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Georgia: Crisis of Democracy  (2007)                 New Items
                                                                                                                                 Articles And Documents
   In November 2007, facing serious united political opposition and massive protests demanding early parliamentary elections, the Saakashvili government in Georgia responded by imposing a state of emergency. Police used brutal force and violence against peaceful demonstrators and closed down and wrecked the equipment of the main independent television station. For those who had struggled for Georgia's freedom over a generation and had rallied around the Rose Revolution in 2003, the actions of President Saakashvili were shocking, signaling a grave crisis of democracy. But the international community responded tepidly against such blatant human rights violations and generally accepted President Saakashvili's justification for the violence and martial law. Saakashvili painted the opposition — including parliament members, longtime democratic parties, former allies, and those who had spent time in Soviet jails fighting for Georgia's national freedom — of being Russian agents and coup plotters. The absurdity of this mischaracterization may be seen in the Manifesto of the united opposition (the All People's Movement) around which the protests were organized. The united opposition called for a restoration of free conditions for elections in the face of a presidential administration that had "usurped all state authority" and instituted a system of political intimidation.

Despite the fact that the state of emergency was still in effect, the interntational community supported Saakashvili's calling of early and snap presidential elections for January 5, 2008. Although the chances were clearly unequal, the opposition was forced to agree to participate in the elections along with a referendum on whether there should be early parliamentary polls, which had been the original opposition demand. A single candidate of a nine-party opposition coalition called the All People's Movement, Levan Gachechiladze, ran against Saakashvili along with five other candidates who diffused the opposition vote. The "election" resulted in widespead charges of fraud, intimidation, and other efforts to skew the election. Although the opposition coalition had hundreds of complaints of fraud, the Central Election Commission declared Saakashvili the victor in the first round with 53.9 percent of the vote against 25.6 percent for Gachechiladze, with Saakashvili surpassing the 50 percent threshold to avoid a second round. The CEC affirmation is doubtful. The more than 300 complaints filed after the election demonstrate widespread manipulation of the vote. The OSCE-ODIHR's final report makes clear that the elections were held under undemocratic conditions, stating that "the distinction between State activities and the campaign of the ruling United National Movement (UNM) party candidate, were blurred." It also stated that there were poor tabulation procdures at the local level ("a significant 23 per cent of counts observed by IEOM observers were assessed as bad or very bad"), and that there were questionable results based on a high level of last-minute voting, improper consideration of complaints by the courts, and other irregularities (see OSCE/ODIHR Final Report of 2008 Presidential Elections). Already by December 7, 2007, Transparency International had documented widespread misuse of state administrative resources on behalf of President Saakashvili. Similar inadequacies — and clear signs of misuse of power — were also witnessed in municipal elections as documented in the OSCE/ODIHR's Final Report on 2006 Municipal Elections. (And even earlier, in May 2005 prior to President George W. Bush's landmark trip to the country, Ivlian Haindrava, director of the Center for Development and Cooperation, had laid out the danger signs in his article "Georgia's Incomplete Democracy.")

Much of the international community has supported the continued administration of President Saakashvili — whatever the wishes of Georgian voters — for two reasons: an unwillingness to believe that the "leader" of the Rose Revolution that overthrew Eduard Shevardnadze could be non-democratic and, second, acceptance of Saakashvili's claim that only he will thwart Russia's designs for greater power in the Caucasus. The first reason is belied by the abandonment of Saakashvili by most of his allies in the Rose Revolution and his unlikely "majority total" in the elections; the second is belied by the opposition's general support for integration with the West. The crisis of democracy in Georgia will continue. January 5 also saw overwhelming approval of a referendum to hold early parliamentary elections, the main opposition demand. These are now likely to be held in May. For those elections, the Republican Party, one of the strongest opposition parties and strongest representative of pro-Western liberalism, competed separately but in cooperation with the All People's Movement t (see links below).  In the end, disadvantaged by widespread fraud and the West's overwhelming support of the president, not only the Republican Party but the entire opposition suffered a severe defeat in parliamentary elections and Saakashvili's authoritarian hand was greatly strengthened. The consequences of Georgia's elections were to be seen later in the summer. The question remains whether allies of democracy in Georgia will rally to the support of its democrats.

New Items

New Item: Appeal to Council of Europe for Special Rapporteur for South Caucasus Political Prisoners (June 6, 2008)

Articles and Documents: 2007-2008

Public Defender Calls on CEC Chief to Resign Over Evidence of "Wide-scale Ballot Rigging" (, April 4, 2008)
(see also below Public Defender's Open Letter to Saakashvili to Respect Human Rights).

Full Statement of the Public Defender (April 4, 2008)

Republican Party Statement on NATO Integration (March 31, 2008) (HTML / MS Word).
Appendices: Previous Opposition Statements on NATO.

Republican Party Condemns Latest Developments In Armenia (Prima-News, March 3, 2008) (Statement in Russian)

Republican Party Withdraws From Opposition: Is Strength Found Through Breaking-Up? (Georgian Times, March 3, 2008)

Republican Party Leaves Opposition Union Ahead of Parliamentary Election (Mze TV, February 29, 2008)

OSCE’s Human Rights Office Finds Itself In Crossfire Over Election Monitoring (RFE/RL, February 28, 2008)

OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission (Interim Report / Final Report): Extraordinary Presidential Election on 5 January 2008

National Democratic Institute: NDI Georgia Observation Delegation (Final Statement)

Public Defender's Open Letter to Saakashvili: Improve Human Rights (January 2008) and Related Documents from Online Magazine Civil Georgia

Transparency International in Georgia: Preliminary Report on the Use of Administrative Resources (December 5, 2007)

"Georgia's Leap Backward" by Anne Applebaum, The Washington Post (November 13, 2007)

European Parliament Resolution Of 29 November 2007 On The Situation In Georgia

"Misha's Mess," Economist, (November15, 2007)

Manifesto of the National Council of the All People’s Movement of Georgia (United Opposition): October 17, 2007

OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission (Final Report): Municipal Elections of October 5, 2006

Declaration of the Republican and Conservative Parties (“Democratic Front”) on Georgia’s Integration in NATO and
Normalization of Russo-Georgian Relations (June 6, 2006)

"Georgia's Incomplete Democracy" by Ivlian Haindrava (IWPR CRS No. 285, May 5, 2005)


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