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Adrienne Warren

Turn It Up Party People, It’s Election Day – Georgian Style

On Sunday 27 October, Georgians go to the polls to elect a new president to succeed Mikheil Saakashvili, whose decade long rule has come to an end.  Though this election will see the nation transitioning into a parliamentary republic, thus reducing the current powers the presidential office holds, these changes are not the only ones  which make the coming months a crossroads for Georgia. In fact, the country’s elections and the conclusion of next month’s Eastern Partnership summit may make Georgia’s role much larger than the confines of its borders…

Eka Tkeshelashvili, President of the Georgian Institute for Strategic Studies, explains the significance of the moment for Georgia:

“Georgia stands at a crossroads. It faces huge economic, political and security challenges and has to make immediate and significant choices.”

Pre-election Tbilisi, author: Ketevan Kantaria, source:

Pre-election Tbilisi, author: Ketevan Kantaria, source:

Tkeshelashvili elaborates, saying:

“Georgia has a clearly defined national agenda – integration into the Euro Atlantic community….After the Rose Revolution in 2003, Georgia began a successful transformation from being a post-Soviet country into a functioning European democracy. This process has been accompanied by positive dynamics in the development of partnerships with regional (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey axis) and non-regional actors (the US, EU, Nato).”

Another achievement of Georgia’s recent agenda was to  begin to heal the political rift with Georgia, after a 4 year diplomatic stalemate. The two countries met in the early part of 2013, breaking new ground and re-establishing ties–however tenuous. Tkeshelashvili is of the opinion that the restoration of diplomatic ties may have had a fatal flaw which could shape Georgia’s future:

“After the October 2012 general elections, Georgia’s Russia-related policy was reshaped and restoring economic links with Russia became a cornerstone of Georgia’s foreign policy.The main drawback of this vision was that it assumed the possibility of positive change of Russian policy towards Georgia – without Georgia abandoning its goal of becoming part of Euro Atlantic space. The risk is that there is no actual stake in it for Russia, other than to use this process for the advancement of its own strategic interests in Georgia and in the region.”

#Gvote gallery by RU

Futhermore, Tkeshelashvili feels that this tension could all come to the surface after the Georgian election, and the outcome of the Vilnius Summit next month:

“Russia remains clear that it will not reverse its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and has made it clear that not only membership of Nato but even initialling an Association Agreement with the EU is unacceptable. With the Eastern Partnership programme gaining traction, Russia has become openly aggressive in pursuing its own strategic project of the Eurasian Union. The South Caucasus is essential for Russia to realise this. As it stands, Georgia is expected to initial the Association Agreement. However, should the results of Georgia’s presidential elections on October 27 be contested, the result could be political instability which could preclude the initialling of the Association Agreement.”

However, the “tough on Russia” approach is one which has been adopted by many Georgian politicians in the run-up to the election, as Georgian Guardian correspondent, Shaun Walker, explains, using the example of the recent wire “borderisation” measures taken up by Russia in South Ossetia:

“The wire is part of process of “borderisation” by Russian border guards, during which EU monitors claim about 40km of fencing or barbed wire have been erected, augmented with hi-tech surveillance cameras mounted on poles…the process has received a sudden flurry of attention as Georgian presidential elections approach this Sunday. Locals say that the fence-building has been going on for months, but now with the vote approaching, being tough on Russia is important and politicians are rushing one after another to travel to the affected villages and show solidarity. Georgian politicians say the border construction is one part of an increasingly provocative policy towards the country from Moscow…”

It’s perhaps difficult to predict how these elements, seemingly hinged on the Georgia election and EaP summit, will unfold. Heads or tails?

Sources: World Review, The Guardian

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Graduated in International Relations and Russian. Resident of Estonia, but a citizen of the world. Most interested in contributing to the progress and education of mankind--as the primary tool of achieving global unity.

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