It has been a month since the 1 October Georgian elections which resulted in a landslide victory for the Georgian Dream coalition of Bidhzina Ivanishvili. In terms of Georgian politics, and indeed region wide, this has been a political earthquake.
Not only has an incumbent government in the region been defeated through the ballot box for the first time, and not only has the transfer of power been done in a by and large proper fashion; It is also an earthquake because very few saw it coming.
Many diplomats in Tbilisi are with egg on their face. Their political reporting to their respective capitals over the last year failed to prepare their governments for the change of power. This flaw is particularly acute amongst Embassies of the European Union member states and institutions. The somewhat clumsy way in which the EU acted in the period immediately before and after the election raises some questions. Lessons need to be learned because if people think that this has not been noticed they are wrong.
It is however also now time to turn the page and open the next chapter in relations between the EU and Georgia. There is a lot of good will on all sides, and this needs to be brought quickly to tangible fruition. The EU needs to catch the moment and ensure that the promises about democracy and human rights of the new government are strictly adhered to now that they have power. Conditionality is in that sense more important than ever.
However there is also a need to ensure that promises and carrots dangled before the elections by European officials now translate themselves to actual benefits for the Georgian people. Georgia still has serious economic problems. Its population is one of the poorest in Europe. Assistance to Georgia needs to be more intelligent and more targeted then perhaps has been the case so far.
There is an air optimism amongst many people in Tbilisi these days. The Georgian “dream” however needs to become a Georgian reality soon for the disappointment otherwise is going to be equally shattering. Source:
This comment was prepared by the editorial team of Caucasus Elections Watch.