She focuses on corruption and anti-corruption measures, good governance, democracy, citizen engagement, and political parties. Furthermore, there are no signs that the ruling party has any plan to overcome the poverty and hopeless situation in Georgia. As it stands now, the opposition apparently has a limited number of loyal voters to enough headway in any of the country’s elections. He is strongly affiliated with the country’s strict banking policy and the confiscation of property for creditors because of unpaid debts. Newly named Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili returns to the role he held from 2013-15. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Georgian Institute of Politics and the National Endowment for Democracy. However, the authoritarian and lawless behavior of the UNM’s leader in recent years, the increasingly erratic Saakashvili, makes the party’s future less credible for voters when it comes to a de-facto implementation of a balance of power and general democratic rule. The right-wing libertarian positions of the party known as Girchi are unacceptable in most cases and, generally, do not represent the wishes of the majority of the population. The move was meant to foment a deeper sense of fear amongst voters about what the future might hold if the opposition was to return to power. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Understanding Georgia’s current political situation
By Teona Zurabashvili
Policy analyst at the Georgian Institute of Politics (GIP). More than two dozen widely respected local civil society organizations called last autumn’s parliamentary elections “the least democratic and free among the elections held under the Georgian Dream government”. The UNM, particularly during the second of its time as the ruling party, was regularly accused of and tied to human and property rights violations, mass incarcerations, crackdowns on protestors and opposition groups, and widespread illegal surveillance. Garibashvili has, in the past, been linked to the smear campaigns that the Georgian Dream has used against the opposition since 2012, including cases where incriminating information about the UNM candidates was leaked in the days leading up to the last vote. FLICKR
In the near-decade that has passed, the political landscape of Georgia has not significantly changed. *This publication was produced with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). However, the Georgian Dream’s decision to back the 38-year-old Garibashvili as the new prime minister – a position which Garibashvili already held from November 2013 to December 2015, which made him the youngest head of government along with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un – indicates that the Georgian Dream is not interested in reducing the political tension in the country due to the fact that the appointment of someone like Garibashvili, who is the most radical Georgian Dream politicians in regards to his anti-UNM views, means that the incumbent party is still relying on the legitimacy of the election results of 2012, in which they defeated the UNM. The voters who helped the Georgian Dream sweep to power a decade after the Rose Revolution never received the social justice they were promised. Undoubtedly, the Melia case does not give the ruling party a moral advantage in this political crisis. A Tbilisi city court sentenced Nika Melia, the chairman of the United National Movement (UNM), the country’s main opposition party, to prison
That was followed a day later with an announcement by Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia that he would resign, effective immediately. According to the most cynical political traditions in Georgia’s political history, the Georgian Dream completely squandered the political capital that they earned when the public gave them a massive mandate in 2012. So long as strong disagreements and a lack of commitment between the ruling party and the opposition continue to exist, a widening polarization will undermine any chance to continue to build a democratic Georgia. Giorgi Gakharia, now the former prime minister, reportedly stepped down after a disagreement with his own party over the arrest of opposition leader, Nika Melia. Political parties that have recently emerged have all shared the fate of the more established parties in regards to credibility. They do not, however, ever consider that the supreme and dominant figure of their party, Ivanishvili, officially announced he was quitting politics back in January. This underpins the self-satisfaction and complacency of the Georgian Dream. FLICKR
Garibashvili, who returns as prime minister after serving as a defense minister, is one of the last people capable of holding negotiation with the opposition to de-escalate the current political crisis considering his openly virulent hatred of the UNM leader who can lead the negotiation’ process. Ivanishvili promised social justice and the protection of human rights, both of which had been deeply eroded in the latter years of the UNM’s rule. As was expected, all of the opposition parties rejected the results and demanded that fully transparent elections be held again. Georgian opposition demands extraordinary parliamentary elections in Georgia. As for Gakharia, a man who, due to his personal charisma, managed to create a positive image of Ivanishvili and for himself even for Georgian Dream supporters who are disappointed by the ruling party’s political and economic outcomes, is now a former prime minister after having stepped down in mid-February. They believed that, in the eyes of the international community, this would help emphasize the Georgian Dream’s undemocratic rule and the fact that political institutions in Georgia have ceased to exist. Gakharia said he made the decision based on a disagreement with his own party on the jailing of Melia. The court’s decision to jail Melia significantly deepens the ongoing political crisis in Georgia, which first erupted on October 31, 2020, following disputes over the results of parliamentary elections. Instead, they were forced to live through an unfocused economic program, clannish rule in the judiciary system, rampant nepotism in the civil service, decreased direct foreign investments, a devaluation of the national currency, and clear signs of state capture. Gakharia said he hoped that his resignation would help deal with the country’s current tension and political polarization. One of the other main opposition parties, European Georgia, represents a splinter group that broke away from the UNM in 2016. This limits the opportunities to improve the country’s flagging democracy. Only hours after Gakharia’s announcement, the ruling Georgian Dream party appointed former prime minister, Irakli Garibashvili, as Gakharia’s replacement. According to the election results after 2012, the UNM remains the only legitimate opposition party that can challenge the Georgian Dream at the polls
The steady support that the UNM has received in every election since 2012 indicates that the party continues to have electoral support, generally at the voters’ expense, mainly from the UNM’s strong party identification, which stems from the positive changes that the UNM brought to the country from 2004 to 2006, the first two years that the party and its leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, were in power. This was the increased amount of bail when the prosecution charged Melia with fomenting mass violence during a protest rally after the Georgian Dream decided to controversially invite a Russian lawmaker to Georgia’s parliament in 2019. The Georgian Dream continues to show a deep reluctance to turn the temperature down in the current political crisis. The Georgian Dream’s complacency is still built upon the idea that their institutionalized bad governance is still far superior to the “even worse opposition”. The main reason why the UNM has relatively low popular support can be traced back to cases where it was accused of abuse of power while it was still in office. The founder of the liberal Lelo party, Mamuka Khazaradze, is the co-founder of Georgia’s TBC Bank. Ivanishvili’s image as a philanthropist was seen by many average Georgian voters as a legitimate political alternative to the UNM, who were the then-incumbents and had been in power since the 2003 Rose Revolution. Since being defeated by the Georgian Dream nine years ago, that support, however, the UNM has never been able to capture enough votes or widespread public back to catapult the party back into power. Officially, the court is holding Melia in pretrial detention after he and his supporters refused to post a $12,000 bail. EPA-EFE/ZURAB KURTSIKIDZE
Georgia has been facing a political crisis for more than three months, which reached its peak on February 17. epa07996724 Georgian opposition supporters take part in a protest rally in front of the parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia, 14 November 2019. Furthermore, the opposition’s last attempt to organize a mass protest rally immediately after the elections in November mostly fell flat. European Georgia chose to emphasize its key differences with the UNM, but still carries the stigma for the majority of Georgians of having been a part of the UNM for a dozen years from 2004 to 2016. In an attempt to put pressure on the incumbent party, the opposition chose the strategy of boycotting the seating of the new parliament. These major transgressions significantly neutralized the significant social and economic reforms of the UNM’s early years, many of which can still be felt in present-day Georgia. In the run-up to the 2012 election, Georgia’s sole oligarch – billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili – emerged on the political scene and founded the Georgian Dream. While the opposition claims that there is no independent judiciary in Georgia, Gakharia’s statement about “a disagreement with his team over the Melia case” shows that the Georgian Dream wields significant influence over, and is willing to openly discuss certain politically motivated cases, in what is supposed to be an independent judiciary system. Considered a staunch Ivanishvili loyalist, Garibashvili is widely seen as a divisive figure.