Oct 14, 2021
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Georgia is turning into a weight that can change the balance on huge scales

Georgia is turning into a weight that can change the balance on huge scales

Photo: David Mdzinarishvili / TASS

There are two ways to stabilize modern socio-political systems. The first is periodic elections with a change of oligarchic groups in power (leaders of political parties and influential companies associated with them). As a result of the elections, the unprivileged majority of the population let off steam, satisfied with the fact that they have peacefully displaced the former bosses, of whom they are tired, and go home, feeling, at times, vague anxiety (“all this has happened many times, but our life remains the same”). For example, the political system is organized in most European countries.

The second way of stabilization is an authoritarian regime + economic growth. Power is retained by one oligarchic group, but it does so thanks to high rates of economic development, from which the vast majority of the population (China, Singapore) benefits, albeit insignificantly. In this case, strong economic growth is a means of legitimizing the regime.

Both strategies are described by one of the largest contemporary researchers, a professor at the London School of Economics, a leading economist at the World Bank, Branko Milanovic. The second is called “political capitalism”, and the first is associated with the system of “economic capitalism”, where economics and politics are somewhat more autonomous from each other. Both methods of government do not provide an absolute guarantee for the preservation of the power of the ruling classes, but at least allow them to hope for stability.

Neither the first nor the second happens in Georgia, which means that conditions for “great upheavals” are being created. There is nothing unusual here – a similar picture is typical for the planet. But the country has an important feature – the high political activity of its citizens. In Georgia, large strikes do not often occur – social-class demonstrations. All the activity of society is directed to the sphere of state policy. Protests are multi-class in nature, i.e. representatives of various social strata participate in them.

Georgian ruling groups do not always want to leave voluntarily, even if they lose popularity, and therefore riots or color revolutions occur in the country from time to time. T.N. Rose Revolution – took place in November 2003 and its main motive was the rigging of parliamentary elections. It was the Rose Revolution that brought to power Mikhail Saakashviliwho became the third president of independent Georgia.

In modern Georgia, he is accused of numerous crimes. He was sentenced in absentia to nine years in prison in several criminal cases, including the murder of a banker. Sandro Girgvliani and the case of beating a deputy Valeria Gelashvili… In addition, the ex-president is a defendant in the case of the suppression of mass protests. Saakashvili does not admit the charges, but the fact of his violent suppression of opposition political protests in November 2007 is beyond doubt. During his reign, something like a color revolution also happened, but he managed to crush it.

In 2012, his party, UNM (United National Movement, or “Nationals”) lost the elections to Georgian Dream, the current ruling party. Realizing that the jokes with the Georgian society are bad, and that he was in serious trouble if he tried to maintain power against the will of the voters, in 2013 Saakashvili left the country.

Power is taken by the Georgian Dream, a party founded by a multimillionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili… Today, amid the economic downturn, it is losing popularity. Its policies are beginning to irritate an increasing number of citizens. In 2019, there were massive anti-government demonstrations in the country. They have been held in the center of Tbilisi since June 20, 2019. Although the number of participants even at the peak of the movement hardly exceeded 10-20 thousand (which, however, is not so small for Georgia, whose population is 3.7 million), and then began to decline, the duration of these performances is noteworthy – they continued until December. In November 2020, mass protests were repeated – the opposition did not recognize the results of the parliamentary elections. In short, there is every reason to talk about a protracted political crisis.

On October 2, the first round of elections to local self-government bodies took place in Georgia. According to incoming reports, Georgian Dream received 46.69%. In second place is the opposition party of former President Mikheil Saakashvili – United National Movement (UNM), gaining 30.7%. “The elections were well organized,” a letter from a group of members of the European Parliament says, but the authors further report that there was no level playing field for all parties during the election campaign. In addition, they call for an investigation into reports of intimidation of candidates and voter bribery. The opposition accuses the ruling party of various violations, including the use of state employees. The second round of elections will take place on October 30.

All this is happening against the backdrop of the return, arrest and hunger strike of Mikhail Saakashvili. On September 29, after 8 years of absence, he illegally returned to the territory of Georgia and on October 1, law enforcement agencies detained him. In the pre-trial detention center, the former president went on a hunger strike. Saakashvili’s actions look risky, but they are not devoid of logic, precisely because they are unfolding against the backdrop of a protracted political crisis, and even under the conditions of elections. He is not a super-popular politician, but he still has many supporters, according to the official election results. His return may lead to an increase in the street activity of the UNM, stimulate protests.

However, there are many in Georgia who do not feel any sympathy for the former president and do not like the current government. It is difficult to say how they will behave in this situation. As one woman who commented on this situation on the network put it: “The most, however, funny and sad is that the kick was first given to the party of Saakashvili, UNM, when the people hoped for the GM, and now, when the GM has become an analogue of Saakashvili’s party, we have to hope for the party of Saakashvili. From sewing to soap, from soap to awl. “

Georgia is a country that has experienced civil wars, a color revolution, and mass protests. Today, conditions are gradually ripening for a repetition of similar events. At least if the current state of the economy and political problems persist, the likelihood of this increases.

But what has changed a lot this time is the regional alignment. A sluggish war continues between Azerbaijan and Armenia at a time when the three powers – Turkey, Russia and, in recent weeks, Iran, have sharply increased their influence in the South Caucasus. Turkey has created a military-political alliance with Azerbaijan, Russia, in order to protect its allied Armenia from this alliance, sent its troops into Nagorno-Karabakh, which otherwise would have inevitably been taken by Azerbaijani troops. Iran, worried about the strengthening of Turkish military-political power in the South Caucasus and the emerging Azerbaijani-Turkish bloc, has deployed its troops to the Azerbaijani border and threatened Azerbaijan if it tries to penetrate the territory of Armenia.

The destabilization of Georgia in such conditions, like any major changes in Georgian politics in general, will have an international dimension and can affect the already uncertain mobile balance of power in the South Caucasus. The region has become too dynamic. Small Georgia turns into a weight that can change the balance on huge scales.

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