Georgia is politically and economically stable in the short term, but with the 2012 parliamentary and 2013 presidential elections ahead the country will face sizeable challenges, a Brussels-based think tank, International Crisis Group (ICG), said.
The recent policy briefing from ICG released on December 13 - Georgia: Securing a Stable Future - provides an overview of recent major trends and developments in Georgia, examining the country’s media, judiciary, reform agenda, economy, ruling elite and opposition, as well as recent major changes in the constitution.
After the constitutional revamp, which will go into force in late 2013 when President Saakashvili steps down, much speculation centers on the role Saakashvili will play under the new constitutional system. In particular, opponents say that the constitutional was amended with the goal to pave the way for Saakashvili to remain in power in the capacity of PM – the post, which will assume most of the current powers of president.
According to ICG’s policy briefing, the Georgian authorities are well aware that this kind of scenario would be damaging for the government’s democratic image internationally, especially as it tries to contrast itself with Russia.
“Diplomats and insiders with access to him [Saakashvili] say they do not believe he has made up his mind what precise political post he would like after 2013, if his party wins the previous year’s parliamentary elections,” the report reads.
Speculations also involve whom Saakashvili will support as his successor. ICG’s report says that the one who “is unlikely to aspire to become president or prime minister but is well placed as possibly the most powerful member of the president’s inner circle” is Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili. The report describes Merabishvili’s ministry as “key power base for Saakashvili.”
“Some of the most likely prospects for the premiership or presidency include the popular mayor of Tbilisi, Gigi Ugulava, and the speaker of the parliament, David Bakradze,” the report says and adds that some also suggest possibility of Saakashvili could even back Irakli Alasania, leader of Our Georgia-Free Democrats opposition party, in an attempt to promote the ruling party’s more inclusive image.
“But at least one senior government official finds this scenario highly unlikely,” according to the report.
Quoting government insiders, the report also deems it unlikely that Education Minister, Dmitri Shashkin, who is described as “rising star”, will be backed by Saakashvili as his successor.
“The next two years will go a long way in determining whether the country progresses toward a truly stable, modern democracy, or deteriorates into a fragile, pseudo-pluralistic and stagnating system,” the report says. “The government and political opposition movement need to use that crucial period to create public trust in democratic institutions. The best way to achieve this is by engaging in meaningful dialogue to ensure a fair election cycle, strengthened rule of law, economic stability and the legitimacy of the future government.”