Georgia is a democratic republic, headed by President Giorgi Margvelashvili, who was elected in 2013. The Parliament (the ‘Sakartvelos Parlament'i’) consists of 150 members, elected in a mixed electoral system consisting of 84 constituencies. 77 members are elected based on party lists. The remaining 73 single-mandate majoritarian constituencies are being elected directly in voting districts in a first-past-the-post-system. All members are elected to four-year terms. After the peaceful Rose Revolution of November 2003 and the installation of Mikhail Saakashvili in January 2004, the outgoing Parliament adopted on 5 February 2004 far-reaching changes to the Constitution, which increased the power of the Executive. As a result, the President has the power to dissolve the Parliament, while he or she can stay in government even when the Parliament has expressed its lack of confidence. Presidential powers were also increased in other areas, including the judiciary. Only with the constitutional amendments of 2010, the President decided that these powers were transferred back to the parliament after the presidential elections of October 2013. The new Parliament was relocated from the capital of Tbilisi to the country's second largest city of Kutaisi after the parliamentary elections of 2012.
Post Soviet years
Soon after the USSR collapse, Georgian voted for restoration of independence, and nationalist leader Zviad Gamsakhurdia was elected as President. His mandate was short as militias replaced him by former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze in 1992. Corruption, crime and poverty increased during his 11 years in power forcing him to resign after the Rose Revolution led by his successor, Mikheil Saakashvili.
Presidential elections of 2013
With all the votes counted, Georgian Dream’s candidate Giorgi Margvelashvili was the winner of the October 27 presidential election, with 62.12 percent of the votes. In the election results Margvelashvili was followed by Davit Bakradze of the United National Movement (UNM), the party of the outgoing President Mikheil Saakashvili, with almost 22 percent of the votes. Former parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze, leader of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia party, received just over 10 percent of the votes. The three front runners were followed by Labour Party leader Shalva Natelashvili (2.88 percent) and Christian-Democratic Party leader Giorgi Targamadze (1.06 percent).
|Giorgi Margvelashvili||Georgian Dream||62.12 %|
|Davit Bakradze||United National Movement||21.72 %|
|Nino Burjanadze||Democratic Movement - United Georgia||10,19 %|
|Shalva Natelashvili||Labour Party||2.88 %|
|Giorgi Targamadze||Christian-Democratic Party||1.06 %|
Election results 2012
|Party/coalition||% votes proportianal lists||Seats proportianal lists||Seats single-mandate constituencies||Total|
|Georgian Dream - Democratic Georgia||54.79||44||41||85|
|United National Movement||40.43||33||32||65|
State of emergency 2007
After the victory of Saakashvili in 2004, the new President announced his priority to be the fight against corruption and to make the country investor-friendly. His election campaign in the run-up to the partial parliamentary election of March 2004, focused on anti-corruption. Concerning this issue, he made some progress, especially in abolishing corruption on the lower levels (e.g. road police). However, the November 2007 protests showed that there was still a large public dissatisfaction about the level of corruption and the comparatively great executive powers of the President in Georgia.
The outgoing parliament adopted on 5 February 2004 far-reaching changes to the Constitution, which increased the power of the Executive. As a result, the President has the power to dissolve the parliament, while he or she can stay in government even when the parliament has expressed its lack of confidence. Presidential powers were also increased in other areas, including the judiciary.
The parliamentary elections of 28 March 2004 brought a landslide victory for the National Movement – Democrats, the party of President Saakashvili. The party won 156 of the 235 seats. Thus, the constitutional changes combined with the outcome of the elections made the position of Saakashvili even stronger than it already was shortly after the Rose Revolution. The strengthened position of the President, increased the level of fear for another era of one-party politics.
The way opposition-leaning media were treated in the following years fuelled this fear of one-party politics. Increasingly, the opposition-media suffered from state-repression and journalists increasingly showed acts of self-censorship. The harassment of journalists by state-officials also became a real problem between 2004 and 2006 (according to Freedom House) The ultimate act of repression of journalists could be seen on 7 November, when an opposition television station was shut down during a live broadcast of the news.
In early November 2007 as a result of violent public upheavals and a crackdown on protesters, Saakashvili declared a state of emergency. The international community criticized his actions. The European Union's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, stressed that political differences should be resolved "within democratic institutions." A spokesperson for Solana said the European Union plans to send on November 9 its special representative to the South Caucasus region, Peter Semneby, to consult on the situation in Tbilisi. U.S. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe called on all sides to refrain from violence and engage in a "constructive dialogue." Russia, that was accused by Saakashvili to be the architect of the protests, expelled two Georgian diplomats from Moscow.
In response to this critique, on 8 November Saakashvili proposed to shorten his mandate. He subsequently stepped down on 25 November, paving the way for parliament to call an extraordinary presidential election for 5 January 2008. It was furthermore agreed that simultaneously with this election, plebiscites on joining the NATO and on the timing of the next parliamentary elections would also be held. The state of emergency was lifted on 16 November.
Gender and minority political participation
While there are no legal obstacles to women, Georgian politics remains dominated by men. Former parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze was previously the woman holding the highest political function, but she left the National Movement shortly before the parliamentary elections in 2008. In those elections, three electoral blocks were led by women. Among the major political parties and electoral blocks, the Christian-Democratic Movement included most women on the lists with 32 percent. The Labour Party followed suit with 28 percent. The ruling United National Movement, which gained by far the most Seats, had one 8 percent female candidates. Only 12 percent of candidates in single mandate districts were women. This had led the OSCE to conclude that “women are overall under-represented, and few women candidates were highly visible in the campaign.”
National minorities enjoy full (political) rights under the Constitution, and make up 16.2 percent of Georgia’s population. The two largest national minorities in the country are the Azeri and the Armenians. Besides that, a variety of smaller groups live within the state borders. Due to the fact that minorities often do not speak Georgian, their level of political participation is relatively low. However, especially in the run-up to the latest presidential election, more information in Armenian, Azeri, Ossetian and Russian was provided. There are no ethnic political parties, although several parties have included members of national minorities in lists and as majoritarian candidates, nominating them in districts where minorities form a substantial part of the population.
Social democrats for the development of Georgia
Leader: Gia Jorjoliani
The Social Democrats for the Development of Georgia (SDD) is a center-left wing political party established in February 2010. SDD has more than 1500 members and represents a strong leftist ideological identity. Since its establishment, SDD organized various activities related to greater promotion of Social Democratic ideas in Georgia within different political and social formats including organization of 2 months School for Studying of Social Democratic Ideas that aimed at increasing the knowledge of young people of leftist political and philosophical theories and practices.
After the parliamentary elections of October 2012, the SDD will be represented in the parliament with one seat. SDD participated in the elections jointly with the Georgian Dream bloc, but was not officially a member of the bloc, playing an associate role.
Georgian Dream Bloc
Leader: Irakli Garibashvili
The Georgian Dream coalition, concentrated around Irakli Garibashvili's Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party. It comprises six political parties of diverse ideological orientations. Besides the above mentioned social-democrats, it includes pro-market and pro-western liberals as well as radical nationalists with xenophobic rhetoric, and representatives of the Shevardnadze administration that was disempowered during the Rose Revolution of 2003. The bloc won the parliamentary elections of October 2012 with 53% of the vote, while the former governing United National Movement took 42%.
Leader: Kakha Shartava
The National Forum is an opposition political party established on December 2006 by former diplomat Kakha Shartava. He is the son of Zhiuli Shartava, a Georgian politician in Abkhazia, killed by the Abkhaz militias during the secessionist war in 1993. Several veteran politicians such as Revaz Shavishvili, Irakli Melashvili and Gubaz Sanikidze also joined the party. The National Forum advocates a parliamentary republic for Georgia. Unlike most other Georgian political parties, it does not support Georgia’s aspiration to join NATO, and argues Georgia should be a "neutral country." The National Forum has been a member of the United Opposition alliance which staged mass anti-government demonstrations in November 2007 and ran on a joint ticket (the National Council -New Rights bloc) in the parliamentary election in May 2008.
Conservative Party of Georgia
Leader: Zviad Dzidziguri
The Conservative Party of Georgia is a centre-right and nationalist political party, active since 2001. Currently led by Zviad Dzidziguri, the party had been allied with Mikhail Saakashvili’s United National Movement until May 2004 when it switched to opposition. It was represented in the previous Parliament and, together with the Republican Party of Georgia members, formed the Democratic Front faction. They joined other opposition parties in the 2007 anti-government demonstrations and supported joint opposition candidate Levan Gachechiladze in the early 2008 presidential election. During the parliamentary elections of 2008, the Conservative Party of Georgia was member of the National Council -New Rights opposition coalition. In 2012, the party joined the new Georgian Dream-coalition.
Industry Will Save Georgia
Leader: Zurab Tkemaladze
Industry Will Save Georgia is a conservative political party founded in 1991. During the legislative elections of 2004 and 2008, the party was part of the Rightist Opposition alliance. Four years later, they joined the Georgian Dream coalition for the parliamentary elections of October 2012.
United National Movement
Leader: Mikheil Saakashvili
The United National Movement (UNM) is led by former president Mikheil Saakashvili, who won a landslide victory in the January 2004 presidential elections, in which he received more than 96% of the votes. Four years later, he won a slight majority (53%). In the 2012 parliamentary elections however, the UNM lost its majority to the Georgian Dream coalition.
Saakashvili’s coalition was formed by the Republican Party and the Union of National Forces in 2001. At that time Saakashvili was minister and well-known for his anti-corruption measures. The coalition competed for the first time in the 2002 local elections, in which it reached the second place in Tbilisi. Saakashvili became the chair of the city council. The slogan of the 2003 elections was “Georgia without Shevardnadze”.
The UNM came to power after the Rose Revolution in November 2003. After the Rose Revolution, it united with the late former Prime-Minister Zurab Zhvania’s United Democrats, the Republican Party, supporters of Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze and one part of supporters of ex-President Zviad Gamsakhurdia - the Union of National Forces in the National Movement - Democrats coalition. Four years later, the coalition was renamed to United National Movement - for Victorious Georgia. In the 2012 elections the party participated without any coalition partners.
Democratic Movement - United Georgia
Leader: Nino Burjanadze
Democratic Movement – United Georgia is a centre-right political party in Georgia chaired by Nino Burjanadze. It was founded on 24 November 2008. The party favours closer ties with both Russia and the European Union while maintaining and expanding many of the current economic and social reform initiatives. It also seeks greater political freedom above and beyond what the Saakashvili administration claims to provide. It vehemently opposes what it characterizes as authoritarianism on the part of Saakashvili's government. The government accused itof plotting a coup in the wake of the 2008 South Ossetia war. In turn, the party has accused the government of conducting a "campaign of terror" against the opposition.
In the run-up to the elections of October 2012, the party refused to join talks on electoral reforms. The Democratic Movement was behind the May 21–26, 2011 rally, which ended with a clash with police, leaving four dead. The party didn’t participate in the 2012 parliamentary elections.
New Rights Party of Georgia
Leader: David Gamkrelidze
Like the Industry will save Georgia-party, the New Rights Party is known as a rich party, led by an important businessman (David Gamkrelidze). It is an associate member of the International Democrat Union and applicant of the European People's Party. The party criticized the Rose Revolution, which caused a major drop in their support. In December 2008, the New Rights Party joined the Republican Party of Georgia in a new opposition alliance, called "The Alliance for Georgia," led by Irakli Alasania, leader of the Our Georgia-Free Democrats party and Georgia's ex-envoy to the United Nations. The alliance later broke up.
Georgian Labour Party
Leader: Shalva Natelashvili
The Georgian Labour Party (GLP) was founded in 1995. The party claims to unite 220.000 members and has representatives in both the Georgian Parliament and in the different institutions of local governing and bodies of government. However, the Rose revolution brought a major blow to the popularity and membership of the party, since the leader condemned it.
Its main goal is to make Georgia a European democratic country and eventually to become a member of the EU. In connection to this, the party sees that many issues have to be solved to improve the situation in the country, including the development of democratic political processes. The party has a socialist orientation, demanding free healthcare, education and services. They have a support base especially amongst the poorer strata in Georgian society. However, the party leader’s sometimes controversial remarks have also led people to take the party less seriously.
In the November 2007 protests, party-leader Shalva Natelashvili was wanted for 'coup plotting' and 'espionage'. Police-forces searched his house. The Labour Party did manage to gain representation in the May 2008 elections, running on a separate ticket than the united opposition and winning 6 seats. However, 4 out of 6 parliamentarians for the Labour Party, including party leader Natelashvili froze their parliamentary activities as part of the parliament boycott of the opposition. In the October 2012 elections, only 1.24% voted for the Labour Party, leaving the party without any seats in the parliament.
The party has no status in the Socialist International
Giorgi Margvelashvili, born on 4 September 1969 in Tbilisi, was elected as the fourth President of Georgia on October 27 with 62,2 percent of the vote. Margvelashvili started his career in Georgia’s politics in 2003 when he joined the opposition bloc Burjanadze-Democrats prior to the November parliamentary elections that year. However, Margvelashvili quit politics when the Burjanadze-Democrats merged with Saakashvili’s United National Movement, after the allegation of fraudulent election brought up street protests and change of power in the Rose Revolution. In 2008 Margvelashvili became member of the board of advisers of Nino Burjanadze’s think-tank Foundation for Democracy and Development. By 2012, Margvelashvili had become a critic of Mikheil Saakashvili’s government and supported the Georgian Dream coalition set up by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. Despite of his support, Margvelashvili was not directly involved in the coalition’s election campaign and became politically independent.
As former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Science, he made his mark in the government of former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili as a reformer who revitalised the country’s education system after years of neglect. For instance, he created Georgia’s first school districts and announced free school books from 2013 in his first months as Minister of Education and Science. In May 2013 Margvelashvili was nominated, as a political independent, as presidential candidate of Ivanishvili’s GD party and he resigned from his executive posts. On the day of his inauguration, on November 17th, a new constitution came into effect, which significantly reduced the president’s power at the expense of the increasing power of the prime minister.
Irakli Garibashvili, born on 28 June 1982, has succeeded Bidzina Ivanishvili as Georgia’s Prime Minister, who voluntary stepped down in November 2013. Garibashvili can be seen as a long-time Ivanishvili protégé, who spent virtually his entire career until last fall working for entities owned by or affiliated with the former prime minister. He became politically involved in Georgia since the foundation of Ivanishvili’s party Georgian Dream in 2012 and was appointed Minister of Internal Affairs after the party’s victory in the parliamentary elections in October 2012, which made him the youngest member of Georgia’s new government.
During his year as head of the Interior Ministry, Garibashvili took a hard line on the arrests of several high-ranking officials from the previous government (United National Movement). He also singled out the use of the ministry as a tool of ‘political repression’ in the past and made its workings ‘transparent and open to public scrutiny’. Ivanishvili publicly credited him with restoring public trust in the police. On November 2nd Ivanishvili named Garibashvili as his successor on the post of prime minister and he was confirmed by parliament. Garibashvili currently occupies the most powerful political office in the country due to constitutional amendments, which have transferred power from the president to the prime minister and government. He was also soon after elected as the new chairman of Georgian Dream.
Leader of the opposition United National Movement
Mikheil Saakashvili was the third president of Georgia and leader of the opposition United National Movement Party. He began his political career in 1995 when he won a seat in parliament for the party of President Shevardnadze, who was widely accused of rampant corruption and nepotism. Opinion surveys polled Saakashvili to be the second most popular person in Georgia, after Shevardnadze. In 2001 Saakashvili resigned as minister in Shevardnadze’s government, saying that corruption had penetrated to the very centre of the Georgian government and that Shevardnadze lacked the will to deal with it. After his resignation Saakashvili formed the United National Movement, a centre-right opposition party.
In 2003 Saakashvili ran against Shevardnadze. He lost the election, even though independent exit polls clearly indicated him as the winner. To fight against this alleged fraud Saakashvili called upon the Georgians to demonstrate. Over 100.000 followed the call in what is referred to as ‘the rose revolution’. The peaceful revolution managed to overthrow Shevarnadze, and Saakashvili succeeded him. He was re-elected in 2008. Saakashvili is widely regarded as a pro-NATO and pro-Western leader who spearheaded a series of political and economic reforms. In 2010, he was receiving a 67% approval rating. One of his biggest achievements is perhaps, what seems to be the total abolishment of corruption from the lower levels of society (e.g. road police). However Saakashvili is also criticized for authoritarian tendencies and alleged electoral fraud. Under his presidency relations with Russia drastically worsened as a result of the 2008 war.
Saakashvili’s final presidential term ended in October 2013 and Giorgi Margvelashvili succeeded him as president since 17 November 2013. With the defeat of the UNM in the parliamentary elections of October 2012 and in the presidential elections of October 2013, Saakashvili's UNM faced great losses
Minister of Defense
Irakli Alasania, born in 1973, is a former diplomat and former Minister of Defence og Georgia. He is one of the most pro-Western and popular politicians in Georgia. He was born in Batumi, Adjara. His father was General Mamia Alasania, who was killed together with other Georgian politicians upon the fall of Sokhumi to the Abkhaz separatist forces on September 27, 1993. Irakli Alasania graduated from the Tbilisi State University with a degree in international law in 1995. Simultaneously he also studied at the Georgian Academy of Security from 1994 to 1996.
He worked for the Ministry of State Security from 1994 to 1998, and was transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in October 2001. He then served as deputy Minister of State Security from 2002 to 2004, and deputy Minister of Defense from March until July 2004, when he was moved to serve as the Deputy Secretary of the National Security Council of Georgia. He was Georgia’s Ambassador to the United Nations from 2006, until 2008. His previous assignments include Chairing the Government of Abkhazia(-in-exile) and being the President’s aide in the Georgian-Abkhaz talks. Soon after his resignation, Alasania withdrew into opposition to the Mikheil Saakashvili administration, setting up the Our Georgia – Free Democrats (OGFD) party in July 2009. In September 2009, Alasania announced that he would run for Tbilisi mayor’s post in local elections in May 2010, but the authorities’ candidate won in those elections.
In February 2012, the Georgian Dream Political Coalition was founded with the Free Democrats as one of the three co-founding political parties. With Alasania as the right hand of leader Bidzina Ivanishvili, the Georgian Dream coalition won the election. On 25 October 2012 Alasania was endorsed as Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister by the new parliament.
On November 2014 Alasania was sacked as Minister of Defence after he criticized the arrest of several officials in his ministry as politically motivated and aimed at those who favour better relations with the West. He called the move “an attack on Georgia's Euro-Atlantic choice.” Prime Minister Garibashvili in turn called Alasania's remarks "irresponsible." Following his sacking, his party left the Georgian Dream ruling coalition.
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Elections and political situation
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BBC News Laywer claims Georgia Presidency
Country Profile Georgia
Eurasia.net: Georgia prepares for new parliamentary election
ICG: Georgia: What now? 3 December 2003
OSCE Election Reports
RFE/RL Georgia: Saakashvili Raising Hopes That Corruption May Be Tackled In Earnest
Transnational Crime and Corruption Centre
Transparency International Corruption Index
Georgia’s separatist regions
BBC: South Ossetia
ICG: Saakashvili’s Ajara success: Repeatable elsewhere in Georgia?
ICG Crisiswatch September 2004
Institute for War and Peace reporting
Transitions Online (March-August 2004)
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CSIS: Iraq and the Caucasus
European Commission: EU’s relations with Georgia
European Neighborhood Policy
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Economic situation and poverty
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Political Parties and Blocs
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ICG: Georgia: What now? 3 December 2003