(CAP) Voters in the Caucasus country of Georgia—a U.S. strategic partner and poster child of post-Soviet reform—will go to the polls Monday to elect a new parliament. The election has been a heated one, with escalating charges and countercharges of criminality and political abuse.
The Georgian government, led by President Mikheil Saakashvili and his United National Movement, says it has spent the past nine years seeking to break free of the shackles of post-Soviet semiauthoritarian kleptocracy and usher in a thriving modern and Westernizing state. The United National Movement’s only serious opponent in this election is the Georgian Dream coalition, spearheaded by Bidzina Ivanishvili, a tycoon who made his fortune in post-Soviet Russia. The Georgian Dream insists that the United National Movement’s accomplishments and aspirations are nothing but hot air, a sentiment buttressed last week by the release of videos implying the systematic abuse of prison inmates, which has damaged the government’s “modernization” trope.
The scandal has provoked widespread public criticism, galvanized the government’s opposition, and prompted a government shakeup. As election day approaches, the political environment has become exceedingly tense. Here are the five key things you need to know about this election:
- The political stakes are much higher than usual.
- Russia is not a leading stakeholder in the race.
- The electoral process has been unfair overall.
- Thanks to the prison abuse scandal, however, the process has now become highly competitive.
- All stakeholders must now focus on defending the integrity of the vote, including the complaints and appeals process, while vociferously rejecting the politics of retribution and destabilization that has become more pronounced as election day nears.
Let’s explore each of these points in greater detail. […]
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