Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Saakashvili brainchild dismantled

Presidential elections in Georgia ended with a convincing victory of a representative of the ruling party "Georgian Dream" Giorgi Margvelashvili. The power of the United National Movement (UNM), a brainchild of Mikhail Saakashvili, has been finally dismantled. Along with Saakashvili, the confrontation with Russia is on its way out. Is there a possibility for a further positive dialogue between the two countries?

Such a possibility exists, and much will depend on smart diplomacy. Margvelashvili was elected with an overwhelming advantage, winning over 62 percent of the vote. The observers did not record serious violations, and his main rival, a representative of the United National Movement David Bakradze (22 percent of the vote), almost immediately after the announcement of the results congratulated the opponent on his victory. The elections are significant because a new structure of political power in Georgia has been formed. The former opposition now firmly holds on to power, the UNM has not fallen apart but moved into opposition,  and now there is power capable of occupying a "pro-Russian niche"  represented by Nino Burjanadze and her entourage. 

Eighteen months ago a constitutional reform was implemented in Georgia. As a result of the reform, the country became a parliamentary republic, and the power was transferred to the Prime Minister, namely, Bidzina Ivanishvili, after his party "Georgian Dream" (GD) won the parliamentary election. Although the President is no longer head of state, it is the President who proposes a Prime Minister candidate to the Parliament, so we can say that GD will avoid a parliamentary crisis widely discussed by the opposition. The reform was implemented by the outgoing Saakashvili who planned a smooth transition from the presidency to the prime minister status. But after the war in South Ossetia in 2008 and suspicions of murdering the leader of Georgia's "Rose Revolution" Zurab Zhvania and involvement in a "prison scandal," the Georgian people have lost their trust in Saakashvili.

"Now Bidzina Ivanishvili can safely initiate a lawsuit against Saakashvili, and the people will support it," told Pravda.Ru Andrei Yepifantsev, head of analytical bureau Alte et Certe. The ex-President can be tried, for example, for treason because, in the opinion of many Georgian analysts, the agreement on the settlement of the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict signed on August 12 of 2008 by the Presidents of Russia and France  Dmitry Medvedev and Nicolas Sarkozy was disadvantageous for Georgia. Saakashvili should not have signed the agreement discussing the mechanism for exclusion of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

However, Saakashvili has a strong defender, the European Union. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt recently threatened the Prime Minister that the agreement with Georgia on association with the EU would not be signed if Georgia takes the path of Ukraine, that is, choses to pursue the opposition in court. Further developments will show whether GD makes the people's opinion or requests of European officials its priority. 

The results of the elections, according to Yepifantsev, indicate that the "Georgian Dream" party has stood the test of time, and that the public supported the course towards changes implemented by Ivanishvili. Nino Burjanadze's party "Democratic Movement" had a pro-Russian position. "Her third place (10 percent of the vote) means that the Georgian society still has significant forces that see Georgia's future in collaboration with Russia. This is very important, because even five years ago we could not even think about it," said Yepifantsev. "It is time for many to sober up, and now the Georgians see their future together with Russia. This does not mean that they will forget South Ossetia, it does not mean that they will join the Customs Union, it means that they want to be closer to Russia," said the expert.

Of course, it is difficult to expect a breakthrough in the relationship when Georgia wants to return the territorial integrity and the Russian Federation favors maintenance of the status quo in respect of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It is unlikely that these positions will change in the near future. But with the coming of Vladimir Putin to power in Russia and Bidzina Ivanishvili in Georgia came pragmatics, and there is hope for a breakthrough in the relations, a Georgian expert, politician, president of the Georgian Diplomatic Academy Soso Tsintsadze told Pravda.Ru.

"At this time it is difficult to see with the naked eye cardinal changes in the future, but the art of diplomacy lies in the fact that it implements matters that seem impossible to ordinary citizens. We have resources now, we have them in our history that brought more positive emotions than negative ones," Tsintsadze said. We have to find a compromise so that the Ossetians and Abkhazians do not think that they were taken advantage of and that Georgia and Russia had to "save face." "If the diplomats come up with such a compromise, everything is possible if there is political will," the expert believes. Tsintsadze believes that Nino Burjanadze for whom the doors are open both in Russia and in the West has a special role in this process. The main thing is not to lose the momentum gained in October. Of course, the lifting of the embargo on Georgian wine and fruit is good, but it is not enough. One needs to use the enormous economic opportunities of Russia and start with the abolition of the visa regime, or at least its simplification," Tsintsadze said.

 Lyuba Lyulko