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Russia: Political Blueprint for Georgia?

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, September 28
Russia-Georgia relations are usually thought of in the present day as hostile, bitter and angry. Yet, without admitting it, the governments of the two hostile countries certainly observe and may even admire each others' way of managing and shaping democracy. The clearest example of this is the hegemony of the current leaders of the countries and their plans to stay in power. In terms of its leadership, Russia has already made its plans public. Georgia has not so far. Russia's political developments then can prove a very useful testing ground for political experiments for Georgia in the immediate future. However indirectly, the plan for the future, at least politically, appears to be coming not from Singapore or Estonia but from Russia.

The Putin model - what could be termed 'pulling a Putin' – looks certain to be repeated in Georgia, with a few slight tweaks to the tuning. The amendments introduced in the Georgian constitution give grounds for such predictions. In those amendments the president is deprived of certain powers and they will be transferred to the prime minister. It seems safe to assume that Saakashvili is targeting the PM’s position after his term as president is over. All the ruling United National Movement party has to do is maintain a constitutional majority in the parliament. In this case, a reliable presidential candidate should be nominated who will be under the subordination of future PM Saakashvili. Officially this plan has not been aired yet. Following the Russian standard, when the Putin-Medvedev decision was publicly announced in September two months prior to Duma elections and five months prior to the presidential elections, we should only expect an announcement of this sort some months before Georgians go to the polls.

There are some Georgian analysts who believe 'pulling a Putin' won't work in Georgia and have expressed an anticipation of confrontation among the ruling factions. But this looks rather unlikely. As the ruling party understands any kind of controversy undermines its position, its privileges and welfare, and it is not clear that anyone will want to break rank.

There is one more thing Georgia can learn from Russia. As the Georgian leadership declares its democratic values, it has to take into consideration the negative reaction the Putin-Medvedev decision created around the world. Some analysts think that the Russian experience will push Georgia to try to further wrap up its future moves in democratic packaging so as not to irritate and upset the west. Yet how they can do that and keep Saakashvili as the most powerful man in the country is not clear.

Russia then is providing a laboratory for models of democracy management and political maneuvering, with Georgia watching closely. Ironic then that for all the talk about hatreds and breaking with the 'Russian' way of doing things the Georgian government appears to be reading from the Russian script in important ways. Of course, it's not too late to change course – with the right political will, next year could see real democracy over managed democracy in Georgia. With Russia so clearly showing that the instinct for autocracy still beats in the hearts of its power elites, Georgia has been provided a superb opportunity to prove just how different it really is from its northern neighbour – it would be a shame not to take it.