Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Georgia's Single-Party Rule Is No Bed of Roses

To Our Readers

Has something you've read here startled you? Are you angry, excited, puzzled or pleased? Do you have ideas to improve our coverage?
Then please write to us.
All we ask is that you include your full name, the name of the city from which you are writing and a contact telephone number in case we need to get in touch.
We look forward to hearing from you.

Email the Opinion Page Editor

TBILISI, Georgia -- It couldn't have been more different from last time. In November, thousands of people turned up on election day only to be told they weren't eligible to vote.

They were so angry, they massed in the capital to protest, camping out all week and finally marching on the office of then-President Eduard Shevardnadze, forcing him to step down.

Sunday's parliamentary election set the seal on Mikheil Saakashvili's "Rose Revolution" -- so called because the tens of thousands of protesters demanding Shevardnadze's resignation carried red roses to show they didn't want any violence.

Exit polls after this weekend's vote suggested the Georgian leader's party had won every one of the 150 seats up for grabs (the other 85 weren't being contested).

True, a cloud hung over the vote in Adzharia, a renegade region on the Black Sea coast, where ballots have allegedly been rigged in the past. Earlier this month, the country was brought to the brink of civil war after Aslan Abashidze, the pint-sized, silver-haired leader of Adzharia, refused to accept Georgian authority. The spat was averted at the last minute when the international community stepped in to intervene.

The Georgian president warned Abashidze, whose critics call him a tin-pot dictator, not to try any of his tricks this time around. But he needn't have bothered: All the signs were that Saakashvili's party had swept the board in Adzharia, too.

All the Georgians I have spoken to in the last few days told me that they were voting for Saakashvili's bloc on Sunday. "I love him," said Levan Tsereteli, a third-year chemistry student at Tbilisi State University. "We all do. We're just so happy to see the back of Shevardnadze."

Nobody could compare Saakashvili to Shevardnadze. Saakashvili is a U.S.-educated lawyer who speaks five languages and was barely out of kneesocks when the Soviet Union collapsed. Shevardnadze was a member of the old guard who cut his teeth during the Brezhnev era. Saakashvili advocates transparency in Georgian politics. He has promised to put an end to corruption, increase pensions and wipe out unemployment. Shevardnadze, who survived two assassination attempts, let the country go to rack and ruin and was accused of installing friends and relatives in high places.

Nevertheless, reports are emerging of Saakashvili's collaborators using strong-arm tactics to force people in rural areas to vote for the National Movement. Yes, the country is now run by a young reformer who wants to join Western institutions, including the European Union and NATO. But when it comes down to it, Georgia has become a one-party state. What's so democratic about that?

Chloe Arnold is a freelance journalist based in Baku, Azerbaijan.