In the presidential elections held on October 27 in Georgia, as expected, Giorgi Margvelashvili won in the first round. A protege of the Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili received 61.9 percent of the vote. Representative of the opposition “National Movement” David Bakradze rested on the second place with 21.8 percent of the vote. Characteristically, the supporters of the “Georgian Dream” did not wait for the official results and shortly after the polls were closed and the results of the exit polls were announced the central street of the Georgian capital – Rustaveli Avenue – was filled with honking cars of the ruling party supporters. And a few minutes before the end of voting a large clock appeared on a large plasma screen on the Tbilisi Philharmonic Society, facing the street. When the clock struck eight, on the screen appeared a phrase “Saakashvili left” and the square was lit up with fireworks. The headquarters of the ruling party was literally drowning in champagne – people there drank “Bruderschaft,” shouted, sang, and danced. The candidate came out to the cheering crowd.
A non-governmental organization “Fair Elections,” based on the monitoring of the presidential elections in Georgia, made a statement that the election process was well-organized and was held in a peaceful atmosphere.
The President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite was among the first who congratulated Giorgi Margvelashvili on being elected the president of Georgia and invited him to Vilnius for the November Summit of the Eastern Partnership of the EU. “Georgia has withstood another test of democracy and I sincerely hope that at the Vilnius meeting we will be able to secure the European choice of Georgia together,” the president stressed in her greeting.
The Day spoke with Georgian political scientist David BERITASHVILI about how the people of Georgia perceived the victory of the prime minister’s protege and how it can affect the formation of the political system in the country and its foreign policy.
“The electoral machine that was created by the previous government has worked quite well in the previous elections, when the victory of the opposition was announced the first time. Now we have a well-trotted path. It seems to me that the electoral machine began to work in Georgia regardless of any interests. And, of course, the Nationals, who let the opponent defeat them, were the pioneers.”
What does the victory of Ivanishvili’s protege mean?
“As for the winner, the people from the ‘Georgian Dream’ say that they have a great coalition and multi-party system. These are not just empty words, because the coalition and the multi-party system is of the kind that operated in East Germany. There at the time of Erich Honecker’s rule there were Workers’, Peasants’, and Social Democratic parties. In general, the Socialist Party of Germany, which ruled East Germany, consisted of five parties. Of course, they will claw in the future. But presently they all are one team – the coalition that consists of six parties. And they have no visible disagreements, although, of course, they all dream of some career advancement, of outscoring each other and getting closer to Bidzina, who will soon leave his position. In fact, there are some rudiments of a two-party system. The coalition led by Bidzina will continue to operate under his influence and there will be a figure of Berezovsky type, who for a short period of time was a deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, but single-handedly shaped the domestic policy for five-six years. That will probably be the case with Ivanishvili.
“The fact that Bakradze, representative of the ‘National Movement’ got 21 percent of vote in these elections speaks in favor of the formation of the two-party system. This means legitimacy, because the opponents shouted that they would not even get over the five-percent barrier. In one of the recent interviews Ivanishvili even called his opponent Saakashvili a political corpse. But this did not happen, 21 percent – is a good result. I think that a two-party system like the British one will be formed in Georgia.”
What might be the fate of Saakashvili, will the threats of throwing him in prison or starting a new Nuremberg trial be fulfilled?
“There are several possible options here. First, not to fall under any risk Saakashvili might leave the country as a Euroofficial, a representative to the UN, or simply to teach abroad. Judging by his character, as a true fighter he won’t do so. On October 27 Saakashvili said that he had great moral overload and that he will take a time out. Second, he can really be summoned for questioning. But it is a very unpopular option for our partners of Georgia in the West. Because they are already seething with indignation in connection with Tymoshenko and Merabishvili cases. It seems to me that if they will bring Saakashvili to prison, then about a year later he will turn into Georgian Mandela and could even receive the Nobel Peace Prize as San Suu Kyi.
“I think that they will only loose from it. After all, Saakashvili left behind a country that didn’t exist at the time of his coming to power.”
Some experts say that he split the country or is it a mere exaggeration?
“Of course, he split the country. Yes, the people who during Shevardnadze rule watched the lawlessness and corruption from top to bottom with their arms folded went out of circulation. They were no longer appointed to any positions and were treated fairly strictly. Now they are back.
“Now, the important force appeared after 14,000 prisoners have been released. It’s a huge mobile force that can rush to any place, start a rally, whistling, throwing eggs and even stones at Bidzina’s whistle. It is a very important reserve that is actively used.
“In fact, the situation with the prisoners in Georgia was very strict and looked as follows: if we look back at 2004, when the ‘National Movement’ came to power after the Rose Revolution, according to the statistics, the crime level began to rise. In reality, it was caused by the rigorous registration of all acts of law violations. This growth continued until 2006, when the registration was absolute. After that it went down and in 2011 Georgia became the Europe’s champion in safety on the streets, according to a survey of inhabitants it got the top position.”
Mr. Beritashvili, you have seen a lot in your life. In your opinion, where will Georgia move after these elections: towards Europe or Russia?
“The inertia has been set so powerfully already. For example, the fact that we are going to Vilnius to initial the Association Agreement with EU. Georgia has been climbing to this peak for nine years, one could not say that it is exclusively the merit of the present government. It is by 90 percent the achievement of their predecessors, who prepared the legislations to meet the EU standards and conducted the negotiations with Brussels. And it is good that such inertia is working, even if Margvelashvili goes there, this agreement must be signed. Another thing is that we have elections. The electoral machine is working, it hasn’t been spoilt. It worked for the first time when it detached the ‘National Movement’ from all the power. All of them still have general merit, but because very little time has passed yet, it seems to me that the achievements of the previous government are much greater. Even the fact that the budget, prepared by the previous government and fulfilled in a way that the money are still left in state’s treasury, is now being executed – is also a merit of the previous government. Inertia of advancing to the West will continue because it is already irreversible.”