Georgia’s New President

What does the new President of Georgia mean for US/Russian relations? Less confrontation and a period of stability, most likely.  At home he appears to be very different from the country’s well-known, previous leaders:

In interviews on Sunday, many voters said that they were content to cast their vote for Mr. Margvelashvili, who they said appeared to be a well-intentioned public official without the outsized personality of Mr. Saakashvili or Mr. Ivanishvili.

“He is a normal person,” said Bondo Pankvelashvili, 75, a retired driver, outside polling station 19 in the Vera neighborhood of Tbilisi, the capital. “This is a problem with society. They are looking for a messiah and waiting for him to do something. Until we have a strong civil society, nothing will change. This is what we got from Soviet times.”

via Georgia Elects New President, but Real Power Will Rest With Next Premier – NYTimes.com.

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6 thoughts on “Georgia’s New President

  1. trawson7 says:

    I think this new president will be good for Georgian-Russian relations, which as these articles point out, have been tense at best since Saakashvili took power in 2004. However, I don’t think this new president will be good for Georgian-US relations, and I’m skeptical of what it will do to US/Russian relations. Saakashvili undoubtedly made huge amounts of progress in Georgia; he revamped the bureaucracy, reformed the tax system, helped to modernize the economy, and took huge steps to decreasing corruption. Georgia became more free (according to Freedom House scores) during his presidency, and I would argue that that is good.

    My worry now is that the election of a figure from the Ivanishvile side of Georgian politics may undo some of this progress. Ivanishvile and Saakashvile are rivals, and many view Ivanishvile as a sort of puppet of Putin’s (if I’m not mistaken). I think Putin is a fascinating character, but I also think that these post-Soviet countries that are locked in an East-West battle would do well to align more with the West. Thus, Ivanishvile and anyone he endorses makes me nervous. Saakashvili may not have been the most popular president by the end of his term, but I stand by my argument- I think he did good things for Georgia, and I hope this election doesn’t reverse any of that.

    I did not know that the Georgian Parliament had passed such radical changes to their government; if Ivanishvile was able to pass legislation changing the country from a presidential system to more of a parliamentary one, then no wonder he is willing to step down. He appointed a president friendly to him, and now he can even appoint a prime minister friendly to him too. If the people he appoints are as aligned with Putin as I think they are, then I think Georgia and Russia are going to become a lot closer in the near future. But what does that mean for Georgia and the West and Russia and the West? I wonder.

  2. Joshua Dennis says:

    While the new president of Georgia may help establish a period of stability between the U.S., I found the comments by the retired driver to be insightful. Georgia seems to be embracing a change in electing a “normal person” to be their new president, in contracts to the personalities that have lead the country before. However, the retired driver recognizes that in order to really make change possible within the country, Georgians need to make the effort to build up their civil society. Instead, the people are waiting for someone else to come along and make the change for them. This sentiment can be applied to just about any country or society. Even here in America, tough issues are increasingly cropping up in politics, and unless individuals make the effort to work towards solving them, nothing is going to change. We can’t sit around waiting for someone else to solve our problems, we have to go out and solve them ourselves.

  3. dbaker24 says:

    Any peaceful continuation of democracy is a good sign in the world. As this is exactly what has happened in the State of Georgia, good times are abound. However, I am not sure if the turnout of this election will benefit the United States significantly as the opposing party has now taken control. As previously stated, “Ivanishvile and Saakashvile are rivals”. Thus we can assume that some progress in the direction of one, will be undone by the other.

  4. haleyroberts says:

    From the interviews, it seems that the Georgian citizens crave normality. I don’t think violent turmoil will break out locally, but hopefully the new leader will maintain good standings with Russia and the US. For the most part, Georgian citizens seem well informed on what is happening in their government, which might be a direct reaction to the oppression felt from the Soviet Era.

  5. araujophm says:

    It is good to see the people electing one of their own as their head of state. The country of Georgia has taken a giant leap forward by electing a man that is a part of the normal population. This will allow for the best interest of the people to be represented. My concern is that a person who isn’t experienced or used to negotiation might have a hard time standing up to the pressure from surrounding countries like Russia. The United States, the European Union, and all major states will try to pressure this new head of state for his alliance. It will be interesting to see how he positions himself and if he will be able to handle the pressure from all sides.

  6. I agree with the two comments above, I take it as a good sign that this election in Georgia happened peacefully, democratically, and …normally. Electing a “normal” president. I can’t say that I know a whole lot about what he’s done in his career as minister of education besides provide free textbooks for children, but hey, that’s a positive thing right there. And if he’s creating the image that he really is just a normal guy seeking to do some good for his people, then good on him for trying to not come out as power hungry and arrogant.
    Even though voting turnout wasn’t at its highest, it’s good to see that a good portion of the population recognizes the need for Georgians themselves to be more proactive in the outcome and development of their society. Also, regardless of the direction in which the new leadership will steer Georgia, I don’t think that working well with Russia is necessarily a bad thing. We talk about regionalism, and about the importance of neighbours aiding neighbours so that the world can become less dependent on the US for its needs. Regional blocks that work together well and take responsibility over each other is something that should be promoted more.

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