Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Contemporary political situation
Georgia had been governed by Eduard Shevardnadze since 1992 (President of Georgia since 1995). His government—and his own family—became increasingly associated with pervasive corruption that hampered Georgia's economic growth. The country remained very poor by European standards. Two Russian-supported breakaway regions (Abkhazia and the so-called South Ossetia) remained outside the control of the Tbilisi government, and the autonomous republic of Ajara was ruled by semi-separatist leader Aslan Abashidze. The political and socioeconomic crisis was close to reaching its peak just before the parliamentary elections appointed on November 2, 2003. Shevardnadze’s political alliance “For New Georgia” and Abashidze’s “Union of Democratic Revival of Georgia” were opposed by popular opposition parties: Mikhail Saakashvili’s “United National Movement” and “Burjanadze-Democrats” led by Parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze and ex-speaker Zurab Zhvania.
Elections and protests
Georgia held parliamentary elections on November 2, 2003 which were denounced by local and international observers as being grossly rigged. Mikhail Saakashvilli claimed that he had won the elections (a claim supported by independent exit polls), and urged Georgians to demonstrate against Shevardnadze's government and engage in nonviolent civil disobedience against the authorities. The main democratic opposition parties united to demand the ouster of Shevardnadze and the rerun of the elections.
In mid-November, massive anti-governmental demonstrations started in the central streets of Tbilisi, soon involving almost all major cities and towns of Georgia. “Kmara” (“Enough!”) youth organization (a Georgian counterpart of the Serbian “Otpor”) and several NGOs were active in all protest activities. Shevardnadze’s government was backed by Aslan Abashidze, the semi-separatist leader of autonomous Ajara region, who sent thousands of his supporters to hold a pro-governmental counter-demonstration in Tbilisi.
Change of power
The opposition protest reached its peak on November 22, the day of an opening session of a new parliament, which was considered illegitimate. The same day, opposition supporters led by Saakashvili with roses in their hands (hence the name Rose Revolution) seized the parliament building interrupting a speech of President Eduard Shevardnadze and forcing him to escape with his bodyguards. He later declared a state of emergency and began to mobilize troops and police near his residence in Tbilisi. However, the elite military units refused to support the government. In the evening of November 23 (St George’s Day in Georgia), Shevardnadze met with the opposition leaders Saakashvili and Zurab Zhvania to discuss the situation, in a meeting arranged by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. After the meeting, the president announced his resignation. That prompted an euphoria in the streets of Tbilisi. More than 100.000 protesters celebrated the victory all night long, accompanied by fireworks and rock-concerts.
The outgoing speaker of parliament, Nino Burjanadze, assumed the presidency until fresh elections could be held. The Supreme Court of Georgia annulled the results of the parliamentary elections. In the January 4, 2004 presidential election Mikhail Saakashvili won an overwhelming victory and was inaugurated as the new President of Georgia on January 25. On March 28, 2004, new parliamentary elections were held, with a large majority won by the Saakashvili-supporting National Movement - Democrats, and a minotity representation of the Rightist Opposition.
In May 2004, the so-called "second Rose Revolution" took place in Batumi, Ajaria. After months of extreme tension between Saakashvili’s government and Aslan Abashidze, the virtual dictator of the autonomous region, thousands of Ajarians protested against Abashidze’s policy of separatism and militarization. Abashidze used security forces and paramilitary groups to break up the demonstrations in the streets of Batumi and Kobuleti. However, he failed to suppress the protests which later became more and more massive. On May 6, 2004 (again St George’s Day), protesters from all Ajara gathered in Batumi despite being broken up heavily the day before. Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and Interior Minister Giorgi Baramidze negotiated with Ajarian Interior Minister Djemal Gogitidze to withdraw his forces from the administrative border at the Choloki River and led Georgian Special Forces into the region. Abashidze bowed to the inevitable, resigned in the same evening and left for Moscow. President Saakashvili visited Batumi next day and was met as a liberator by celebrating Ajarians.
A new era is said to have begun in Georgia after the Rose Revolution. While the West considers the Rose Revolution a move towards democracy, Russian and pro-Russian politicians claim the revolution to be a “made-in-America coup” emphasizing the role of the Open Society Institute of George Soros in financing of Georgian opposition.
Several reforms were launched by a new government and strong anti-corruption measures were established. Georgia’s foreign policy was proclaimed strongly pro-Western. However, some concerns have been made by Georgian opposition and a few NGOs regarding Saakashvili’s authoritarian tendencies.
The Orange Revolution that followed the disputed November 2004 Ukrainian presidential election is said to have been partly inspired by the Georgian Rose Revolution. Georgian flags were seen being waved by supporters of Viktor Yushchenko, who held up a rose while greeting the crowds.
- Orange Revolution
- Velvet Revolution
- Tulip Revolution
- Colour revolutions - as a series of related movements
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