Republic of Georgia Election a Triumph for Democracy

Over the weekend, democracy took another large step in a republic of the former Soviet Union.  The Republic of Georgia, a key ally in the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq, had its first free and truly fair election in its history.  And it seems that current President, Mikhail Saakashvili won a large victory with 52.8% of the vote.  His nearest competitor Levan Gachechiladze received 27% of the vote. 

Saakashvili came to power in the Rose Revolution of 2003, where Georgians who were fed up with the cronyism of former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze.

This election and its results are significant for several reasons. 

1) Other than in the Ukraine and the Baltic States, most elections in the former Soviet Republics have been little better than propaganda, with the incumbent winning 90 or more percent of the vote.  However in this election, the Republic of Georgia invited in about 2000 election monitors and 160 media organizations from around the world, including the Associated Press. 

2) Georgia is the land that also gave to us such monsters of history as Stalin and Lavrenty Beria, the former KGB head who ordered the murder and torture of over 1 million Russians, Ukrainians, and once had 10,000 Georgians murdered when his own people demanded their independence from the USSR.  To see it go from the land of Stalin to a successful democracy shows that freedom and democracy can flourish anywhere. 

3) Just a few months ago, separatist protestors went into the streets of Tbilisi and demanded that Saakashvili resign, charging corruption.  Saakashvili responded with tear gas and water cannons.  There was some concern among Western nations that the ideals of the Rose Revolution may be short lived.  However with a free election having multiple candidates that was so obviously fair, one can see that democracy is taking hold in Georgia. 

4) In the past in the rough and tumble world of Soviet politics, a political loser would lose all priveliges and maybe even his life.  However after this recent election, Saakashvili and Gachechiladze met at a church service on their Christmas Eve (January 6) to show that while they may be political opponents, they were Georgians first and foremost.  As recently as 4 years ago in the Ukraine, current President Victor Yushchenko was poisoned, most likely by his opponent Victor Yanukovich. 

This election shows that people have the natural will to be free and independent.  And one of the hallmarks of a free society is democratically held elections.  This is the second election that the Georgian country has had.  In their first election, Saakashvili was "elected" with 96% of the vote - these numbers can not be seen as legitimate.  But an incumbent getting 53% of the vote and with lesser candidates getting legitimate shares of the vote. 

Georgia is a country on the rise.  They have an economic growth rate of 9.4% and their average per capita income has doubled in the past 3 years from $1800 per person per annum in 2004 to $3,900 per person in 2007.  While still very low, this is a very significant rise in the standard of living. 

Saakashvili has also steered Georgia toward being an ally of the West, and Georgia will soon be applying to NATO for membership.  Even when we were having problems in Iraq, the Georgians did not cut and run, but instead upped their troop level to 3,000 combat and support troops. 

While this election may not have had great coverage in the mainstream media, it is one that our government and other governments in Europe should pay attention to.  Once a society learns what it is like to be free, they will not again easily accept the shackles of a strong leader.
Over the weekend, democracy took another large step in a republic of the former Soviet Union.  The Republic of Georgia, a key ally in the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq, had its first free and truly fair election in its history.  And it seems that current President, Mikhail Saakashvili won a large victory with 52.8% of the vote.  His nearest competitor Levan Gachechiladze received 27% of the vote. 

Saakashvili came to power in the Rose Revolution of 2003, where Georgians who were fed up with the cronyism of former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze.

This election and its results are significant for several reasons. 

1) Other than in the Ukraine and the Baltic States, most elections in the former Soviet Republics have been little better than propaganda, with the incumbent winning 90 or more percent of the vote.  However in this election, the Republic of Georgia invited in about 2000 election monitors and 160 media organizations from around the world, including the Associated Press. 

2) Georgia is the land that also gave to us such monsters of history as Stalin and Lavrenty Beria, the former KGB head who ordered the murder and torture of over 1 million Russians, Ukrainians, and once had 10,000 Georgians murdered when his own people demanded their independence from the USSR.  To see it go from the land of Stalin to a successful democracy shows that freedom and democracy can flourish anywhere. 

3) Just a few months ago, separatist protestors went into the streets of Tbilisi and demanded that Saakashvili resign, charging corruption.  Saakashvili responded with tear gas and water cannons.  There was some concern among Western nations that the ideals of the Rose Revolution may be short lived.  However with a free election having multiple candidates that was so obviously fair, one can see that democracy is taking hold in Georgia. 

4) In the past in the rough and tumble world of Soviet politics, a political loser would lose all priveliges and maybe even his life.  However after this recent election, Saakashvili and Gachechiladze met at a church service on their Christmas Eve (January 6) to show that while they may be political opponents, they were Georgians first and foremost.  As recently as 4 years ago in the Ukraine, current President Victor Yushchenko was poisoned, most likely by his opponent Victor Yanukovich. 

This election shows that people have the natural will to be free and independent.  And one of the hallmarks of a free society is democratically held elections.  This is the second election that the Georgian country has had.  In their first election, Saakashvili was "elected" with 96% of the vote - these numbers can not be seen as legitimate.  But an incumbent getting 53% of the vote and with lesser candidates getting legitimate shares of the vote. 

Georgia is a country on the rise.  They have an economic growth rate of 9.4% and their average per capita income has doubled in the past 3 years from $1800 per person per annum in 2004 to $3,900 per person in 2007.  While still very low, this is a very significant rise in the standard of living. 

Saakashvili has also steered Georgia toward being an ally of the West, and Georgia will soon be applying to NATO for membership.  Even when we were having problems in Iraq, the Georgians did not cut and run, but instead upped their troop level to 3,000 combat and support troops. 

While this election may not have had great coverage in the mainstream media, it is one that our government and other governments in Europe should pay attention to.  Once a society learns what it is like to be free, they will not again easily accept the shackles of a strong leader.