Commentary: Will Bidzina do a Nelson, or will he do a Sonia?

No soft touch. Bidhzina Ivanishvili is a shrewd self-made man.

No soft touch. Bidhzina Ivanishvili is a shrewd self-made man.

In this commentary Dennis Sammut says that Bidzina Ivanishvili is an enigmatic and often misunderstood leader who has been able to change Georgian politics in a very short time, and that despite his announced political retirement he is likely to remain a very significant person in Georgian public life.

Bidzina Ivanishvili’s announcement that he will resign as prime minister and retire from mainstream politics one week after the presidential election on 27 October has left Georgians and everybody else astonished and bewildered, even though he had previously hinted that that is what he will do. More…

Editorial Comment: All for Georgians to lose!

The 27 October presidential election should bring political closure to twenty-five years of political upheaval, and can give Georgia what it aspires for. But there are some final tests yet.

Compared to previous elections in Georgia, the process of selecting a new president for the country on 27 October has proceeded without major problems. One week before the polls the main threat to the free expression of the will of the Georgian people seems to be apathy, rather than election fraud or manipulation.

Georgia’s political journey over the last twenty-five years has been tumultuous. The events on 9 April 1989, when Soviet OMON forces killed peaceful civilians on Rustaveli Avenue broke the unwritten accord between the Georgians and the Soviet leadership which had seen Georgia getting the best possible deal out of the Soviet system in return for political acquiescence. Ever since, Georgian politics has been a roller coaster of upheavals. Euphoria and disappointment alternated in regular short cycles, with wars, rebellion, revolution and repression added in for good measure. Yet this era of Georgian politics seems now to be coming to a close.

Georgia has had three presidents since it eventually regained its independence in December 1991 when the Soviet Union unceremoniously disintegrated. Most Georgians these days find it difficult to talk highly of any of them. More…

Margvelashvili launches programme ahead of Presidential election in Georgia.

 Giorgi Margvelashvili, the Candidate of the Georgian Dream Party has launched his political programme ahead of Presidential elections in Georgia on October 27. Speaking at a grandiose event which was also attended by Georgian Dream leader, Prime Minister Bidhzina Ivanishvili, Margvelashvili outlined his vision of the Georgian Presidency in the future, saying that the president will be a guarantor of political freedom and a democratic system. More…

Georgia: On the right course, but a free electoral environment is a must.

COMMENTARY

The positive assessment of the pre-election mission of the US Government that visited Tbilisi over the last days sums up well the current political atmosphere in Tbilisi. The stress that marked the years of the Saakashvili administration with its heavy handed police tactics and massive surveillance has gone, and everybody can notice this. This has greatly contributed to creating the right conditions in which Georgians will choose their next President on 27 October. Yet there is no room for complacency. Georgia is not just Tbilisi and outside the capital old habits die hard.

Two particular concerns need to be highlighted. The first is connected with disruptions to the campaign activities of the candidate of the United National Movement, David Bakradze. Appearance of the odd clown at election gatherings is a known and accepted ploy in elections in western countries. Indeed many a British Prime Minister had to endure the presence of one during their campaigning. But there is a fine line between making a point and disrupting a political event, with or without violence. This line must not be crossed and Georgian law enforcement bodies must see to that. Bakradze is in this election the underdog and his rights need to be protected, fully. The second issue which was correctly also raised by the US delegation is that related to National Minorities. Here the Georgian Dream government has been less than re-assuring in its conduct nationally, but even more so in terms of the attitude of its proxies in the regions. Georgia is not simply a country of ethnic Georgians – it is a multi-ethnic and multi-faith country, and has been for many centuries. Those trying to give an impression otherwise are wrong. This is an issue with importance way beyond the current Presidential election, but the election will provide another test as to how Georgia is treating its national minorities. Here Ivanishvili and co are yet to prove themselves.

This commentary was prepared by the editorial team of CEW.  

The Georgian roller-coaster continues non stop.

Bidhzina Ivanishvili at the Congress of his Georgian Dream Party in Tbilisi on 16 February 2013.

Bidhzina Ivanishvili at the Congress of his Georgian Dream Party in Tbilisi on 16 February 2013.

Only days after Georgian politics plunged into pessimism with ugly scenes of intolerance in front of the National Library as President, Government and Parliament played a cat and mouse game which they insist on calling cohabitation, it was time for the roller coaster to turn on the up side. Reconciliation was in the air as the two sides pulled back from brinkmanship politics and focused instead on necessary compromise. The sight of two MPs, one from the government coalition and one from the opposition having a fist fight on live prime tv was not reassuring, but Georgians have got used to theatrics and are no longer much impressed by it.

Of more substance was the news that the Government and the opposition were edging closer to agreeing a constitutional settlement that would address the immediate concerns of the two sides. More…

No Georgian please. We’re NATO!

The Secretary General of NATO , Anders Fogh Rasmussen, last week nearly became the first victim of Georgia’s new system of political cohabitation when he got caught into the controversy surrounding the arrest and charging of senior military and security officials from the previous government on accusations of abuse of power.

Rasmussen’s facebook page was bombarded with Georgians commenting on various statements that the Secretary General made throughout the week, as he met with President Mikheil Saakashvili in Prague and later in Brussels with the new Prime Minister Bidhzina Ivanishvili. The problem was that many of the comments were in Georgian. At a press conference with Ivanishvili, Rasmussen reminded all Georgians that the official languages of the NATO alliance were English and French and asked them not to post in Georgian. More…