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Alexei Leonidovich Kudrin

Alexei Leonidovich KudrinKudrin

POLITICS
2012-10-01
Saakashvili needs to go!
 

The parliamentary election 2012 and the presidential election 2013 in Georgia need to end Mikheil Saakashvili´s presidency. Despite some successes, his failures cannot be ignored. Nearly ten years after Saakashvili´s Rose Revolution, the people in Georgia are tired of him, and they are right. An op-ed by Stefan Bernhardt

On the streets of Georgia, angry and disappointed people are protesting. The policies of President Saakashvili encounter more and more resentment. The torture scandal, which came to light in the end of September, was an additional reason to call for his leaving. All shortly before the parliamentary election on October 01, it was obviously bad timing for the President and his party, the United National Movement. Saakashvili´s failed policies towards Abkhazia, South Ossetia as well as Russia and his desolate social policies became his fate. He missed the chance to guide the country positively and to work for a better future for the people. The support for him as for his power has crossed the zenith. For him, it is time to go.

Rumbling instead of thinking

The policies of the Georgian central government towards the breakaway provinces Abkhazia, South Ossetia and back then Adjara, since the Rose Revolution in 2003 were rarely wise or even delicate strategy. Looking back, that would have been necessary. Saakashvili's aggressive and rumbling policy in this area has only aggravated the situation. Adjara returned into the state after the mediation of former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. That being said, Saakashvili's threatening policy failed in the other two provinces.

The fronts hardened further and further. An alleged anti-smuggling operation by the Georgian government in 2004 has destroyed the little reintegration progress with South Ossetia which was reached under Eduard Shevardnadze. The rising military expenditures of the Georgian government didn´t gain trust in the breakaway provinces, just as the constant verbal attacks didn't either. The lacking trust between the conflicting parties can't be reestablished in this way.

War instead of peace

In 2007, the Georgian military spending came to its peak. According to the World Bank, it accounted for 40 percent of government spending. Whoever therefore feared a war, should be proved right in August 2008, when Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia and the Russian troops stationed there, which lead to a war with Russia. The consequence of Saakashvili's disastrous behavior was the final collapse of the already fragile relations with Russia.

Furthermore, Russia went from only protecting the breakaway provinces to recognizing them politically as states for the first time and opened two new military bases with thousands of new troops. All that even though Russia withdrew its troops from Georgian earlier then arranged in the end of 2007. Saakashvili took advantage of this fact for military action rather than an easing of relations. The return of South Ossetia and Abkhazia was one of Saakashvili's main promises after the Rose Revolution, at which he not only failed, but the situation deteriorated even more.

Done too little for the people

The restoration of public security was Saakashvili's greatest success, although his longtime Interior, and current Prime Minister Ivane Merabishvili bears the credit for this. Those who look at the military spending rightly ask what is left for the people. In 2010, the expenditure was still at 14.8 percent of government spending.

Apparently not much. Since 2008, the rate of poverty is raising again, which in 2009 stood at 24.7 percent. Additionally, the unemployment rate actually has risen even further since the Rose Revolution. Little wonder that the people are unhappy and have growing sympathies for Saakashvili´s challenger Bidzina Ivanishvili. He is promising in his election campaign exactly what the people want to hear, but also need: less poverty, more jobs. In the vital social sector Saakashvili also failed after almost ten years and must leave the field for someone who can finally solve these pressing problems.

Goodbye!

Anyone who deals so badly with a country's most important problems may not lead it politically. The parliamentary elections are, after a constitutional amendment for 2013, which will change the balance of power from the President in favor of the Prime Minister, more important than the presidential election next year. Saakashvili cannot be re-elected as president. One success can still be his: the first peaceful political change in Georgia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, if he loses the parliamentary election and hands over his power without tricks next year.