Friday, October 05, 2012

THE ELECTIONS IN GEORGIA: THE GEOPOLITICAL RAMIFICATIONS

"President Mikheil Saakashvili has admitted his party has lost Georgia's parliamentary election, in a live TV announcement. He said the Georgian Dream bloc of his main rival, billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, had won Monday's election. Victory for Mr Ivanishvili means the first democratic transfer of power in Georgia's post-Soviet history. Mr Ivanishvili said the "only right decision" would now be for Mr Saakashvili to resign. While Mr Ivanishvili, 56, is set to become prime minister, his rival, who has led the country since 2003, is due to remain in power until presidential elections next year.... By admitting defeat, President Saakashvili is allowing a peaceful transition of power. And for the first time in modern Georgia's history, a change of government is the result of a peaceful election, rather than a revolution. Western observers are calling these the most credible elections Georgia has ever known. Mr Saakashvili's party will be in opposition, instead of enjoying the huge majority it has been used to for the past nine years. And some voters will feel worried about this new government. Mr Ivanishvili is suspected by some of having links to the Kremlin. Under agreed reforms, the parliament and prime minister will acquire greater powers than the president after that election. With results in from 72% of polling stations, Georgian Dream led the party list vote, which accounts for 77 of the 150 seats, with 54% of the vote. The president's United National Movement was on 41%.... "It's clear from the preliminary results that the opposition has the lead and it should form the government - and I as president should help them with this." The US congratulated Georgians on the "historic milestone" of their parliamentary election and praised the president's response to the result. In a later news briefing, Mr Ivanishvili called on Mr Saakashvili to admit he would not be able to retain power, to resign and call a snap presidential election. Mr Saakashvili, a pro-Western leader who champions the free market, has warned that the Georgian Dream bloc will move Georgia away from the West and back into Moscow's sphere of influence. Russia defeated Georgian forces in a brief war in 2008. But in his briefing Mr Ivanishvili said both normalisation of relations with Russia and membership of Nato would be pursued. Mr Ivanishvili celebrated with his supporters in Tbilisi on Monday night "If you ask me 'America or Russia?', I say we need to have good relations with everybody," Mr Ivanishvili said according to AFP news agency. Mr Ivanishvili made his fortune in Russia in the early 1990s, with stakes in the metals industry, banking and later property, including hotels. Forbes business website estimates his wealth at $6.4bn (£4bn). His success was welcomed in Moscow where Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said it would mean more "constructive forces" entering parliament. Vyacheslav Nikonov, deputy head of the parliament's international affairs committee in Moscow, said that in the eyes of both Mr Medvedev and President Vladimir Putin the Georgian president was a war criminal. "Anything that would keep Saakashvili further away from the instruments of power is a plus for Russian-Georgian relations'".
BBC World Service. "Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili admits election loss." 2 October 2012, in www.bbc.co.uk.
"I think Russia's position of irritation about Georgia's integration in NATO was deepened by Saakashvili. I know that Georgia's integration in NATO is not very pleasant for Russia, but I don't think it is a strategic issue for Russia. I think it is possible with correct diplomacy to convince Russia that Georgia's integration in NATO is not a threat.... The Baltic countries are an example of NATO integration and good relations with Russia. We will not change our strategy of NATO integration for anything.... My opponents said that Russia was planning to invade for three years, I'm saying Russia wanted to come to the Caucasus for centuries. Russia wanted to come to Caucasus for centuries, but it was our government's provocation that allowed them to do so.... It will be very hard for a small country like Georgia to have several strategic partners but we should be acceptable to our neighbors and our strategic partner, the U.S.... Georgia cannot be a big geopolitical player, and Saakashvili [tried[ to do this. We [Georgia] should be a regional player."
Georgian Prime Minister-elect, Bidzina Ivanishvili quoted at a press conference on the 2nd of October 2012, see: Joshua Kucera, "Ivanishvili on NATO, Russia and Georgia's Geopolitics." Eurasianet. 3 October 2012, in www.eurasianet.org.
The views of the Prime Minister-elect of Georgia au fond, represent something that has been the hallmarks of this journals thinking on the relations between Georgia and Russia in the past half dozen years. Given its geographical location vis-`a-vis Russia, the idea that Georgian President Saakashvili entertained that Georgia would be able to in some fashion or other able to re-imagine itself as a 'Western' or European nation, in opposition to Russia was a hugely fantastic. And as can now been seen landed Georgia in a diplomatic cul de sac. The American Administration, like its predecessor, while quite happy to have a friendly and co-operative Georgia on its side, was quite unwilling to destroy relations with Moskva for this purpose. Given the new tone coming from Georgia, the issue of its relations with Washington will be soon removed one hopes as a diplomatic headache in relations between Moskva and Washington. One can only welcome the thinking of the new Georgian Premier in his willingness to review on a positive basis relations with Moskva 1. One can only hope that assured future disappearance of President Saakashvili will result in Moskva taking an open mind and an intelligent approach to relations with Georgia. Seeking equitable relations with historically speaking a friendly people and not abasement from a vassal state. Unfortunately, Moskva's past history & practice in such matters does not give me much hope. Time will tell...
1. Neil Buckley, "Ivanishvili promises to defend Democracy." The Financial Times. 3 October 2012, in www.ft.com.

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