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Different evaluations

Wednesday, June 2
The elections are finally over, having aroused lots of passions, controversies and speculations. Now it is time to assess the results. Who received what and how? Is the state more democratic or autocratic as a result of these elections? These questions and many more need to be answered.

Numerous foreign observers monitored the elections and said that certain progress had been made, but again stated that there were shortcomings in the electoral process. One very significant statement in the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)'s preliminary report should be taken into consideration during future campaigns. “The distinction between the state and the ruling party was sometimes blurred and there was not always a clear distinction between the official and party functions of public officials,” it says. However the elections were still assessed positively compared to previous ones, and as the previous ones were also assessed positively this is a double endorsement.

The administration has managed to hold this election in a generally quiet and businesslike environment, and more importantly it has won. However serious doubt has been expressed about the official results by opposition parties, many local observers and members of the public. Their major complaint is that administrative/state resources were used by the ruling party in a disguised manner in order to get round the legislation. They point out that certain amendments to the elections code were actually designed to make the use of administrative resources legal. For instance, it was made legal for political office holders, such as heads of local councils, Governors, MPs, Ministers and their deputies and even the President to participate in the election campaign. Prior to the Parliamentary elections of 2008 this was illegal, and although the Venice Commission concluded that such amendments were against international standards and the OSCE's Copenhagen agreement in August 2008 they remained part of the election code. Senior Government figures and a multitude of people working for or appointed by them did take part in the campaign in accordance with this amendment.

Analysts are almost unanimous in saying that the authorities prepared for the elections very well, mobilising human and financial resources, putting pressure on voters, bribing them and intimidating people in different ways. These methods have borne fruit. Therefore the opposition claim that the playing field was not level and the authorities had serious and unfair advantages. However the same analysts are also unanimous in blaming the opposition parties themselves for their failure. Instead of uniting they starting confronting each other, accusing each other of different sins and splitting into small fragments, thus dooming themselves to defeat.

The Government is triumphant. As they say the victors are never judged. The opposition have been left unable to start any type of protest action by taking part in the elections in the first place. They have lost public trust because people are frustrated and disappointed by the conduct of the opposition. People expect the leaders of the opposition to be united, determined and motivated, instead they see an amorphous, disorganised mass.

The people do not trust the opposition, or at least the opposition we have now. Of course some parties will still try and hold protests to see whether the people will follow them, but most will probably take time out and see how things develop from here. Some analysts think that the Government has exhausted itself. It has achieved what it wanted, to win local elections, but now it has to fulfill its promises and that does not simply mean making Georgia a tourist destination. However important this industry is, waiting for other people to come here is not the way this country will succeed.

Georgia's next challenge will be the Parliamentary elections, which according to some predictions could be held earlier than the statutory date of 2012.