Pseudo democracy in Georgia

This video is called South Ossetian refugees return to battered Tskhinvali.

By Tom Eley:

The political realities of “democratic” Georgia

18 August 2008

One of the constant themes in the US government and media presentation of the conflict in the Caucasus is the depiction of Georgia as a bastion of democracy. The Bush administration has increasingly invoked the terminology of the Cold War by referring to “democratic Georgia” as a symbol of the “free world” and its struggle against authoritarian Russia.

The reality of political life in Georgia is far different than the media image.

Only last November, in the midst of mounting protests against his regime, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili employed dictatorial methods against his opponents. On November 2, opposition demonstrations began in Tbilisi, demanding democratic reforms and the ouster of Saakashvili. These protests, while organized by billionaire media tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, gave vent to grievances against government repression and the desperate living conditions of the population. They attracted tens of thousands to the streets of Georgia’s capital city.

The demonstrations continued until November 7, when the state police, acting on orders from Saakashvili, used tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons and truncheons to disperse the protesters. More than 600 required medical attention after the crackdown. On the same day, Special Forces raided Patarkatsishvili’s broadcasting corporation Imeldi, beating journalists and disabling equipment.

Saakashvili declared a state of emergency, suspending democratic rights such as freedom of expression and assembly. Independent broadcasting was halted even before the state of emergency was declared, and only the state-controlled television station was allowed to broadcast for a period of fifteen days. Imeldi was taken off the air indefinitely.

During the crackdown, Saakashivli called for snap elections to be held less than two months later, on January 5. The elections, held under conditions of political intimidation and repression, placed the opposition at an enormous disadvantage.

All media were under the de facto control of Saakashivli. In addition, two opposition leaders, Konstantin Gamsakhurdia and Shalva Natelashvili, were declared “wanted for treason.” The government accused them of conspiring with Russia to overthrow the government.

Patarkatsishvili, who likewise faced a government investigation for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government, began his campaign from Israel. He withdrew from the elections after the government released a recording of him attempting to bribe a police officer.

Patarkatsishvili died suddenly last February in London at the age of 52. Authorities attributed the death to a massive heart attack, but Patarkatsishvili believed the Georgian authorities were targeting him for assassination.

The early elections eliminated two other serious rivals for the presidency—former defense minister Irakli Okruashvili and lawyer Tinatin Khidasheli—both of whom were just shy of 35 years of age, the minimum, at the time of the vote.

Okruashvili fled the country shortly after the crackdown in what ABC News called “mysterious circumstances.” He had accused Saakashvili of corruption, but after being placed under arrest he was apparently forced to retract the allegations.

During the campaign, election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported that the credibility of the election had been placed in doubt by allegations that Saakashvili had used state money, blackmail and vote-buying. With rivals under arrest, under police investigation, in exile or legally barred from running for office, it is little surprise that Saakashvili won reelection. After his victory, the opposition claimed that the vote had been manipulated. His vote total surpassed by 20 percent that which had been projected by an opinion poll released one week earlier.

The Saakashvili regime faced international criticism from foreign capitals and human rights organizations for its assumption of dictatorial powers. Though the level of repression Saakashvili employed exceeded the measures that had been taken by his predecessor, Eduard Shevardnadze, against the so-called “Rose Revolution” that brought Saakashvili to power in early 2004, criticism from the United States was much more muted.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew J. Bryza, a close ally and personal friend of the US-educated Saakashvili, acknowledged that the State Department was “hearing more and more reports that people were grabbed from stores or that passers-by were beaten,” but concluded merely that “Things got out of control.”

From the Stop the War Coalition in Britain:

MARK ALMOND, lecturer in History, Oxford University and expert on the Caucasus, provided the meeting with the sort of background information on Georgia so sadly lacking on the BBC.

Visiting a Georgian prison he had expressed concern to the prison governor at the possibility that political prisoners may have been tortured. ‘Don’t worry,’ he was told, ‘We torture everyone.’

Even Human Rights Watch, often close to the United States government, also in the present Ossetia conflict, have sometimes criticized the Saakashvili regime: here.

Crisis in Georgia Beginning to Turn Into a Big Political Liability for McCain: here.

Washington steps up its anti-Russian rhetoric: here.

Headline of Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad: Americans are governesses of the Georgian government.

NATO meeting in Brussels: US steps up pressure on Russia: here.

UK declares its support for Washington’s anti-Russian campaign over Georgia: here.

5 thoughts on “Pseudo democracy in Georgia


    “It was inhuman to bomb us”. . . . The scale of the destruction is undeniable; some streets summon iconic images of Stalingrad during World War II or Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, which was leveled in two wars between Russian and Chechen separatists.

    The Georgian army, armed and trained by American instructors and using also American armaments, subjected the city of Tskhinvali to a barbaric destruction. . . . The entire responsibility for this fratricidal war, for thousands of children, women and elderly dead people, for the inhabitants of South Ossetia and of Georgia falls exclusively to the current President, to the Parliament and to the Government of Georgia.

    So what we’ve got here is a bloody war started by Georgia against a small, pro-Russian province it wants to rule — against the will of the people who live there.

    [U]nderlying the conflict of the past week has also been the Bush administration’s wider, explicit determination to enforce US global hegemony and prevent any regional challenge, particularly from a resurgent Russia.

    The latest struggle over Caspian oil started in earnest in the 1990s under Bill Clinton, after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

    Already, the Pentagon had established its presence in Georgia and Azerbaijan. It posted its officers to these Caucasian republics to train Georgian and Azeri forces to guard the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline.

    Since 1997, the U.S. military has spent approximately $277 million in military aid to Georgia. . . . Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama . . . supported the administration’s initiatives in Georgia.,0,7890950.story

    There are still 127 U.S. trainers in Georgia, where the American forces had been preparing the Georgian army for operations in Iraq.

    Saakashvili has been the Bush administration’s poster child for pro-Western movements. . . . The United States supplied him with military aid to build his army and he, in turn, sent Georgian troops to Iraq to support the U.S. mission there.,0,6671058.story

    The United States took a series of steps that emboldened Georgia.

    “The biggest problem here is [the U.S.], your country. You said that the Soviets were an evil empire, but it’s you that are the empire. Not you personally, of course. But your government.”

    This is yet another made-in-the-USA war. . . . But it’s also yet another made-in-Israel war.

  2. Posted by: “bigraccoon” redwoodsaurus
    Mon Aug 18, 2008 2:43 am (PDT)

    Arab World Sees Bush’s Response to Georgia-Russia Crisis as Hypocritical

    The U.S. president should be ‘too ashamed
    to speak about the occupation of any country,
    he is already occupying one,’ one observer says.

    By Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
    Los Angeles Times
    August 17, 2008

    CAIRO — President Bush’s condemnation of Russia as a bullying intimidator in the Georgian conflict struck a hypocritical note in a Middle East that has endured violent reverberations from the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and where the sharp White House rhetoric against Moscow echoes what many Arabs feel in turn about the U.S.

    Many in the region are angered by what they see as the president’s swaggering style and frequent veiled threats of military force. His administration has been accused of alienating Muslims and instigating turmoil in a misguided war on terrorism.

    Now Bush’s spirited criticism of Russia’s invasion of neighboring Georgia has raised derisive smirks among Arab commentators, who say the U.S. president is condemning the same power politics he practices.

    Bush should be “too ashamed to speak about the occupation of any country, he is already occupying one,” said Mohammed Sayed Said, editor in chief of the Egyptian independent daily Al Badeel. “U.S. forces have been in Iraq for five years and they still fight in an unacceptable manner that violates human rights conventions. Bush had better talk about his own occupation of Iraq.”

    Bitterness and suspicion toward Washington are easily summoned, from Cairo to Beirut to Baghdad. The Iraq war, the sense of drift over the Palestinian question, and Washington’s perceived failure to pay more than lip-service to promoting democracy and human rights have all undermined American standing.

  3. Pingback: Palin even more pro war with Russia than Bush | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: South Ossetians about Georgia war | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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