Why did Georgian opposition fail?

Malkhaz Tsulukiani, exclusively for Vestnik Kavkaza
Why did Georgian opposition fail?

On December 16, inauguration ceremony of the fifth Georgian President, Salome Zurabishvili, will take place in Telavi, capital of the historical Kakheti Kingdom. She was supported by the ruling "Georgian Dream" party, headed by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. The first woman president in the country's history defeated opposition candidate, Grigol Vashadze, after two rounds of voting. During first round, she was ahead of her opponent by just 0.9%, while in the second by almost 20%.

Opposition didn't believe Georgian voters miraculously "saw the light" during second round of elections. Vashadze accused authorities of bribing voters, “stealing victory from the people” and using dirty methods, even releasing criminal authorities from prisons to use them against opposition supporters.

Between the first and second rounds of elections, leader of the "Georgian Dream" party and actual leader of the country, Bidzina Ivanishvili, fearing possible defeat, decided to buy out a lot of "toxic loans" of poor debtors from the banks. It was the most troubled part of Georgian society - hundreds of thousands of people who didn't own any property, otherwise everything would have been confiscated by banks a long time ago. These debtors had no jobs, and no employer wanted to deal with banks and hire problematic worker.

Citing “bribery” and “criminal lawlessness", opposition filed a lawsuit demanding to annul election results, even noting its readiness to go to the European courts. Vashadze said he was ready to congratulate Zurabishvili on her birthday or her son’s wedding, but not victory in the elections. However, opposition is ready to begin negotiations on changing electoral system - abolition of majority elections and transition to proportional system starting from 2020, when partliamentary elections will be held. But ruling party has already refused this proposal. “There will be no negotiations, and proportional elections will be held only in 2024,” Irakli Kobakhidze, speaker of the parliament, said.

Kobakhidze noted that not that many people came to the opposition rally on December 2: 15-20 thousand out of 800 thousand who voted for Vashadze. Small number of protestors showed that any revolution in the country is impossible. There were also very few young people, and they are always the driving force of any protests.

Mikheil Saakashvili, who was behind the Rose Revolution and actively supported Vashadze at these elections, failed this time, and many people wonder why. The answer is simple - despite all his talents and assertiveness, Saakashvili is associated with the past, and not with the future; he lives in Netherlands, not Georgia, where he was sentenced to two prison terms (three and six years respectively) in absentia on charges of abuse of power.

In addition, unlike in 2003, not as many people hate the rulling party. Moreover, Ivanishvili is ready to spend money and resolve some problems. This time he had to pay about $50 million to buy out loans of citizens. If we keep in mind that, according to Forbes, his fortune exceeds $5.4 billion, then there will be enough money for many electoral cycles. It proofs that there can be no classical democracy in a poor country with many social problems. Situation will get better only after the GDP per capita will increase and unemployment rate, which reaches 50% in some Georgian cities, will decrease.