuver in the global and regional political environment…

Islam in Georgia: Policy and Integration (Caucasian House), 2016-2017:

…the present research aims at examining issues related to the integration of Muslim communities, raising awareness of the wider public on these issues, and developing recommendations for respective stakeholders…

Russian-Georgian Diplomatic Relations – To Be Or Not To Be? (OC-Media), March 6:

…restoration of Russian-Georgian diplomatic relations is not a grand question of ‘to be or not to be’ as it is represented by some, including in the Georgian media. It is an issue of necessity; whether Georgia needs it at all? From a practical point of view: barely is the answer….

Scapegoating Russia (Russia Direct), February 22:

…the West needs to criticize Russia to find explanations for its geopolitical recession and woes. At the same time, this tactic is quite safe, at least because the West’s strategic partners won’t be disappointed, with little or no threat posed to their own national interests…

Archil Sikharulidze

Co-founder of the Center for Systemic Political Research (CSPR)

Editor of Georgian Journal of Systemic Politics (GJSP)

The King is Law: Georgia’s Never-Ending ‘Perestroika’

Constitutions in Western democracies are based on a principle perfectly expressed by the Latin phrase “Non rex est lex, sed lex est rex” (lat., The King is not the law, but the law is king). For years, Georgia tried hard to set the same framework by changing the country’s main legislative document, but instead of settling the superiority of the law, it was used to strengthen the superiority of particular political groups.

The current government’s constitutional reform is highly criticized by various actors for being a unilateral decision not backed by society and lacking a common agreement among political actors. Some say it may even trigger the worsening of domestic processes, though, generally, this is a false statement. In fact, the reform is a continuation of Georgia’s never ending “perestroika” and will not significantly change the environment, due to problems with political willingness rather than with the constitutional amendments themselves.

What is it all about?

Georgian “perestroika” is a process of re-shaping and re-building state institutions, laws and other things to improve on the “misdeeds” of the previous government. Predictably, every political group wants to make the country better than it was, but the local scenario is complex. According to well-established Georgian political tradition, every predecessor is “corrupt” in the eyes of the current power holder, and the “perestroika” frequently means the demolishing and abandonment of pretty much everything that was initiated before. So far, Georgia has been stuck in a close circle of rarely useful never-ending reforms. The constitutional changes perfectly reflect this paradox. Every government sees flaws in it and is highly motivated to make respective amendments to the document, forgetting the importance of political willingness to give up the reins of power and decentralize power vertically. Briefly, the political elite would like to make a better Constitution but are not ready to lose seats in parliament to do so. Logically, this is hardly manageable in real life. So, amendments are made but the political situation remains unchanged and the process starts all over again.

Misleading Assumptions

The current constitutional reform process is so frequently discussed by various actors in a negative way that it is natural to share the popular assumption that something really bad is happening; something that will undermine Georgia’s democracy and institutional stability. In fact, it is a misleading assumption based on two false statements regularly used by the political opposition and a number of local non-governmental actors.

The first argument expressed by NGOs is that there was never a demand for constitutional change, but as the government initiated the process, it must be dealt with in accordance with democratic standards. Since the first Constitution was approved in 1995, Georgians were and are too busy with everyday challenges such as unemployment, poverty, elite corruption, military conflicts and occupation to focus particularly on this comparatively less important issue. Furthermore, there is no survey where “constitutional reform” is even mentioned by interviewees. For years, political elites have been making amendments based on their own initiatives and positioning rather than decisive demands from the electorate.

Secondly, Georgia’s strategic partners are worried by the absence of a common agreement on a variety of issues among the government, political opposition and civil society regarding the reform. There is an assumption that the unwillingness of the ruling party to cooperate and take into account critical suggestions undermines legitimacy of the process in general. We need to remind ourselves of some statistics, here. During the first years of the post-Revolutionary government, both executive and legislative bodies were under the total control of Mikhail Saakashvili and his United National Movement. From 2004 to 2008, the ruling party had 135 seats in Parliament, while the political opposition had just 15. The situation worsened when, in 2008, only 11 seats were occupied by members of the non-ruling party. In the first months of his governance, Saakashvili managed to make at least 40 amendments to the Constitution, transforming the country into a super-presidential system with no checks or balances.

Finally, the 2010 reform that gave Georgia a parliamentary model raised fears that Saakashvili was going to repeat the so-called Putin-Medvedev scenario (a case when, after two-terms of presidency, Vladimir Putin replaced Dmitry Medvedev in the position of Prime Minister, thus de-facto keeping his grip on power). These changes were mostly made without serious panel discussions with either the political opposition or civil society. And still, there were no doubts about the legitimacy of the regime or Constitution. It should be added that the 2012 parliamentary elections allocated 65 seats to the political opposition while the last one: 35.

The Georgian Constitution has been a subject for continuous reforms for years; and, frequently, the ruling party has the tendency to use its constitutional majority to unilaterally pass amendments that they believed were important or even crucial despite there being no demand for these particular changes nor any general agreements to do so among local actors. Georgian Dream is trying to ensure, as every single political force has before them, that the electoral system is government-friendly. But this process is in accordance with the established practice. There are no significant aberrations that raise concerns that the political environment in the country will get better or worse purely due to these amendments.

Finally, we need to keep in mind that constitutional reform in Georgia was never about superiority of the law over politics, but rather about the superiority of politics over this law; and by changing the country’s main legislative document, local political elites inform other actors that a new boss has arrived and “perestroika” is coming. It is a state of condition when “rex” (lat., king, or the constitutional majority in our case) is “lex” (lat., law) and not vice versa.

The original article was published by GeorgiaToday. It is available here.