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Political prospects for 2010

By Messenger Staff
Monday, January 4
How will Georgian politics develop this year, particularly inside the country? So far the only thing we know is that local elections should be held before June 1. The exact date of these has not yet been appointed but campaigning, particularly by the ruling party, has begun. This is the most noticeable in Tbilisi, were the Mayor will be directly elected this time round. The National Movement plans to win, as always, but is trying to do so in the most democratic way, at least on the surface.

The opposition are also getting ready for the elections, but as usual lagging behind. They are split and concentrating on Tbilisi mostly, as it is generally accepted that whoever wins Tbilisi wins Georgia. The Tbilisi Mayor is now imagined to be the most likely future President of Georgia, but to gain this position the opposition must unite and present one candidate. It remains unlikely that they can achieve either unification or victory.

Of course the political mood, and the developments it provokes, will very much reflect the situation established here after the Russian invasion of August 2008. The most important factor of the current political situation is the big protest charge created by the results of that war, the general grave economic situation and the protest rallies of spring 2009, which lasted almost a hundred days. The so-called radical opposition- the one not represented in Parliament, very naively and romantically thought that it could create another Rose Revolution by inviting tens of thousands of people to stand in the streets for weeks demanding the resignation of the ruling party and the President. The opposition expected that either the President or his team would resign or lose control of the situation and thus resort to force, which would shake Western support for the present regime. Why the opposition were so sure this would happen is a mystery, and it had no other action plan, but the President managed to slowly recover his poise and counterattack.

Of course the domestic confrontation will continue in 2010 whatever the results of the local elections. Analysts observe that the President and his team are continually reinventing themselves: before and immediately after 2008 Presidential and later Parliamentary elections the President was soft and sweet and ready for concessions, and was the same during and after the Russian invasion and during the spring rallies, but as soon as he recovered from these shocks he got tougher. We suggest that such metamorphoses, and in particular getting tougher, will not help the Government remain in power. However disorganised the opposition are, the public discontent with the Government is still here because many issues have created it. The people stopped going to rallies because they saw that the opposition were not ready to achieve results but the initial dissatisfaction with the performance of the authorities which brought them out is still here, and has accumulated further over time. If the ruling party does not become more flexible, if it tries to suppress democratic demands and in particular manipulates and rigs the forthcoming elections, the mood of protest could boil over again and it is very difficult to prognosticate which form this protest will take.

One has to admit that very much depends on the position of our Western friends. So far they are insisting on democratic conditions being in place for the elections. Letís see how the reality matches the rhetoric.