POTENTIALS AND LIMITS OF POLITICAL COMPETITION:
INSTITUTIONAL TRANSFORMATIONS IN GEORGIA AND ARMENIA IN THE 2000S
Nikolay Borisov, Ph.D. (Political Science), Assistant Professor, Head of the Department of Theoretical and Applied Political Science, Faculty of History, Political Science, and Law, Russian State Humanitarian University (Moscow, Russian Federation)
The author approaches the course and results of the institutional transformations in the forms of government and electoral and party systems in Georgia and Armenia from the position of neo-constitutionalism. He relies on methods of comparative index analysis to identify the main models and trends of the political developments in these countries in the last fifteen years and analyzes in detail the constitutional changes and the way the new party and electoral systems took shape as the political regimes consolidated their positions.
The parliamentary-presidential form of government deprived the presidency of a large share of its former significance. This means that the political regime in Georgia will further consolidate its position not on the basis of “dominant power,” but through institutionalized competition and rotation of the political elites according to certain rules, if the ruling coalition passes the test of functioning in the “divided governance” context, which cannot be excluded.
For the past fifteen years, Armenia has been living amid vehement political competition. The opposition is strong enough to remain a political entity: it reaps a considerable share of the votes at presidential elections and seats in the parliament at parliamentary elections, but never enough to win. A substantial number of people consistently vote for the opposition, irrespective of who represents it. So far, none of the incumbents has lost a presidential election, while every time the opponents refuse to accept the election results and mobilize their electorate for protest action. The inevitable talk about falsified results and “stolen victory” sounds convincing since the gap between the winner and the runner up is insignificant, especially in the regions. The regime in Armenia must avoid suppression of the opposition and never try to curb competition to avoid being challenged by the opposition, which has closed ranks after years of disunity. The next parliamentary or presidential election might be used for a violent regime change.
In the 2000s, the political developments in Georgia and Armenia proceeded within two different models:
(1) the institutionalized competitive model with a dominant party (Georgia in 2000-2003 and 2003-2012) is extremely unstable and is prone to coups: it is the illusion of a consolidated regime, in which political involvement is carried out through informal institutions;
(2) the institutionalized competitive model without a dominant party (Armenia) is relatively stable since mounting political rivalry is kept within certain limits through a high degree of institutionalization.
Keywords: political rivalry, Georgia, Armenia, the institution of presidency, electoral system, party system.