Nichol Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs
continued sovereignty and independence and its development as a free market democracy
have been significant concerns to successive Congresses and Administrations.
The United States and Georgia signed a Charter on Strategic Partnership in
early 2009 pledging U.S. support for these objectives, and the United
States has been Georgia’s largest provider of foreign and security
assistance. Most recently, elections for the 150-member Parliament of Georgia
on October 1, 2012, have been viewed as substantially free and fair by
most observers. Several Members of Congress and the Administration have
called for a peaceful transition of political power in Georgia and have
vowed continued support for Georgia’s development and independence.
In the run-up to the October 2012 election, Georgia’s Central Electoral
Commission registered 16 parties and blocs and several thousand candidates
to run in mixed party list and single-member constituency races. A new
electoral coalition, Georgia Dream—set up by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili—posed
the main opposition to President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement,
which held the majority of legislative seats. A video tape of abuse in a prison
released by Georgia Dream late in the campaign seemed to be a factor in
the loss of voter support for the United National Movement and in the
electoral victory of Georgia Dream. According to observers from the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the election freely
reflected the will of the people, although a few procedural and other
problems were reported.
In the days after the election, Saakashvili, Ivanishvili, and other officials
from Georgia Dream and the United National Movement have met to plan an
orderly transition, including the appointment of a new cabinet.
Ivanishvili has pledged that GD will continue to support Georgia’s democratization
and anti-corruption efforts, and its European and Euro-Atlantic orientation.
The White House has described the election as “another milestone” in Georgia’s
development as a democracy, and has called for Ivanishvili and Saakashvili
to work together to ensure the country’s continued peaceful transition of
power. The Administration also stated that it looked forward to
strengthening the U.S.-Georgia partnership. Several Members of Congress
observed the election, and several Members of the Senate issued a
post-election statement commending President Saakashvili for his efforts
to transform Georgia into a prosperous democracy, and pointing to the
competitive and peaceful election as evidence of his success. At the same time, they
raised concerns about some bickering and unrest in the wake of the election,
and cautioned that the future of U.S.-Georgia relations depends on the
country’s continued commitment to democratization.
Some observers have suggested that relations between the two parties in the
legislature and between a Georgia Dream cabinet and the president may well
be contentious in coming months, as both sides maneuver before a planned
2013 presidential election. Saakashvili is term-limited and cannot run,
but the United National Movement plans to retain the presidency. Under constitutional
changes, the legislature is slated to gain greater powers vis-à-vis the
presidency, so a divided political situation could endure for some time.
In such a case, statesmanship and a commitment to compromise and good
governance are essential for Georgia’s continued democratization, these
Date of Report: October 10, 2012
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