Democratic consolidation in Georgia after the "Rose Revolution"?

Jawad, Pamela


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Dokumentart: Bericht / Forschungsbericht / Abhandlung
Institut: HSFK-Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung
Schriftenreihe: PRIF reports
Bandnummer: 73
Sprache: Englisch
Erstellungsjahr: 2005
Publikationsdatum: 23.01.2008
SWD-Schlagwörter: Georgien , Demokratisierung
DDC-Sachgruppe: Politik
BK - Basisklassifikation: 15.74 (Russland), 89.50 (Politische Prozesse: Allgemeines)
Sondersammelgebiete: 3.6 Politik und Friedensforschung

Kurzfassung auf Englisch:

Following the end of the Cold War, hopes for the spread of democracy were high and, since then at the latest, its promotion has been a part of the standard foreign policy repertoire of ‘Western’ states. Nevertheless, the transition from an authoritarian or totalitarian regime to a consolidated plural democracy proved to be difficult in many post-Soviet countries – especially where concurrent processes of state- and nation-building took place, as was the case for Georgia. Therefore, the so-called Rose Revolution of November 2003 gave cause to high expectations inherent in the new government of Mikheil Saakashvili and a young generation of politicians which succeeded President Eduard Shevardnadze after he resigned following mass demonstrations against extensive election fraud. This report analyzes the conditions relevant to democratic consolidation in Georgia. Does the Rose Revolution really represent a “decisive twist” in the country’s development? Is the Saakashvili administration capable of living up to the hopes for democratic reform inherent in it? What are the chances and challenges of the political dynamic that unfolded after the change of government? And what kind of entry points can be identified for external players to intervene so as to influence the situation positively? The report shows that the conditions for Georgia’s democratization process have been very difficult and still are with regard to democratic consolidation. The assessment of the five factors - ‘stateness’ and nation-building, political stability, socioeconomic development, civic culture and political traditions, as well as the international context - paints a ‘depressing’ picture: The existence of two ‘frozen’ secession conflicts and the activities of violent transnational non-state actors undermine the territorial integrity of the state. Endemic corruption and systemic clientelism and the lack of legitimate institutions representing all levels and groups of society create an instable political system. Concerning socioeconomic development, Georgia exhibits the characteristics of a classic developing country. Civil society is ambivalent because the high number of non-governmental organizations does not necessarily hint at their autonomous and active role as mediators between society and state. Georgia does not possess any democratic traditions and the ‘Soviet heritage’ still characterizes today’s civic culture. Due to her geo-strategic relevance, Georgia has been dominated in her history by different powers and at present, located in an instable region, she has to find a balance between Russia, the United States of America, and Europe. Although some progress has been made by the Saakashvili administration with regard to the restoration of the state’s control over its territory and its borders, to the fight against corruption, to elections, to political legitimacy, to the efficiency and effectiveness of the public administration as well as to the collection of taxes and duties, there have also been setbacks adding to the already existing structural problems of the South Caucasus state. In trying to repeat his success of re-integrating Ajara by using a double-tracked strategy of deploying 400 troops in a large-scale anti-smuggling campaign and of massive humanitarian aid in the breakaway region of South Ossetia, Saakashvili almost triggered the re-escalation of the ‘frozen conflict’ into open warfare. His sometimes nationalist II rhetoric and gestures of demonstrating executive strength have also worsened relations with the de-facto independent republic of Abkhazia. As a result of the young reformers’ hard-line anti-corruption approach, civil liberties and the independence of the judiciary have been negatively affected. Instead of investing in the creation of stable, legitimate and coherent political institutions capable of reaching the periphery and mediating conflicts, Saakashvili has so far concentrated on strengthening his presidential powers and relying on his charismatic rule based on a rather fragile popular support. The report thus comes to the conclusion that the Rose Revolution does not represent a “decisive twist” in Georgia’s process of democratic consolidation that started with the introduction of the formal requisites of democratic statehood in the 1995 Constitution. Nevertheless, in controlling both the executive and the legislative bodies, the Saakashvili administration still enjoys a comfortable position with regard to the implementation of an ambitious reform agenda, and should take the chance of a political recommencement. After all, the non-violent change in regime of November 2003 has put an end to a long period of stagnation and resignation, removed the ailing Shevardnadze system, and given new impetus to civil society. These positive aspects contrast with the challenge of a potential destabilization of the country after the dissolution of the old structures of the Shevardnadze era. But while international donors had become increasingly annoyed by the constant reform failures of the Shevardnadze regime and some of them had suspended their aid programs, Saakashvili has successfully convinced the international community to grant him a leap of faith in the form of 850 million euros. This support coupled with external efforts at the promotion of democracy could be essential to Georgia’s further development since, in the light of the geopolitical complexity of the situation together with the lack of political and economic resources for mastering old and new challenges, it is unlikely that Georgia will be able to achieve her national goals without the strong support of the international community. Nevertheless, the respective external players will consequently have to condition their aid more strongly, linking co-operation and support to the compliance with democratic standards. Additional aid should only be granted if reform programs are implemented in a reasonable way, especially with regard to institutionbuilding. It is still early to draw a conclusion from the Rose Revolution. Consolidation processes take their time. Georgia will only be a fully consolidated democracy once she is an internally and externally sovereign territorial state. This does not mean that democratization cannot take place prior to the conclusion of the processes of state- and nation-building. Therefore, the existence of the secession conflicts does not apply as a justification for the restriction of civil liberties and political rights. Demonstrating executive strength does not provide stability, anyway. On the contrary, aggressive rhetoric on the part of the central government has worsened relations with the breakaway regions. In order to make any progress in conflict resolution, it is necessary to build up mutual confidence before status questions can be addressed. Conflict resolution and confidence-building represent entry points for external players. The issue of displaced persons represents a major obstacle and has, therefore, to be addressed more seriously. Besides urging the Georgian government to encourage their return and remove obstacles to property restitution and reintegration, the international community should provide multi-agency assistance, as experience from other post-conflict situations, where large-scale return was achieved, has demonstrated that such a co-operative engagement is necessary for return to succeed. In addition to the substantial assistance that has already been offered by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe should also increase their efforts and co-ordinate their engagements with other relevant internal and external players. However, any approach to the secession conflicts must also take Russia into account. As long as Russia supports Abkhazia and South Ossetia, neither of the two will agree to give up their de facto independences, making negotiations on status futile. Notwithstanding the fact that it is important for Georgia as a sovereign state to become emancipated from her former ‘colonial power’, the international community should help improve bilateral Georgian-Russian relations by providing incentives for a co-operation. Russia’s mediation in the Ajara crisis has shown how fruitful a rapprochement between Moscow and Tbilisi can be. With the USA applying a rather provocative strategy in the region as far as Russia is concerned, the EU appears a more suitable candidate for taking a mediating position, of providing incentives, and of conditioning assistance. It can build on its engagement for a strategic partnership with Russia and include co-operation in the South Caucasus. It has also extended its European Neighborhood Policy to Georgia, which has a strong interest in closer co-operation with and even accession to the EU. Without the combined efforts and political will of the international community, Russia, the new ruling elites in Georgia, and the de-facto governments in Sokhumi and Tskhinvali, conditions in Georgia will remain as obstructive to democratic consolidation as they presently are from an academic perspective.

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