October 1, parliamentary elections were held in Georgia. The Swedish moderate MP:s Elisabeth Björnsdotter Rahm and Margareta Cederfelt analyse an aggressive election campaign and an uncertain future for Georgia.
In a group of more than 2000 election observers from 61 different international organizations, we conducted our mission in Akhalkalaki in southern Georgia, one of the poorest areas in the country. The unemployment rate is 60 percent and an important amount of the men from the region work in Russia or Turkey, while the women stay at home to take care of the family and run the agriculture.
The southern parts have been loyal to the regime, which is clearly stated when the current governing party, United National Movement (UNM), with President Mikhail Saakashjvili, received most votes. Saakashjvili did not, however, get the vast majority as part of the electorate had expected. Traditionally, the citizens in the south have been loyal to the regime and experienced large improvements in recent years. One hope is for EU-membership, which would benefit the agricultural sector in the country and especially the southern parts.
Meanwhile, Russia has expressed its support for Georgia, in a way that can be interpreted as an invitation to cooperation. Ivanishvili says that he hopes that Russian investors will find their way to Georgia. He is himself a billionaire and has earned his fortune in Russia. The world has now an important task in following Georgia’s development and to pay attention so that Ivanishvili’s financial interests won’t lead the country politically closer to Russia.
One factor that creates internal concerns in Georgia is the Russian military operations in the neighboring areas around the country’s borders. It is clear that many Georgians remember the Russian invasion after last election. With this in mind, the political future of Georgia is uncertain. Sweden has closely been working with the country and it is a strategically important nation for the world.
Georgia has managed to lift itself from a Soviet Republic to an independent and democratic country that has undergone many significant positive changes. The election was assessed by both the OSCE and other international observers to have been properly conducted. As an observer and part of a nationwide task, it is important to remember that your own observations are part of a larger puzzle.
It is now crucial that the outside world does not leave Georgia to its fate, but continue to follow the political developments. It is a great responsibility for Georgian Dream to continue the efforts to strengthen democracy in Georgia as well as to fulfill the country’s rapprochement with the EU.
Georgia has been characterized by its continuous positive attitude towards EU membership and rapprochement towards NATO. That is why the western world has every reason to support that this positive development continues so that the course stays clear and will not be directed towards Russia.
Member of Parliament (Moderate), Delegation to the OSCE
Elisabeth Björnsdotter Rahm
Member of Parliament (Moderate), Committee on Foreign Affairs
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