On 23 December 2015, Prime Minister Irakly Garibashvili resigned from his post after two years in office. On 29 December parliament approved the new Prime Minister, former Foreign Minister Georgi Kvirikashvili . A new cabinet was appointed the same week, with only one new member; former deputy Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze, who was appointed the new Foreign Minister. Garibashvili is the third Prime Minister since the ruling Georgian Dream party came to victory in 2012. Since the presidential elections of 2013, won by Giorgi Margvelashvili, Georgian Dream has been in charge of both the presidency and the government and has held a majority in parliament. In 2016 parliamentary elections Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia gained total victory.
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- 3,679,000 (World Bank 2015 est.)
- Governmental Type:
- Ruling Coalition:
- Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia coalition
- Last Elections:
- 8 October 2016 (parliamentary elections)
- Next Elections:
- 2018 (presidential elections)
- Sister Parties:
- Social-Democrats for Development of Georgia (SDD)
The August 2008 crisis
A priority spelled out by Mikhail Saakashvili after his election in 2004, was trying to bring back the breakaway regions under Georgian authority. He quickly established authority in Adjara, and shifted attention towards the separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which led to sharp tensions, including with Russia, already not too pleased with Georgian aspirations to join international organizations like NATO and the EU. In August 2008 tensions between Russia and Georgia started escalating. An incident of a Russian spy plane shot down over Georgian territory resulted in a brief full scale war.
On August 8th Georgian troops entered South Ossetia as, what the Georgian authorities would later claim, a response to Russian provocation. However, the Russian military response was swift. As a result, the Georgian military was thrown back out of South Ossetia, after which the Russian side proceeded to enter Georgian territory. The Georgian side claimed grave shelling of the town of Gori, while the Russians retorted with similar accusations concerning the South Ossetian town of Tskhinvali. The war was officially over in 5 days, with a truce. The international community demanded that Russia withdraw its forces from Georgian territory. After stalling for several weeks, the Russian military eventually started dismantling its check points on Georgian territory. In a unilateral action the Russian Federation also recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states and started diplomatic relations with the two as early as October.
The initial international response gravely condemned Russia for its actions and demanded withdrawal from Georgia. Specifically, the US started lobbying intensively for a sped-up Georgian accession to the NATO; something that European countries were somewhat divided in, even if equally condemning Russia. As time went by and investigations were launched, however, more and more reprimands started to appear towards the Georgian side as well as the Russian side. In October/November an independent international investigation group was created to look into the August events, headed by Heidi Tagliavini, a Swiss diplomat who served as UN Secretary General's special representative to Georgia from 2002 to 2006. The report eventually put some of the blame on both sides.
Democracy and human rights
Georgia is seen as one of the frontrunners in the region when it comes to democracy and human rights. The country scores relatively well on relevant international indexes, has a lively and vocal civil society, an active opposition and political plurality, which often results in harsh political confrontations and a high level of polarisation. Since 2012 the Georgian Dream coalition is in power with, currently, a constitutional majority in parliament. While doing relatively well in the areas of democratisation and human rights, there are still some concerns: the opposition United National Movement has claimed that its prominent members are subjected to politically motivated investigations and trials, with its founder Mikhail Saakashvili unable to formally lead the party having lost his Georgian citizenship in 2015, after gaining the Ukrainian citizenship. There are also some concerns surrounding the role of Georgian Dream founder and former PM Bidzina Ivanishvili: there are allegations that he still wields quite some power behind the scenes while not having any formal (political) position.
Georgia is eager to continue improving its ties with the West (EU, NATO). It has signed and ratified the EU Association Agreement (which has included a long-expected visa-free regime) and has strived for NATO membership for some time, be it less successfully.
Gender and minority political participation
While there are no legal obstacles to women, Georgian politics remains dominated by men. Former parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze was previously the woman holding the highest political function, but she left the National Movement shortly before the parliamentary elections in 2008. In those elections, three electoral blocks were led by women. Among the major political parties and electoral blocks, the Christian-Democratic Movement included most women on the lists with 32%. The Labour Party followed suit with 28%. The ruling United National Movement, which gained by far the most Seats, had one 8% female candidates. Only 12% of candidates in single mandate districts were women. This had led the OSCE to conclude that “women are overall under-represented, and few women candidates were highly visible in the campaign.”
National minorities enjoy full (political) rights under the Constitution, and make up 16.2% of Georgia’s population. The two largest national minorities in the country are the Azeri and the Armenians. Besides that, a variety of smaller groups live within the state borders. Due to the fact that minorities often do not speak Georgian, their level of political participation is relatively low. However, especially in the run-up to the latest presidential election, more information in Armenian, Azeri, Ossetian and Russian was provided. There are no ethnic political parties, although several parties have included members of national minorities in lists and as majoritarian candidates, nominating them in districts where minorities form a substantial part of the population.
Georgia is a democratic republic, headed by President Giorgi Margvelashvili, who was elected in 2013. The Parliament (the ‘Sakartvelos Parlament'i’) consists of 150 members, elected in a mixed electoral system consisting of 84 constituencies. 77 members are elected based on party lists. The remaining 73 single-mandate majoritarian constituencies are being elected directly in voting districts in a first-past-the-post-system. All members are elected to four-year terms. After the peaceful Rose Revolution of November 2003 and the installation of Mikhail Saakashvili in January 2004, the outgoing Parliament adopted on 5 February 2004 far-reaching changes to the Constitution, which increased the power of the Executive. As a result, the President has the power to dissolve the Parliament, while he or she can stay in government even when the Parliament has expressed its lack of confidence. Presidential powers were also increased in other areas, including the judiciary. Only with the constitutional amendments of 2010, the President decided that these powers were transferred back to the parliament after the presidential elections of October 2013. The new Parliament was relocated from the capital of Tbilisi to the country's second largest city of Kutaisi after the parliamentary elections of 2012.
In the October 8th 2016 parliamentary elections, the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia (GDDG) party gained some 48.67% of the votes in the party-list contest over 77 parliamentary seats, with the main opposition party United National Movement (UNM) coming in second with 27.11%. Voter turnout was 51.63%. The electoral bloc Alliance of Patriots is 3rd with 5.01%. Other parties did not manage to clear the electoral threshold of 5%.
Election results 2016
|Party||% votes proportional lists||Seats proportional lists|
|Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia||48.67%||44|
|United National Movement||27.11%||27|
|Alliance of Patriots||5.01%||6|
|State for People||3.45%||0|
The remaining 73 seats were contested in single-mandate constituencies, in 50 of which second rounds of voting has been conducted on 30 October, as no candidate gained more than 50% of the votes in the first round. In the other 23 districts GDDG-related candidates won in the first round. In the run-off GDDG candidates won in 49 districts and gained a constitutional 116-seat majority required to change the Constitution.
Ignacio Sanchez Amor, the special coordinator and leader of the OSCE short-term observer mission, in a first reaction called the elections ‘strongly competitive and well-run,’ saying they ‘offered an opportunity for voters to make informed choices about their options in a pluralistic but polarized media environment.’
‘Georgia has reaffirmed its status as the leader of democratic transformation in this region,’ said Paolo Alli, head of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly delegation, adding ‘the conduct of this election is greatly encouraging for all those who support Georgia on its path towards Euro-Atlantic integration.’
The opposition was less positive. UNM accused the government of attempts to ‘steal elections.’ ‘We will defend our votes,’ said UNM’s campaign chief Nika Melia, to protesters outside the CEC early on October 9.
Nino Burjandaze said her party ‘will not recognise these results,’ saying ‘the elections were not free and fair.’ She also said ‘we have evidence of electoral fraud in favour of Georgian Dream, such as, for example, multiple voting.’
With all the votes counted, Georgian Dream’s candidate Giorgi Margvelashvili was the winner of the October 27 2013, presidential election, with 62.12 percent of the votes. In the election results Margvelashvili was followed by Davit Bakradze of the United National Movement (UNM), the party of the outgoing President Mikheil Saakashvili, with almost 22 percent of the votes. Former parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze, leader of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia party, received just over 10 percent of the votes. The three front runners were followed by Labour Party leader Shalva Natelashvili (2.88 percent) and Christian-Democratic Party leader Giorgi Targamadze (1.06 percent).
|Giorgi Margvelashvili||Georgian Dream||62.12 %|
|Davit Bakradze||United National Movement||21.72 %|
|Nino Burjanadze||Democratic Movement - United Georgia||10,19 %|
|Shalva Natelashvili||Labour Party||2.88 %|
|Giorgi Targamadze||Christian-Democratic Party||1.06 %|
Georgia’s largest election observers’ organisation, International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, said the election day had been “calm” and voting had occurred in accordance with the procedures in the majority polling station. The organisation did mention some “significant shortcomings,” including voting with an invalid ID mainly in Batumi (Adjara Autonomous Republic) and problems with voter lists. Another observer, the Tbilisi-based Transparency International Georgia, reported 70 cases of “significant procedural violations.”
The OSCE observers’ preliminary conclusions stated the election conduct was quite positive overall. The election was “efficiently administered, transparent and took place in an amicable and constructive environment. On election day, voters were able to express their choice freely.” However, the OSCE observers did note the election was “negatively impacted by allegations of political pressure, including on United National Movement (UNM) representatives at local-self governmental institutions.” Although the campaign eventually evolved from a confrontation between the Prime Minister and the President to a completion among the main candidates, “personality politics continued to dominate the public debate throughout the campaign.”
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