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Russia rubbing its hands over post-election discord

By M. Alkhazashvili
(Translated by Davit Kipiani)
Thursday, May 29
The May 21 elections have been left behind, but its legitimacy is still contested. Looming over the bitter dispute is Georgia’s perpetual antagonist, Russia.

The Saakashvili administration was always adamantly opposed to holding parliamentary elections this spring, saying coinciding events in Russia—presidential elections, reactions to Kosovo independence—would make the situation too instable. They went so far as to amend the constitution to hold the presidential and parliamentary elections together this fall.

But months of political crisis forced early elections and, as it turns out, there was nothing for the government to worry about. The ruling party won an overwhelming victory, and the consequences of Russian pressure were either negligible or helpful for the government.

Some analysts speculated that Moscow would have liked to see Badri Patarkatsishvili win the January presidential elections. Did Russia have a horse in last week’s parliamentary elections? It’s more likely that Russia hoped less for a government change than domestic destabilization for Georgia, something which can be triggered by internal political discord.

They may have got their wish. The government and the opposition are now in yet another stand-off. The government cannot acquiesce to opposition demands for a repeat election—it would be admitting the elections were rigged. And the more radical in the opposition would have a hard time backing off from their vows to protest and blockade the soon-to-convene new parliament.

Elections can be held in the face of external threats—it is ensuing disagreements which pose a danger. Neither the government nor the opposition should forget that destabilization in Georgia is what Russia is looking for.