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Burden and opportunity for a one-party parliament

By M. Alkhazashvili
Wednesday, June 11
It is an odd situation when a government must coax its opponents into parliament.

The authorities need some feisty, if marginalized, opposition MPs to maintain the appearance of a democratic system. Already, the Christian Democrats have broken ranks with other opposition parties to say they will not boycott the legislature, ensuring that Georgia has, at least in name, a multi-party parliament.

But the reality is that in its 17th year of independence from the Soviet Union, Georgia has a one-party parliament. The difference between today’s parliament and the domination of the Communist Party is that Western analysts label today’s situation as ‘progress toward democracy.’

Local analysts are more skeptical. Many speak of a single-party system, communist-era atavism and growing authoritarianism.

Labels matter less than how the country is truly developing, but its direction is unclear. It depends in large part on what lessons the ruling party draws from the previous months, and what it does to move the country forward. The burden for progress is truly on the government.

Over the last winter, Georgia was swept along by a viable opposition movement and an ultimately critical political confrontation. But the authorities came out on top, and a fractured opposition has seen its influence evaporate.

With their crushing win in parliament, for better or for worse the authorities have reasserted themselves as the country’s driving force.

Until the routed opposition leaders regroup around a new cause and catalyst, or younger faces rise to take their places, the government will be setting the agenda in Georgia. It is a heavy burden and perhaps a shrinking opportunity to ensure that the country is set on the right trend—toward representative government and continued civil freedom, not perpetual one-party rule.