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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Georgia's October 2013 Presidential Election: Outcome and Implications

Jim Nichol
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs

This report discusses Georgia’s October 27, 2013, presidential election and its implications for U.S. interests. The election took place one year after a legislative election that witnessed the mostly peaceful shift of legislative and ministerial power from the ruling party, the United National Movement (UNM), to the Georgia Dream (GD) coalition bloc. The newly elected president, Giorgi Margvelashvili of the GD, will have fewer powers under recently approved constitutional changes.

Most observers have viewed the 2013 presidential election as marking Georgia’s further progress in democratization, including a peaceful shift of presidential power from UNM head Mikheil Saakashvili to GD official Margvelashvili. Some analysts, however, have raised concerns over ongoing tensions between the UNM and GD, as well as Prime Minister and GD head Bidzini Ivanishvili’s announcement on November 2, 2013, that he will step down as the premier. In his victory speech on October 28, Margvelashvili reaffirmed Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic foreign policy orientation, including the pursuit of Georgia’s future membership in NATO and the EU. At the same time, he reiterated that GD would continue to pursue the normalization of ties with Russia.

On October 28, 2013, the U.S. State Department praised the Georgian presidential election as generally democratic and expressing the will of the people, and as demonstrating Georgia’s continuing commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration. The State Department called for all Georgian political forces to work together to ensure Georgia’s political stability and stated that the United States looked forward to building upon the strong bilateral strategic partnership and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

Successive U.S. Congresses have endorsed close U.S.-Georgia ties and have supported Georgia’s continued sovereignty and independence. Congressional engagement has included humanitarian and other assistance to address economic problems in the 1990s and remediation support in the aftermath of the August 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict. Through appropriations, hearings, and other legislation and oversight, Congress has strongly supported the goals of the 2009 U.S.- Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership, which pledges boosted U.S. defense and security, trade, energy, and democratization cooperation with Georgia. Among U.S. interests, NATO and the United States have received significant troop support from Georgia for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Georgia serves as a land, sea, and air route for the transit of personnel and cargoes to and from Afghanistan along the “Northern Distribution Network.” Georgia’s strategic location astride east-west and north-south trade and transit routes also is exemplified by its role as part of the “Southern Corridor” for gas and oil pipelines from the Caspian region to European and other international markets.

Date of Report: November 4, 2013
Number of Pages: 12
Order Number: R43299
Price: $29.95

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