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Georgian ‘democracy’ in action

Arie Bloed
Opinion 06 December 2012

It seems that the “Georgian Dream” alliance that won the parliamentary elections in Georgia on 1 October is not really living up to the democratic standards that one would have hoped for. After the unparalleled acceptance of the defeat by the then ruling party, headed by President Mikhail Shakashvili, the first really peaceful change of power took place in a post-Soviet republic. This had never happened before in most of the other former Soviet republics.

However, the new government that took over in Tbilisi apparently could not resist the temptation to use the powerful state tools in order to settle accounts with people that are considered to be close to the former administration. This is reflected in the fact that very soon after assuming power, some leading military officers were arrested on what may be considered politically motivated charges. A more recent development is the fact that the new regime has suddenly discovered around 200 “political prisoners” in the Georgian penitentiary system which, according to the new leaders, have been harassed or jailed by the previous government on political grounds. This was the result of hasty work by a working group set up by the new “Georgian Dream” government which used the work of some NGOs, in particular the Georgian Helsinki Committee. However, two other leading NGOs (including the highly authoritative Georgian Young Lawyers Association) left the group, as they were dissatisfied with the superficiality of the work performed. It did not stop the “Georgian Dream” alliance to proceed with its allegations.

It looks like Georgia is on track to become a replica of Ukraine, where the present administration, quickly after coming to power, launched a destructive campaign against its political opponents, with the result that the main opposition leaders (like former prime minister Yulia Timoshenko) are behind bars with tough prison sentences on sometimes clearly trumped-up charges.

And just when the new Georgian leaders apparently thought that they could get away with everything they do, the new prime minister had to listen to a tough statement by NATO’s Secretary General Rasmussen in his press conference during the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Prague on the 12th of November: “We welcome democratic elections in Georgia and the democratic transition of power. Georgia successfully passed the test; however, we are very concerned about recent arrests of political opponents by the new government of the country. I do not hide my concern about what is going on in Georgia, especially, the arrests of the political opponents”. Let’s wait until the OSCE will make similar remarks which can only be a question of time.

If the “Georgian Dream” alliance is not going to change its behavior it is not unlikely that this will lead the country into a Georgian Nightmare with serious isolation from the international community as one of the results. Democracy is about more than winning elections.