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Georgia passed test of democracy

By Messenger Staff
Friday, October 5
Before the October 1st elections there were several different scenarios that most people envisioned. Most of them were dramatic if not tragic. Until the last moment the ruling United National Movement (UNM) was confident of victory and intensively used administrative resources to ensure a favorable outcome. It was also ready for civil unrest.

The most widespread view was that the ruling regime would commit electoral fraud and manipulate the results which would trigger huge protest rallies by the opposition. The ruling government would then violently disperse the protesters and maintain its power. Another possible situation was that the protesters would overwhelm law enforcement and take control of the country by force. These two possibilities both involved confrontation and bloodshed.

However the best possible outcome took place in Georgia. For the first time in the country's history the ruling government was peacefully removed and changed through elections. The entire international community has unanimously commented that Georgia passed the test of democracy. If during the past 21 years since independence all political changes in Georgia have taken place by coup d'etat or revolution this time everything was according to democratic standards. Observers have stated that the October 1st elections were competitive, fair and democratic. When the exit polls were first announced UNM was shocked but made statements that they were confident of maintaining their majority in Parliament. However the reality was different and the next day, the UNM acknowledged its defeat. The ruling administration was certainly under pressure from the West. Several hundred observers were sent to ensure democratic standards during the elections. Local NGOs, opposition forces and even ordinary citizens realized the need for high democratic standards and did not give supporters of the ruling regime the chance to manipulate the electoral process. It was a victory for the Georgian population who said "No" to the regime, who said "No" to the facade democracy. Of course there were some discrepancies on Election Day. Some analysts have suggested that almost 20% of votes the UNM received could be considered fraudulent. The international community has declared the results acceptable by democratic standards despite citing some violations. Some credit should be given to President Saakashvili who admitted defeat in the proportional voting on Election Day and complete loss of the elections the day after. Georgia's Western allies cited Saakashvili’s concession as a sign of genuine democratic progress. Now the second stage begins: Georgian Dream forming a new government and trying to implement its policies with President Saakashvili still in office. In its new role as opposition party UNM will try to protect its achievements of the last eight years. The Georgian Dream coalition faces serious challenges ahead.