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Georgia's Election Brings New Hope for Democracy

Author: Anya Schmemann, Director, Task Force Program
October 3, 2012
Council on Foreign Relations

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This is a guest post by Anya Schmemann on the blog, "The Water's Edge."

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union twenty-one years ago, the fifteen former Soviet Republics have followed mostly bumpy paths toward and away from democracy.

On Monday, Georgians stunned the world when an opposition coalition led by eccentric billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili won the parliamentary election there. President Mikheil Saakashvili conceded defeat on Tuesday, paving the way for Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream bloc to form a new government.

When Ivanishvili becomes prime minister, as expected, it will be the first time in Georgia's history that the government will have changed at the ballot box rather than through revolution.

To be sure, challenges remain. Saakashvili, who was swept to power in 2003's Rose Revolution, will remain in power until presidential elections next year. Relations between the two men are frosty, to say the least. Due to recent reforms, the parliament and prime minister will acquire greater powers after the presidential election. But the six-party Georgian Dream coalition is fragile, its majority is thin, and its tycoon leader is a political novice.

The campaign was bitter. The opposition accused Saakashvili of monopolizing power, curtailing democracy and suppressing dissent. Indeed, Saakashvili used all the tools at his disposal, including state-run media, to secure a win, but his efforts to block his opponents ultimately failed.

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