By Edmond Y. Azadian
While Azerbaijani dynastic rule continues its repressive policies against the opposition and while Armenia is engaged in a witchhunt and the decimation of the opposition in preparation for the forthcoming presidential election, Georgia has been moving credibly towards democratic rule, as a role model in the Caucasus region.
Mikhail Saakashvili’s United National Movement, which swept to power in 2003 through the Rose Revolution, acceded defeat to Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream Coalition, in the last parliamentary election held on October 2. As Ivanishvili forms his cabinet as the new prime minister, Georgia enters into an era of cohabitation between the ruling Georgian Dream and Saakashvili’s team, who will continue his term as president for another year.
A very familiar political setup in Europe, but it is a novel experiment for the nations, which gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
During his nine-year reign, Saakashvili transformed Georgia at a rapid pace, with the help of the West. He virtually ended corruption, reintroduced the rule of law and reformed the economy by moving towards prosperity. The West invested $10 billion to turn Georgia into a showcase, to demonstrate to the other nations in the region that siding with the West has its tangible rewards. Russia did not learn the lesson to emulate Western approaches in the region. Moscow instead hardened its grip on Armenia’s economy without sensitivity to the economic polarization in the country, helping the rich to get richer and driving the rest of the population to destitution.
But in Georgia, Saakashvili’s reforms were achieved at a stiff cost domestically and regionally. Indeed, his hostile policies with regards to Moscow resulted in territorial amputation; during a 2008 war with Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia were snatched from Georgia, most probably forever.