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22 years of Georgian parliamentarianism

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, November 1
22 years ago, on October 28, Georgia's first elections were held which gave start to the country's post- Soviet independence. Historically, 22 years is a paltry number. However, for those who witnessed it and experienced this moment, it was a very sentimental and special moment in the country's history. In fact, about one-hundred years ago, in February of 1919, there was actually a precedent of holding democratic elections in Georgia; and this precedent would lead to the eventual establishment of the first independent and democratic Georgia. However, Georgia's independence was short-lived, as two-years later the country would see itself occupied by Bolshevik Russia in February 1921.

More recently, in 1990, the Georgian Supreme Council (parliament) once again announced Georgia’s independence from the Soviet Union. However, the ensuing 20 years of Georgia's new-found independence was full of very dramatic if not tragic events. Just one year after claiming independence, a bloody coup de tat took place in December of 1991. And as a result, the first-elected president of Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was ousted from Georgia in 1992. Naturally the Supreme Council was dismissed and most of its members went into exile. In 1992, Georgia elected its next parliament for the term of three years. To the surprise of many, the parliament's chairman was Eduard Shevardnadze; the former communist leader of Georgia. However, there still remained a great deal of inertia from years of communist rule in Georgia and Shevardnadze managed to establish a certain level of stability. This term of three years was ended by the election of a new parliament in 1995. In the following two parliamentary terms– from 1995-1999 and from 1999 -2003 Shevardnadze was Georgia's president, ruling the country via an obedient parliament headed by Shevardnadze’s apprentice, Zurab Zhvania. For better or for worse, Georgian parliamentarianism was established in those years.

By 2001 however, there was split in the ruling power, Zhvania resigned and moved into the opposition column and Nino Burjanadze became chair of the parliament. On November 2 of 2003, the next parliamentary elections were held. The opposition UNM and other supporting parties claimed these elections were manipulated. As a result, on November 23, the Rose Revolution took place in Tbilisi and Mikheil Saakashvili, leader of the UNM came to power. He was supported by both Zurab Zhvania, who later became PM and Chair of Parliament Nino Burjanadze. Saakashvili became president in January of 2004. The next two terms of the Georgian parliament were under the domineering watch of Saakashvili and his UNM team. By the beginning of the first term of four years of the functioning parliament, PM Zhvania was dead in 2005.

The parliamentary elections of 2008 were completely overwhelmed by Saakashvili's team. By then, former chairwoman of the parliament was also out. The UNM parliament rule in Georgia became very controversial, full of repressions, abuse of human rights, manipulated court decisions and many other violations. In the last parliamentary elections held on October 1, 2012, it had become clear that the country needed change. This was significantly affected by the arrival of Bidzina Ivanishvili to the political arena. Ivanishvili is a Georgian billionaire and eventually led the opposition to victory on October 1. In fact, this was the first time in the last 20 years, when a change of power took place peacefully; the first president and parliament were forced to leave the country after a bloody coup de tat and though the Rose Revolution was bloodless in 2003, it was still a revolution and all revolutions are essentially illegal events.

Today, the current parliament faces many problems. First of all, it is obvious that the UNM did not expect these results, as they had done everything legal and illegal to preserve their domineering role in the country. However, the Georgian people were fed up with Saakashvili and his team of false promises, demagogy and hypocrisy, and therefore, they voted against him. The UNM however, is trying to prepare a situation for possible revenge. The president still remains as the head of the state, but simultaneously the leader of the opposition possesses different levers to create a crisis, dismiss parliament and appoint new parliamentary elections.

But the victorious GD coalition is not going to give up its position easily. Let us hope that there will be no further confrontation in the country.