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The Vote in Georgia: Why Saakashvili Lost, Why Ivanishvili Won, and What This Means for the Future
Jamestown Foundation Eurasia Daily Monitor ^ | 10/4/2012 | Paul Goble

Posted on 10/04/2012 10:01:49 PM PDT by bruinbirdman

The final results of the Georgian parliamentary elections were not announced yet when President Mikhail Saakashvili conceded that his party lost the majority of the vote; Bidzina Ivaanishvili has begun talks about forming a government and suggested that Saakashvili resign as president to preclude a “dual power” situation (Civil Georgia, October 2 and 3). Analysts around the world are speculating about what this change means, with suggestions ranging widely from the banal to the apocalyptic.

Bidzina Ivaanishvili

Before anyone is swept along by the most sweeping of these commentaries—forgetting that Saakashvili will remain president for another year and that the devil will be in the details of the new parliament—it is worth focusing on just why Saakashvili and his party lost, why Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream won, and most importantly, why Ivanishvili’s victory represents a major step forward in the development of Georgian democracy and a change in tone but not in substance of Tbilisi’s approach to both Moscow and the West.

The reasons for the defeat of Saakashvili’s party are not far to seek. As summarized by Maksim Yusin of Moscow’s Kommersant, they include: first, the Georgian economy, despite Saakashvili’s reforms, is doing less well than advertised and has created a large class of losers as well as a smaller one of winners. The former had little reason to vote for his party.

Second, the Georgians are tired of Saakashvili personally. In their minds, he’s been in power too long, and he insisted on personalizing this race. His transparent attempt to remain in power by following Putin’s model of exchanging the presidency and prime minister-ship offended many, and the scandal about torture in prisons at the end of the campaign further underscored the dark underside of Georgian politics.

Third—and this is far and away the most important—Yusin notes that for the first time “Saakashvili lost the monopoly on patriotism.” The president’s declarations that all his opponents are Kremlin agents ready to trade Georgian independence and give up “the occupied territories,” no longer had the impact on the audience that they once had in Georgia and that they still have in many places in the West. Saakashvili played that card once too often and in ways that threatened the democratic changes with which he had been associated (

The victory of Ivanishvili’s party reflects more than Saakashvili’s obvious shortcomings. It also is the product of the challenger’s skill and the highly effective campaign he ran. That campaign, and this has attracted less attention than it should, explicitly sought to restore “the bloom on the rose revolution” to create the conditions for Georgia to be a fully democratic state. Ivanishvili’s personal wealth, moreover, something Saakashvili sought to make an issue and even used as a justification for stripping Ivanishvili of his Georgian citizenship, did not play out the way the Georgian president hoped. Many Georgians, anecdotal evidence suggests, felt that Ivanishvili could not be corrupted precisely because he is so wealthy.

What will Saakashvili and the Georgian Dream do in office? Domestically, they will introduce corrections to Saakashvili’s untrammeled capitalism and provide a greater role for the Georgian Orthodox Church. Such shifts may lead some in the West to conclude that Georgia is about to slip backwards toward socialism. That seems highly unlikely. Instead, there is going to be a change in tone and style but not in substance, unless one is among those who see such shifts in tonality as inherently substantial.

Moreover, Ivanishvili’s victory—and it will be discussed in personal terms just as Saakashvili’s loss will be—in fact represents something extraordinarily important that the Western supporters of Georgia should understand and welcome: his rise and accession to office represent the first legal change of power in Georgia ever, an achievement that represents not only a triumph of democracy, but a victory for the principles that Saakashvili himself stood for when he sought to institutionalize the Rose Revolution (;

And that in turn has important consequences for how the new Tbilisi government will deal with the West and with Moscow. With the West, an Ivanishvili government is almost certain to lower the temperature and become more predictable, but that does not mean it will become more distant. Instead, relations are likely to improve precisely because there will be fewer fireworks. With Moscow, the impact of new government is likely to be similar: Ivanishvili will change the tonality of relations—after all, he is not someone whom Vladimir Putin personally hates—and that may make progress in easing relations easier. Indeed, it may even make progress on Abkhazia and South Ossetia more possible, something the Abkhaz at least very much fear (

What the change in government will definitely not mean is a wholesale shift in Georgia’s relations with Russia. As Yusin points out, “Russian politicians must not have any illusions: no Georgian leader, unless he is a political kamikaze, will recognize the separation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” “break ties with the West,” or “return to Moscow’s orbit.” And that in turn may mean that Tbilisi may become a bigger problem for Moscow than it has been in the past: it will no longer serve as Putin’s bugaboo, but rather be a model of how citizens can change their government by democratic means. If Russians begin to view what has happened in Georgia with that in mind, the Georgian Dream could become a Russian one as well (

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections

1 posted on 10/04/2012 10:01:54 PM PDT by bruinbirdman
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To: bruinbirdman

Another country enters Russia’s control zone...

2 posted on 10/04/2012 10:04:04 PM PDT by Viennacon
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To: bruinbirdman
The Neonconservative Republic of Georgia. Get ready to send your kids to die for these gangsters. If McCain won, we'd be having Americans slaughtered there now.
3 posted on 10/04/2012 10:10:37 PM PDT by Forgotten Amendments (Democracy = Communism on the installment plan.)
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To: bruinbirdman

Does “-shvili” mean “smith” or something. So common there.

4 posted on 10/04/2012 11:05:01 PM PDT by montag813
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To: Viennacon
I don't believe so. This was a clean election and it shows that the Georgians have embraced democracy

As the article points out, the new guy will not be pro-Russia, but will not be talking about Russia that much -- sensible policy.

South Ossetia (with it's Ossetian population who are ethnically Irani, not Georgain) and Abkhazia are de-facto lost. Better to focus on the land at hand and give the Russians no leeway.

Also, Georgia's economy will continue to improve

5 posted on 10/04/2012 11:38:30 PM PDT by Cronos (**Marriage is about commitment, cohabitation is about convenience.**)
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To: montag813
it means "of" -- like in Poland many surnames end in "ski" which makes the word an adjective. Slavic languages don't have "of", but use these endings

So Warszawski means of Warsaw for example

In the Czech and Slovak republics the 'ski' is replaced with 'ova' as in Russia

And in russia and poland there is the ending "icz" like Romanowicz which means the same

In Scotland and Ireland you have the prefix "Mac" or "Mc"

Strangely I've found that among Eastern and Central Europeans they don't have very common surnames like Smith among the English (smith of course being derived from an occupation) since they name themselves after places of origin mostly.

In Poland the commonest surname is Smith = Kowalski :), but it's not as prevalent as Smith in England.

6 posted on 10/04/2012 11:42:30 PM PDT by Cronos (**Marriage is about commitment, cohabitation is about convenience.**)
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To: Cronos

A most popular Russian surname is Kuznetsov translated as “of Smith” following your own theory.

7 posted on 10/05/2012 12:47:25 AM PDT by cunning_fish
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To: bruinbirdman
GEORGIA elections?? Saakashvili ?? Ivaanishvili ?? First I've heard of this.

Wonder if they are running against Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson?

Definately going to have to pick up a copy of the Atlanta Constitution-Journal today, to check this out.

: )

8 posted on 10/05/2012 3:23:02 AM PDT by jmax (Full mag inserted, round in chamber, safety is off.)
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To: Cronos

Don’t forget the Anglo-Norman Fitz- (son of) as in Fitzgerald. (The nordic -son is too obvious to mention...)

9 posted on 10/05/2012 5:24:58 AM PDT by Moltke ("I am Dr. Sonderborg," he said, "and I don't want any nonsense.")
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To: Moltke

true — and the Nordic -son and -dottir :)

10 posted on 10/05/2012 6:28:22 AM PDT by Cronos (**Marriage is about commitment, cohabitation is about convenience.**)
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To: jmax

Crap. Did this state sneak ANOTHER election by me? Dang they don’t like transplanted Yankees...

11 posted on 10/05/2012 6:35:57 AM PDT by ctdonath2 ($1 meals:
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