The messenger logo

Charisma in modern Georgian politics

By Messenger Staff
Friday, July 6
Charisma has played a very important role in post- Soviet politics. Only the leaders with charismatic features have been to become the governors of different countries. How does this opinion fit the Georgian reality? So far, all Georgian leaders have been charismatic. So the question arises: can Georgia rid itself of charismatic leaders and develop in the democratic direction?

The demand for charismatic leaders comes from a primitive political culture or thereof. People understand that they need someone who is very special, who is a Big Boss, a chief, one who is distinguished among the rest of the population.

During the late Soviet period, such leaders like Zviad Gamsakhurdia appeared– a formal dissident, a martyr, and a leader who could free Georgia from Soviet rule. Even after his death, he remains a hero among some in Georgia. When he was ousted, people asked: who will lead in his stead? And so they selected Eduard Shevardnadze, the former Soviet leader who also commanded a very charismatic personality.

He did not have an understanding of Western civilization however. His educational background was communist, but he realized that Western development could lead the country to success. Shevardnadze still remains a charismatic leader. Only the personality with sufficient charismatic features could counterbalance Shevardnadze and the likes of Mikheil Saakashvili, who was the favorite of Eduard Shevardnadze, who promoted him as a leader of the ruling Citizens’ Union faction in the parliament, and later made him the Minister of Justice. Thus, Saakashvili achieved charismatic welfare, opposed Shevardnadze and overthrew him through the Rose Revolution.

Charismatic leaders are supposed to create miracles and so was expected Saakashvili. After becoming the president, Saakashvili did not fulfil all the promises he gave to the Georgian people. He has been unable to restore the territorial integrity of the country. On the contrary, his administration lost 20% of Georgian territory which is now occupied by the Russian Federation. He could not improve the country’s economic conditions either; even though the budget was increased several fold. Georgian society is suffering from unemployment and poverty, which has yet to be addressed, and there have been failures within the agricultural sector as well. All this has damaged his image though he still preserves his charismatic image at a modest level.

These shortcomings created a demand for change in the country. So far, the major incentive of change was the failure of the current administration and their leaders. Gamsakhurdia was changed by Shevardnadze, and the latter by Saakashvili. All three were charismatic leaders.

The formula behind these leaders’ departure was the public mentality of “anybody but him”. Today, many think the same way. So far, there has been no charismatic opposition leader to rival Saakashvili but now there is one. Bidzina Ivanishvili has the charismatic features that could endear him to the Georgian population. Though he has no experience as a politician, and no eloquence like Saakashvili, but he is a talented man and his skills are improving.

So the ruling authority had to propose someone who counterbalances Ivanishvili, as Saakashvili is losing ground in front of Ivanishvili. Therefore, the ruling power has nominated Vano Merabishvili, yet another charismatic personality. Merabishvili’s name is connected with several successful moves by the current administration. These are police reforms, combating corruption, and decreasing crime. So until currently, there is the rule of charisma in Georgia, rather than the rule of democracy. But the tendency is that such influence tends to decrease.