New chance for Georgia
October 8 is the beginning of the significant change in the Georgian political landscape. Some seemingly fragile signs of overcoming the post-Soviet legacy gradually appear.
The recent election has proven that at this point Georgia could not escape the charms of the single-party governance, which remains the biggest drawback and problem of the Georgian politics.
The major threat
During the past 4 years, the Georgian Dream was seeking to get a grip on the entire legislative and executive powers. The coalition’s inability to share power proves that the ‘Dream’ follows the traditional path of Georgian partisan relations – that of uniting around the power rather than the values – that stems from the Communist era.
In the event of the Georgian Dream managing to get the constitutional majority as a result of the second round of voting, Georgia’s democracy will appear under the greatest threat.
This threat is further intensified by the fact that Bidzina Ivanishvili, the Georgian business tycoon, is the informal ruler of the Georgian Dream and, subsequently, of the whole country, albeit not in any way directly accountable to the Georgian electorate. Ivanishvili is convinced that competence for state administration and political analysis comes to him naturally and he believes that the country can be governed the same way as his financial empire used to be in Yeltsin’s and Putin’s Russia.
The constitutional majority may appear in the hands of the party with a conflicting value base and non-transparent governance, its memebers united around the power and the money. Such majority is extremely dangerous, and it certainly is doomed to make all the mistakes typical of an uncontrolled single-party autocracy. Therefore, Georgian electorate should make sure that Georgian Dream does not get the parliamentary majority in the runoff voting.
The Dream’s new ‘Hooligans‘
The presence of the first-timer right-wing populist, xenophobic ‘Patriots’ Alliance‘ in the Parliament is beneficial, first of all, for the Georgian Dream. The right-wing populist party will assume a function previously performed by the Georgian Dream MPs -Mechiauri, Kantaria, Papuashvili, Jachvliani and other parliamentary ‘hooligans‘ [those MPs were distinguished by their anti-Western and anti-liberal statements].
‘Hooligan outsourcing’ will allow the Georgian Dream to appear more presentable. In fact, the tastes and values of the Georgian Dream and its informal leader are very similar to those of the obscurantist ‚Asaval-Dasavali‘ newspaper and the Patriots‘ Alliance.
The National Movement’s Dilemma
The October 8 elections also showed inviability of the self- mythology narrative of the authorities’ key opponent, the United National Movement.
One of the biggest mistakes of the National Movement was that it portrayed itself as the only ‘pro-western’ force and tried to consolidate the electorate around this idea. The election results have proven that the voters do not share this opinion. The National Movement is not (and for that matter, has never been) the only ‘pro-western’ political power in Georgia.
On the other hand, the National Movement has shown that it has a stable electoral base ranging between 20-30%. This party will have to get used to the idea that it probably will never be able to form the government independently, without a coalition.
At the same time, these 20-30% are in western democracies the rates normally enjoyed by the larger, the so-called ‘popular’ parties, claiming the right to speak on behalf of the major part of the population .
One could say that the National Movement has gone through the democratic transformation process (and is currently entering its final phase).
It is no surprise that such transformation has turned out to be unsatisfactory to the party leader, ex-President Saakashvili. Like Ivanishvili, he views the power as an integral indivisible entity. Shared power is worthless. Hence his irresponsible statement: Saakashvili calls on his team to boycott both, the runoff voting and the Parliament.
At present, in fact, the National Movement is the only party standing on the firm electoral ground, invincible to local fluctuations. If it reconsiders digging its own grave i.e. not enterig the parliament it will be the true winner of October 8 election in the long run, no matter how strange it may sound. But to achieve this, it will have to bid farewell to its odious leader, Mikheil Saakashvili.
The National Movement’s yet another bigger mistake was its continuous bashing of smaller, western-oriented parties, which could be excpalined by its urge to display itself as the only ‘pro-western’ power. Consequently, the emamcipation of the right-wing populist parties was more beneficial to the National Movement than to its direct rivals.
The National Movement has made its own (though not exclusive) contribution to erosion of left-wing, centrist and liberal parties.
These parties (especially, the oldest Georgian party, the ‘Republicans’), in turn, have not managed to re-brand . In their present form they are unviable.
Unlike the National Movement, they have failed to create their electoral base. As for ex-Defence Minister Irakli Alasania’s ‘Free Democrats’, they have turned out to be so apolitical, that they did not or would not continue the party work as soon as they found themselves outside the Parliament. Abandoned by its leader, Irakli Alasania, the party has collapsed after losing the election. Naturally, such parties do not have any future.
The October 8 parliamentary election has also proven that ‘protest voters’ are reluctant to cast their votes for the National Movement and in principle would rather stay home than vote for any of the available parties.
If a ‘protest voter’ is disenchanted with a centrist or a left-wing party with key priorities as: education, social justice, environmental protection (the list could be continued), he/she will be pulled in by the right-wing party (and far more successfully than the Patriots’ Alliance is doing it at the moment).
Georgia has entered a phase of radical transformation of the partisan politics. Without a firm electoral base, those ‘top-down’ formed parties are following the extinction path. Who and how is going to replace those parties will be of decisive importance for us.
Therefore, in the course the next 4 years, Georgia will have a chance to demonstrate if it is at all fit for the political transformation from the post-Soviet country into the Western democracy, but this time is has to be a be ‘bottom-up’, rather than ‘top-down’ process. This time we will not be able to put the blame for all the failures on the government from which nothing positive is expected anyway.