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A country in need of a consensus

Wednesday, May 21
Today’s election should be watched not just for its outcome, but for how its length and denouement unfolds.

In the past two months of campaigning there has been, perhaps inevitably but not excusably, plenty of behavior that was anything but democratic and civil. There was intimidation and violence, and abuses of power.

But between that, hardly noticeable amid talk of rebellion and retaliation, there were heartening and sincere attempts to talk about issues of governance.

There are many to discuss. There may be a broad consensus here on foreign policy, but Georgia needs a dialogue about its radical domestic reforms. Without a continued consensus on the swift changes this administration wants, stability is undermined.

And while the state has proved itself durable, in iron-fisted ways like the November 7 crackdown, the potential for violence in the next few days is significant.

Without a popular consensus on the outcome of this election, individual lives are at risk.

All should heed the president’s public call for good behavior, regardless of whatever private winks they may have perceived—clean elections are paramount. That responsibility has rested uneasily on the shoulders of the government, and it lies with them today.

If it is met, the election’s losers must tell their supports to accept the results and go home. The nature of the electoral system may result in unwelcome, but legitimate, surprises; someone must explain those to outraged voters, quickly and convincingly.

And if the election falls short of what is promised, restraint will become the greatest virtue of the day.