With Pro-NATO, Pro-Russia Proposals, Geopolitics Enters Georgia's Elections
Geopolitics has taken center stage in Georgia's election campaign, with one party calling to legalize Russian military bases in the country, another calling for the constitution to enshrine Georgia's "non-bloc" status, and another calling for the constitution to reflect the country's NATO aspirations.
At the end of June, the Democratic Movement party called for Georgia to be officially neutral. The party leader, Nino Burjanadze, was once a leader of Georgia's pro-Western Rose Revolution but has since developed close ties with Russia.
“We believe that a clause should be added to the Georgian constitution, which would stipulate non-bloc status for Georgia,” she said, according to Civil.ge. “It means that Georgia should reject joining any kind of military bloc be it NATO or any other military alliance. There should be no troops of any foreign country or a bloc on the Georgian soil." She argued that Georgia's “authorities and significant part of country’s political elite act pursuant to NATO and the U.S. interests, instead of Georgia’s interests.”
Then, in response, the pro-NATO Republican Party introduced a counterproposal, to amend the constiution so that its preamble included the direction "to establish a full-fledged place in the Euro-Atlantic system of security and cooperation of democratic states."
The most explosive proposal, if it could be called that, came from a fringe party this weekend. The party, the Centrists, was formed only this year by Vladimer Bedukadze, a former mafioso. The Centrists aired a crude ad on state television that depicted Russian tanks and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and promised "Russian pensions" and to legalize Russian military bases in Georgia. The ad caused an outcry on social media among Georgians and the state broadcaster took the ad off the air. The ruling Georgian Dream party said it intended to ask the Constitutional Court to void the Centrists' registration on the grounds that it threatens Georgia's independence.
Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili issued a statement praising the decision to remove the ad, saying: "We all need to be particularly vigilant and careful during the pre election period given the increasing wave of propaganda against state interests."
Georgia plans to hold parliamentary elections on October 8. Arguing against NATO -- much more for Russian hegemony -- is unlikely to be a political winner in Georgia. According to a poll taken in June by the U.S. National Democratic Institute, 64 percent of Georgians supported joining NATO.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.