Georgia. According to Countryaah, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and his new government, which took office at the end of 2012, ended the year in fierce confrontation with President Micheil Saakashvili. In January, the newly elected parliament ran over Saakashvili’s attempt to stop an amnesty for over 3,000 prisoners. Many of these were sentenced during the reign of Saakashvili and considered by the new government as political prisoners.
Sympathizers to the ruling Georgian party tried to push Saakashvili’s departure prematurely through a large name-gathering. When Saakashvili was to hold the annual presidential speech to the nation, the event was canceled by protesters, and the president was allowed to keep the speech from his residence.
The strong presidential power under Saakashvili was broken when the people elected in March decided to change the constitution and took away from the president the opportunity to dismiss the government and dissolve parliament. Other changes in the president’s powers were also decided.
A key objective of Bidzina Ivanichvili’s new government was to improve Georgia’s poor relationship with the Russian Federation. Already in January, Ivanishvili had an informal meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and in March the Russian Federation decided to resume imports of Georgian wine and mineral water, which has been down since 2006.
Yet another proof of full-fledged political reversal in Georgia came in April, when the new government decided to investigate what debt President Saakashvili owed to Georgia’s war against the Russian Federation in 2008. While Saakashvili always laid all blame for the war on the Russian Federation, the then Georgian opposition considered Saakashvili through his actions triggered a military disaster that could have been avoided.
The contradictions between the new and the old regime developed into open enmity, where the Ivanichvili government was accused of demanding revenge on Saakashvili’s followers. Former ministers, other politicians and government officials were arrested and accused of corruption. Among other things, the EU warned that the rule of law would be replaced by political trials.
Former Interior Minister Batjo Ahalaia was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for assault against prisoners by a prison revolt. Shortly before President Saakashvili resigned, he made sure to pardon Ahalaia, but he must await yet another trial, then for abuse of power.
Violent riots erupted when homosexuals tried to conduct a pride parade in the capital Tbilisi in May. Thousands of counter-protesters broke through the police chains, and, led by Orthodox priests, tried to stop the parade. About twenty people were injured in the violence, and two priests were charged.
Education Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Giorgi Margvelashvili won a grand victory in the October presidential election and received over 62% of the vote against just under 22% for opposition candidate Davit Bakradze. With Margvelasvili’s clear victory, Saakashvili’s political era went to the grave, and the outgoing president urged his sympathizers to respect the election results. According to OSCE observers, the election had been open, but turnout was low, 47%.
The newly elected president explained that his goal with the country’s foreign policy was to establish close relations with both the West and the Russian Federation.
After the presidential election, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanichvili left office and Interior Minister Irakli Garibashvili succeeded him as head of government. The post of prime minister will continue to be more important as constitutional changes have passed on powers from the president to the head of government.
Although the relationship with the Russian Federation appeared to be thawing slightly, Georgia still had the severe conflict surrounding the republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia that broke out of Georgia and were recognized as independent by the Russian Federation. In September, Georgia reported to the UN Human Rights Council that Russian military has begun setting up barbed wire fences along the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia against the rest of Georgia. According to the government in Tbilisi, this was an attempt to permanent an occupation and thus a violation of international law.
At the EU summit in Vilnius, Georgia signed an agreement that opened for the signing of an association agreement with the EU in 2014.