Georgia

Population: 4,9 million
Area:
69 700 km2
GDP (PPP):
35,4 billion dollar (estimate 2015)
GDP per capita (PPP):
9 500 dollar (estimate 2015)
Rate of growth:
2 percent (estimate 2015)
Head of state:
Giorgi Margvelashvili
Head of government:
Giorgi Kvirikashvili

Conference with youth politicians from UNM in Tbilisi, October 2012

Georgia was one of the small nations on the fringe of the USSR and is today part of the group of countries referred to as transitional democracies. The country finds itself in a delicate phase but has in recent years headed towards increased stability and growing wealth.

After the Rose Revolution in 2003, Georgia held new democratic elections for the presidency and parliament, both won by Mikheil Saakashvili and his party United National Movement (UNM). The UNM kept the government until the parliamentary elections in 2012 and the presidential election in 2013

The UNM reign was characterized by strengthened democracy, a developed economy and successful cooperation with the EU on fighting corruption and strengthening the rule of law. Furthermore, important reforms within the educational system and social welfares have been carried out.

In January 2008, as a consequence of protests from the opposition, presidential elections were held earlier than planned. Mikhail Saakashvili was re-elected with over 50 percent of the vote in an election which, according to international observers, was deemed largely fair. UNM also won the parliamentary elections held in May the same year.

The democratically elected UNM government was continuously exposed to Russian attempts to destabilize the country, with the aim to achieve a regime change. One example is Russia’s invasion of Georgian territory in 2008, which resulted in the annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Georgia is, in many respects, a role model for other countries in the region. The latest elections have received favorable reviews from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The country is an illustration of how democratisation and human rights are conducive to economic growth and improved living conditions across all social levels.

In the parliamentary elections of October 2012, the UNM which had been the largest party since Saakashvili’s first victory in 2003 had to see itself defeated by its opponent, the newly established coalition Georgian Dream, lead by the Russian-friendly businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Despite fears of which direction the new government would take, it has continued to maintain good relations with the EU and the NATO. In June 2014 an Association Agreement was signed with the EU. However, the three government ministers who have been a guarantee of the good West relations were kicked out of the government in early November 2014. What this means is yet to be seen, but international observers are worried that it may mean that the country turns away from EU and NATO. This, in combination with a number of criminal charges against former ministers and former President Saakashvili – charges suspected of being politically motivated – has made the EU foreign ministers proclaim that they intend to keep the country under closer supervision.

After the election victory in 2012, the Georgian Dream has exposed UNM and its representatives of immense pressure. This was not at least noted by the OSCE in its report following the presidential elections in 2013. Several former ministers have been prosecuted and representatives of the UNM at both national and local level have been subjected to violence or threats of violence and prosecution which resulted in many leaving their posts or changing their party affiliation.

Since 2006, the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation cooperates with the UNM. The goal is to support democratic development within the party and in the country in general. The work of the Foundation is appreciated and in high demand. Georgia is also interested in strengthening its ties with Europe and its institutions. These ties are especially important because of the instability of the region and the tensions with Russia. Many of the newer members of the EU have experienced problems in connection to the liberation from Russia. Others, like Sweden, have a tradition to work as a conversation partner and as a mediator when conflicts arise.

The UNM has a great need to internally and externally continue with the already started democratisation process. Under the current circumstances, when the party and its representatives come under heavy pressure from the government coalition, it is especially important to support the UNM.

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