Author: Jeyhun NAJAFOV
For the last two months, social and political situation in Georgia has been going through a volatile period. Resignation of Prime Minister Georgy Kvirikashvili in June was a logical end of numerous protests in front of the Georgian parliament. Behind the façade of prosperity, mainly associated with a large inflow of tourists, the economic and, particularly, the social state of affairs in Georgia is far from being well. As a result, economic problems have a negative influence on political stability of the neighbouring country. Georgia is an important partner of Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus. Strategic energy and transport routes from Baku are going through the Georgian territory. Political cataclysms in this country can potentially destabilise situation in the entire South Caucasus. Our interviewee is Bakar BEREKASHVILI, a lecturer in political science and critical theory at the Georgian-American University, political observer of the Georgian Public Television, who describes the current situation in Georgia and possible security risks for the region.
Regular protests under different slogans have been taking place in Georgia for months now.Are they controlled from a single centre or are these different protest movements?
These protests were chaotic with different social and political contexts. The protests that took place in May involved the youth protesting against anti-drug raids by police at night clubs in Tbilisi. This was a social protest organized by young people, without intervention of political parties. The protest that took place in June was initiated by the family of a teenager, who fell victim of stabbing in one of the schools of Tbilisi. His family claimed that government was not interested to make proper investigation of this tragic case. Even though the protest was initiated by the victim’s family, key players in this protest were opposition leaders and political parties. Unfortunately, opposition used this tragedy for political manipulations.
What did compel President Georgy Margvelashvili to dissolve the Kvirikashvili government? Were there any internal and external political reasons apart from protests?
Prime Minister Kvirikashvili and his cabinet resigned due to current socioeconomic situation in Georgia. Unfortunately, Kvirikashvili was not a transformational leader who could change the complex social reality of the county. Many years ago, Saakashvili created a neoliberal system that put strong emphasis on the idea of minimal state and on the tyranny of big capital, hence leading to façade development in Georgia. There was an illusion of development while majority of Georgians lived in poverty and in despair. In the following six years, Georgians had expected the government to change this antisocial system created by the previous political regime. Although the Ivanishvili government has undertaken several important steps to improve the Georgian social policy, the country still remains an extremely poor state. Neither was Kvirikashvili able to deconstruct neoliberal practices once imposed by Saakashvili’s system. Hence, Bidzina Ivansivili, leader of the Georgian Dream, disillusioned by the reforms of Kvirikashvili, expressed his dissatisfaction and disappointment in right-wing politics of Kvirikashvili.
What is the role of the former president Mikhail Saakashvili and his supporters from the United National Movement in current events?
Mikhail Saakashvili is a marginal politician for the majority of Georgians. Even though social legitimacy of his party is very low, he still dreams of returning to political power. For now, this seems to be an absolutely impossible mission, because the legacy of his system has still very dramatic implications. I don’t think that there will be a moment when Georgians have a desire to return him to the government. Negative memories about his system still prevail in Georgian society and his ideas and practices are still in great denial. Considering this, any attempts of Saakashvili to take control over the political life of Georgia are unrealistic and utopian. However, of course, government must think about changing social reality and its politicies in many spheres. Georgians expect reforms, which will improve the life of their families.
After the visit to the U.S., Prime Minister Kvirikashvili announced for the first time the date of Georgia’s accession to NATO: 2021. New Georgian prime minister also confirmed the NATO membership as a strategic priority for Georgia. To what extent is NATO ready to accept Georgia without risk of aggravating Georgian-Russian relations?
I don’t think that NATO is ready to offer membership to Georgia. Obviously, NATO takes into the consideration the interests of Russia in this case, and I don’t think that Atlantic leaders are eager to make Russia angry, especially during Trump’s presidential term.
How will events develop before the presidential elections in Georgia? Is there a likelihood of unexpected turn of events? Who is the most realistic contender for victory?
I don’t think that something special will happen in Georgian politics until presidential elections scheduled for autumn 2018. Georgian Dream has not nominated a presidential candidate yet, but I think that Georgian Dream must look for candidature candidate who has the greatest moral authority. Today, Georgia needs a political leader with strongest moral reputation and with strong commitment to generate fundamental changes. Even though president is not the most powerful political leader in Georgian political system, it is still important for Georgia to have a president with original political ideals.