Did the former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze think that 20 days after he had called the recent parliament elections "the best in history of independent Georgia" he would have to resign? He might… Such an experienced politician should have thought about all possible variants. Of course he did not believe in it, hoping to negotiate with the opposition. Indeed, the current political crisis was not the first in years of Shevardnadze's presidency.
Certainly, "White Fox" and his team understood perfectly that can not count on the same support as 11 years ago when Shevardnadze took Zviad Gamsakhurdia's place. The imperative under current conditions was parliament elections. The victory of pro-president block was desirable, as in this case he would have the parliament support, at least for a while. The elections must have gone in such a fashion so that no one questioned the honest victory of president's supporters. This is why Shevardnadze was quick to call them "the best"…
The first task was fulfilled: the pro-president block won. However the opposition did not let Shevardnadze to persuade Georgians in the fairness of the elections. But this was not the worst thing for the president. The saddest fact was the US' disapproval of the elections result. So the means that worked in Azerbaidzhan, where Ilham Aliev (ex-president Geidar Aliev's son) became a president, let alone the breaches. Aliev Jr. proved to Americans they needed him, and did so in time. Sheavrdnadze did not. He counted that there is no alternative for him, and Americans will support him in any case. This did not work: despite Washington is sure in his loyalty, it could not decide to openly support the ex-president. The breaches at the elections were a way too clear.
Also, what do the States lose? The opposition leaders Mikhail Saakashvili and Nino Burdzhanadze are often guests in American consulate in Tbilisi. So in any case, a new Georgian leader will be US-oriented. Burdzhanadze, an interim president now, quickly announced that Tbilisi will continue the old strategies, ie integration into North Atlantic structures and good relationships with Russia.
Good words to Russia were not accidental from Burdzhanadze, who has never been overly pro-Russian. It is exactly after a blitz-visit of the Russian Minister for Foreign Relations Igor Ivanov and his negotiator’s role in Shevardnadze-opposition leaders dialogue, the former president announced his resignation.
It is very likely that after Washington asked Shevardnadze to provide "fair results processing" (and Colin Powell refused to come to Tbilisi, despite of Shevardnadze asking him), the "White Fox" tried to find support in Moscow. He tried to do it right after the elections, as proved by his telephone calls to Vladimir Putin and the Moscow visit of Adzharia president Aslan Abashidze (the last serious politicians who supported Shevardnadze). Georgian ex-president's argument could have been simple: the power in the country might be taken by forces that will even more negatively influence Russia-Georgia relationships. A problem for Shevardnadze was that during more than 11 years of his presidency those relationships became as bad as possible. It is certainly not only his fault, but the fact is that Russia does not really care who will reign in Georgia, as in any case the relationships have to be built up from the scratch.
But what can not leave Russia indifferent is how the Georgian events will develop. And not because opposition aims at integration with NATO (as this process will take many years). The reason is this "events development" may go a very bad way.
First of all, whatever is now being said about the opposition leaders, none of them is as popular as Shevardnadze was 11 years ago. And to lose what they already have is easy, and the ex-president has just demonstrated this well.
Secondly, the question of territorial unity of the state of Georgia is still there. Abkhazia, Southern Osetia, and now also Adzharia (relationships between its president and the Georgian opposition are unfriendly).
State of emergency was announced in Adzharia. Abashidze said he stops any relationships with the center for at least 30 days as he believes the change of power in Georgia breached the Constitution. The party he heads, "Renaissance", closed all its offices in Georgia (except for Adzharia). The party activists claim this was done due to acts of vandalism against the offices to which "police paid no attention". It is certainly too early to speak about Adzharia declaring independence, as Abashidze is not an adventurous and would not worsen conflicts with Georgia without a reason. But should he decide there are such reasons, another political crisis is unavoidable. It all depends on how sane will be new Georgian government in building the relationships with Adzharia. The most popular politician in Georgia now, and the most likely future president Mikhail Saakashvili is declined to nationalism and populism, so Tbilisi-Batumi relationships may become very uneasy.
Shevardnadze's resignation helped to avoid the worst possible: a civil war. But it did not answer any question. The main one: how will the new leaders behave? They were united with hatred to ex-president, but now his place is free. Given their ambitions, it is clear that political crisis will go on. As it happened many times, the former friends may start a fight for power. And now stability over all Caucasus depends on the Georgian situation. So the country's problems worry all the state of the region.
Meanwhile, Shevardnadze himself claimed that he "goes home to write memoirs". But it is unclear where this home will exactly be. Mikhail Saakashvili called for giving security guarantees to the former president. Germany offered him a shelter in return to his role in the unification of the country. So may be, a Baden-Baden villa (rumored to belong to Shevardnadze) is not a complete rumour?
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