Georgia went from having no democratic institutions and no clear path to freedom to having a relatively stable and well respected system of democratic institutions in the span of 25 years since independence. The path to democracy started at independence, but one could argue that legitimate democracy began with the 2003 rose revolution. Obviously there are elections, but only recently was there a vote that all parties agreed were free, even the party that conceded power. it would be naive to claim that Georgia has become a fully free democracy, as there are several notable issues which confront the nation.
First, there are extra political groups which wield great trust and political power. They operate outside the political realm, but politicians have to court then. The church. Second, Guillermo O’Donnel’s notion of a “delegated democracy” would adequately characterize Georgia. Georgia’s political parties are largely centered around single characters, differing ideologies play an undersized role in elections, and the turnover rate among political parties is very high. Opposition parties do not campaign for a particular set of values, they campaign against the incumbent government. Due to these “personality politics,” debates and campaigning is largely based on ad-hominem attacks. The system is multi-party, but in every election a single changing party dominates.
These issues are not necessarily reflective of inherent flaws in the system or institutions themselves, but rather the issue lies in the public’s attitude towards these institutions. When an incumbent government loses power, a sense of euphoria sets in and unrealistic expectations are inevitably not realized. This overwhelming enthusiasm in the short term, unfortunately, leads to a longer term cynicism, which precludes stable civic growth and participation. This cynicism in the overall system precludes but is not limited to political party participation, NGO’s, and social activism. As a result of personality politics, the elected leader has a clear personal mandate to essentially so whatever they want.
Perhaps as a legacy of decades of Soviet rule, the Georgian electorate seems to be waiting for a single persona to sort out the country’s problems and lead the country to glory under his/her semi-divine tutelage. True democracy and freedom will be accomplished when the people realize they have nothing to lose but their chains, as they shake off a final vestige of Soviet imperial rule.
The medium to long term prospects for Georgia are bright in the political, economic, and social spheres are bright, as the people gain more trust in the system.
By: Mohammed ElSarhan
Term: Summer 2016