Free, fair or flop: Georgians voting for the not so important president.

Voter apathy has not stopped many candidates putting forward their names for the forthcoming Presidential elections in Georgia, even though the new President will have much reduced power. Every sign indicates however that this is going to be a three-horse race.

Georgians go to the polls again on Sunday, 27 October, to vote for a new President at the end of the eventful ten-year administration of the incumbent, Mikhail Saakashvili.  According to the Georgian constitution Saakashvili cannot run again, after having served two terms. The election comes just a year after the historic October 2012 Parliamentary election that saw the first peaceful transfer of power between opposing political groups through the ballot box in the Caucasus region. More…

Georgian Prime Minister Ivanishvili with Presidential nominee Giori Margvelashvili

Georgia prepares to choose “the man on the white horse”. Or is it just his horse?

The race is on for the office of President of Georgia after the governing Georgian Dream coalition led by Bidhzina Ivanishvili announced that it will nominate Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Giorgi Margvelashvili to the post. Given the massive victory that Georgian Dream registered in last October’s parliamentary elections and its continued popularity in recent opinion polls, Margvelashvili starts the race as the favourite to win.

The office of President of Georgia will be divested from most of its powers after the October elections following constitutional amendments that the previous government of Mikhail Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM) pushed through before its election defeat. Executive power will now be vested in the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. The UNM still has to nominate its candidate for the elections, and has announced that it will do primaries to select its candidate. A number of other Georgian personalities are considering contesting as independent candidates.

Georgians have traditionally looked for “a man on the white horse” to lead them.  Georgian history is full of imagery of Georgian leaders, usually men, and on one or two occasions also women, riding into battle on horseback, often slaying a dragon. This time round the situation is rather confusing since the first person in the country will not be the one with the effective power. More…

End of a dream or the beginning of reality?

Bidhzina Ivanishvili and Irakli Alasnia campaigning in Zugdidi in August 2012.

Bidhzina Ivanishvili and Irakli Alasnia campaigning in Zugdidi in August 2012.

A terse statement on the website of the government of Georgia on 23 January said that the Prime Minister Bidhzina Ivanishvili had relieved the Defence Minister Irakli Alasania of his other role as First Deputy Prime Minister. The announcement triggered widespread speculation about the reasons for Alasania’s demotion, and of splits in the governing Georgian Dream coalition whose spectacular victory in last year’s autumn parliamentary elections changed the Georgian political landscape.

The problem between Ivanishvili and Alasania arose following rumours that Alasania was preparing to present himself as a candidate in the Presidential elections in October and that some of his supporters had already started soliciting support, including from members of other Georgian Dream Coalition parties. Ivanishvili, speaking to Georgian journalists in Davos, said that this had created some problems within the coalition and described this as “Alasania’s small mistake”. Ivanishvili also said that when he recently decided to pay more attention to development of his own party, Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia, including in the provinces, he in advance informed about it and consulted over it with other parties within the six-party Georgian Dream coalition.

There was widespread speculation in the Georgian media about the significance of these developments. Some described them as “the end of a dream”. It had been recognised throughout the election campaign that the coalition was too disparate to be held together, and that it will unravel as soon as the election passes. Indeed this remains a prospect, but for the moment a distant one. Both Ivanishvili and Alasania have sought to downplay the incident and to explain it as part of political reality – normal tension within a coalition.

At the heart of the issue however is the personality of Bidhzina Ivanishvili himself. Ivanishvili continues to be underestimated by friend and foe alike. His dealing with Alasania shows once again that he is not a person to take nonsense from anybody. It also confirms that for Ivanishvili’s loyalty is a virtue above all others.

Ivanishvili has however to learn that the rules of the political world are similar but not the same as those of the business world. Political support and political legitimacy, are, like loyalty, not easily quantifiable. His government already stands accused of being too narrow based, and there are many elements in Georgia who feel they have been left out, despite the fact that they had also opposed the previous government. If Ivanishvili rocks his own boat too much it may do harm that he will not be able to undo later.

However most observers feel that Ivanishvili and Alasania for the moment at least, need each other, and unless there are further complications the issue will pass without much further ado. How the Georgian Dream coalition will deal with the issue of the forthcoming Presidential elections will however be an important test for its long term durability.

source: CEW Editorial team

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. More…

gd in batumi 2

The race is on……Georgian Parliamentary Elections set for 1st October.

The days of waiting for Georgians are over. The date for the forthcoming parliamentary elections has now been set for 1st October, and the campaign which had already been under way unofficially for some time, has now started in full swing. 19 political parties have already been registered for the election, and a number of others are in the process of being so, but there is little doubt that this election is going to be primarily a two way race between the governing United National Movement of President Mikhail Saakashvili and the Georgian Dream coalition led by Bidzina Ivanishvili. More…

Georgia’s State Audit Service widens investigations into companies associated with the opposition, amid warnings from the EU and the OSCE. 1

CEW Editorial writer Karina Gould follows the latest moves by Georgia’s State Audit Service against the Georgian Dream Coalition.

On the heels of the property seizure and fines levied against Georgian Dream leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili, this week witnessed a continuation of the State Audit Service’s (SAS) investigation into campaign and party financing in Georgia. More…