An elegant start to a difficult transition.

Georgian Dream and United National Movement delegations meeting on 5 October to map out transition of power.

The events in Georgia over the last few days cannot be described as anything but historic. Within minutes of the close of polling in the 1 October Parliamentary elections all exit polls indicated that the elections had been won by the Georgia Dream opposition coalition led by Bidhzina Ivanishvili.

For a tense few hours it was not clear how the government of President Saakashvili would react. Early signs were disturbing. There were reports of systematic attempts to alter the vote in favour of the ruling party in a number of marginal constituencies. Then there was statement by Saakashvili himself saying that Georgian Dream had won more seats under the party list vote, but that his United National Movement had won a majority of the single member constituencies vote. If true, this would have opened the way for what many had feared would be a nightmare scenario where two parties claimed victory.

In the end however commonsense and statesmanship prevailed. Saakashvili appeared on television and conceded defeat. A normal transition of power through the ballot box has never happened in the South Caucasus before. In Georgia the situation is even more complicated because of the constitutional peculiarities which leave a president in office from a different party, and at least for the next few months with strong power.

Georgians learned very quickly the meaning of political co-habitation.

Many feared the worst, but in fact the last few days have seen an elegant start to the process of transition of power. High level officials from both sides met to map out the transition process. It was all very civilized and Georgians liked that, and the international community liked it even more. Georgia will benefit from this experience both internally because its democracy is now much stronger, but also in its international image.

Let nobody be fooled that the next months are going to be easy. President Saakashvili does not like to loose. Admitting for the first time in his political life, defeat, must have been difficult for him. He may be tempted to use his last months as President to show that he who laughs last laughs best.

But the chances are that the process that has started is irreversible. Georgian politicians, especially those in the new government, now must roll up their sleeves and start working on the many difficult problems that Georgia faces, especially in the economic sector.

Taking the first step, Bidhzina Ivanishvili on 8 October announced the names of the persons who will occupy the key positions in the government of the new coalition.

Reflecting the complex composition of the coalition and its different components, Ivanishvili named Irakli Alasaina, leader of the OG-FD party, as Deputy prime Minister and Minister of Defence and Kakha Kaladze, from his own Georgian Dream Party as Deputy prime Minister and Minister of regional Development and infrastructure.

A third key nomination is that of David Usupashvili, the Leader of the Republican party as Chairman of Parliament.

Other Ministerial nominations include:

Interior Minister – Irakli Garibashvili (GDDG);

Minister of Justice – Tea Tsulukiani (OGFD);

Minister of Foreign Affairs – Maia Panjikidze (GDDG);

Minister of Labor, Health and Social Affairs – Amiran Gamkrelidze

Minister of Agriculture – Davit Kirvalidze

Minister in charge of penitentiary system – Sozar Subari (GDDG);

Minister of Culture and Monument Protection – Guram Odisharia (GDDG);

Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs – Levan Kipiani (GDDG);

State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, Vice Prime Minister – Alexi Petriashvili (OGFD);

State Minister for Reintegration – Paata Zakareishvili (Republican Party);

State Minister on the Diaspora Issues – Kote Surguladze (OGFD);

Source: Caucasus Elections Watch Editorial team