GEORGIA’S HISTORICAL ELECTION: A CHANGE IN POWER AND THE EMERGENCE OF A NEW POLITICAL TRADITION
Beka Chedia, Ph.D. (Political Science), Head of Publishing Projects of the Tbilisi School of Political Studies (Tbilisi, Georgia).
On 1 October, 2012, the Georgian people made an important historical choice in favor of the Georgian Dream political opposition coalition headed by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. This event will undoubtedly go down in the country’s annals as the first time the opposition was brought to power not by revolution, but by election. And despite a certain opinion prevailing in society that a revolution might be possible, political tradition in post-Soviet Georgia took an extremely unexpected turn.
The thing is that elections of any scope in Georgia have long failed to be a mechanism for bringing about a democratic change in power, acting instead as a pretext for carrying out coups or revolutions. Since the Soviet Union collapsed and Georgia acquired its independence, essentially no power change in the country has occurred by means of an election.
An exception was the first multiparty parliamentary election held on 28 October, 1990; at that time, the ruling Communist party conceded its position to a national political force in the form of the Round Table-Free Georgia opposition bloc headed by Zviad Gamsakhurdia. It is also worth noting that victory over the communists was sustained while the Constitution of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic and other Soviet laws were still in effect.
Another salient point is that despite the impressive victory of the opposition bloc and the antagonism existing between the national government (which struggled for Georgia’s secession from the Soviet Union) and the communists, the latter also acquired deputy mandates; they were even able to create an opposition faction.
Fourteen political parties participated in the election of 28 October, 1990, held according to the mixed system. Two hundred and fifty members of parliament (125 under the proportional and 125 under the majority system) were elected for a five-year term. Furthermore, only two political parties—Round Table-Free Georgia (81 deputies plus 43 majority deputies) and the Communist Party of Georgia (44 deputies plus 17 majority deputies)—were able to overcome the 4% election barrier.
However, at that time six parties were represented in the Supreme Soviet of Georgia, four of which managed to acquire deputy mandates under the majority system. After Zviad Gamsakhurdia’s government was overthrown, all the subsequent elections ended with the victory of the ruling party: first, of the Union of Citizens of Georgia party headed by Eduard Shevardnadze, and after 2003 the United National Movement party headed by Mikheil Saakashvili. This party came to power in November 2003 with the help of the Rose Revolution, after which it was………….