Why Every Voter Must Think Hard This Year
“If Russian tanks entered Tbilisi in 2008, the political situation today would have been about the same as the one we are currently witnessing under Ivanishvili’s informal rule.”
Please do not assume that those are words belong to some expert or a member of the opposition. No, this was in fact said by one of the leading ideologists of Putin’s regime, Alexander Dugin. He also claimed that Ivanishvili and his team are clearly not an ideal option for Kremlin. However, the structure of Ivanishvili’s party and his policies are similar to those of the Russian ruling elites. It therefore creates perfect conditions for rapprochement of the country’s positions in the future. Moreover, Dugin believes that Ivanishvili’s “Dream” is merely a transitional political force, the result of which would be an increased demand for a new kind of politician. Politicians, who, in the near future, will be ready to agree with Kremlin on virtually everything.
In Dugin’s words, Georgia’s political power “useful” to Moscow and current government reminiscent of the “United Russia”’s by structure and political content, is becoming more and more “useless” for Washington and Brussels, that have been voicing their concerns for a quite a while now. Western partners can see clearly just how further away Georgia is moving from its Western aspirations and democratic course. For that exact reason, Western politicians became increasingly involved in Georgia’s internal affairs, virtually forcing Ivanishvili to agree to a new electoral system.
The West understands well that Georgia today, just like in 2012, is at the crossroads. In addition, if Ivanishvili’s “Georgian Dream” remains in power against the will of the electorate, the path to Georgia’s democratic development will be closed, and a shift in geopolitical orientation in favor of Russia will become almost inevitable.
The warnings from Washington started as informal conversations behind closed doors, continued in the form of writing and eventually turned into clear warnings. Along with fair elections and the rule of law as the necessary conditions for continuing a strategic partnership, it was openly stated to the Georgian authorities that cooperation with Russia and Iran is contradictory to American interests. Ivanishvili’s government, which does everything in their power to avoid “irritating” Moscow, is, in turn visibly “irritating” Washington. The Congressional Budget Committee supported a bill that would freeze 15% of the United States’ financial assistance if Georgia fails to meet certain conditions. And this is nothing short of another step in the direction of incurring possible sanctions.
Brussels shares a similar position to that of the United States. The “Dream’s” refusal to implement the promised transition to the proportional electoral system became an obvious signal for the European Union – Ivanishvili is trying to manipulate the electoral system with the intent to remain in power. And it is perfectly clear for Brussels that such manipulations will bury Georgian democracy once and for all, and will inevitably lead to a drastic change in Georgia’s foreign policy. Members of the EU Parliament have also sent a number of messages to the Georgian authorities, and a clear warning was voiced in them - in case of violation of democratic norms, Georgia may lose the benefits of the Association Agreement with the European Union and face all the ensuing consequences. Moreover, in the latest report of the European Commission, which was published several days ago, corruption in the highest echelons of power, illegal migration and organized crime are mentioned as Georgia’s most serious problems.
So what does the increased involvement of the West in Georgia’s internal affairs and their voicing of the specific conditions for the continuation of the existing partnership mean for the country?
However, the answer is simple: it is a clear signal that the strategic interests of Washington and Brussels regarding Georgia have not changed, however, they no longer trust the Ivanishvili government, and the conditionality component is an additional lever and a kind of guarantee that Georgia will not deviate from the path of democracy and the correct geopolitical orientation. Nonetheless, if the political leverage does not work, the result will be disastrous both for the Georgian state and for its every citizen. In particular, the multimillion-dollar assistance of the West will be reduced, political support will be weakened, and Western investments, which are already at a very low level, will most likely simply disappear. And most importantly, as soon as political pressure on Moscow and the Georgian government subsides, it will inevitably lead to a further increase in corruption, crime, unemployment and poverty, which in turn will affect the stability and security of the country.
Some still hope that Ivanishvili’s policy of moving away from the West and drawing closer to Russia will bring about Georgia’s economic growth, increased security and a solution to the occupation problem. However, as practice shows, it is nothing but an illusion. The more tolerant the Georgian government is towards Russia, the more it tries not to contradict Moscow, the further away it moves from the West, the more our economy becomes dependent on the Russian market, the more arrogant Kremlin behaves. Creeping occupation, hunting for people, abductions and murders are already becoming our everyday reality. A striking example of this is yesterday’s incident when Russian occupants first wounded a young man and then abducted him in the Kaspsian area, i.e. on a territory controlled by Georgia. Today we can only hope that he will not suffer the same fate as Otkhozoria or Tatunaishvili, and the only effective mechanism to avoid the tragedy is the Western pressure on Russian authorities. And, if Georgia becomes similar to Belarus tomorrow in terms of its foreign policy choices, one should not be surprised if occupants start to abduct people right from Tbilisi’s streets, and no one would dare to interfere. Well, even today, while hunting for unwanted people in Georgia, they barely any major problems.
In 2012, voters transferred power of the state to Ivanishvili. We were a young democracy with many shortcomings. However, at that time, Georgia has already achieved what no post-Soviet country could (with the exception of the Baltic States). Our country was the shining example of the most successful case in the region with a stable double-digit economic growth. In Europe and in the world, we were seen as leaders of reforms. We were active players in regional and European politics, a reliable partner of the West.
As a result of an 8-year rule of “Dream” our country became similar to Russia, no longer trusted by Western partners. A place where corruption, nepotism and the thieves' world flourishes, where the court has little to do with the rule of law. A place where everyone has one informal ruler.
The trajectory of the country is clear. That is why every voter must think hard this year. Think hard about what the price will be for transferring the power of the state to Ivanishvili for the third time in a row.
“Times” programme on Formula channel • ფორმულაр