Russian experts argue that Moscow shouldn't expect radical changes in Tbilisi's foreign policy after opposition's victory
Moscow should not expect radical changes in Tbilisi's foreign political course after the Georgian opposition's win in the Monday parliamentary elections, says Efficient Policy Foundation President Gleb Pavlovsky.
"A pro-Western consensus will definitely remain in Georgia on the whole. The opposition does not want to lose support that Saakashvili had, and it will definitely be pro-Western, although more moderate and more pragmatic," Pavlovsky told Interfax on Tuesday.
President Mikheil Saakashvili seems to expect that, if Republican candidate Mitt Romney wins presidential elections in the U.S., Tbilisi will receive a carte blanche for new ventures in the South Caucasus, Pavlovsky said.
"The upcoming presidential elections in the U.S. are a key event facing Saakashvili. He certainly pins his hopes on Romney, which he shouldn't do. Even if the Republicans win, they won't get into ventures like those in which George W. Bush was involved," he said.
The consequences of the 2008 conflict with Russia are among the significant reasons behind the failure of Saakashvili's party, Pavlovsky said. "The voters' frustration about the 2008 war and about the incumbent president's apparent inability to set up a coalition of Western countries in support for Georgia's claim for Abkhazia and South Ossetia contributed to Saakashvili's loss," he said.
Georgian voters are also frustrated to see that Saakashvili "did not manage to show a convincing method of building Europe in one individual small country," he said.
As for the Georgian president's future, it is dramatic, but this does not mean that the opposition's resources should be overestimated, he said.
"Saakashvili is now a president without a party. A party in the opposition is definitely a hole in the board of his political system and makes the Georgian president's future more dramatic. But it would unlikely be correct to say it's the sunset of his era now, since the opposition is consolidated precisely by Saakashvili's personality and does not have its own equally strong program today, while the Georgian president has real achievements in his hands and real opportunities to continue his course," Pavlovsky said.
"It is absolutely obvious that Saakashvili's positions will weaken owing to the role the parliament will play in Georgia and owing to the election results he had not expected. The Georgian president is obviously confused now. He underestimated a very important thing that we know very well from Russian political history, namely, scissors between [a leader's] personal popularity and popularity of a party. It is always a problem to invest one's personal popularity in a party's popularity, so that it garners as many votes one can garner oneself," he said.
Pavlovsky questioned the ability of Saakashvili's opponents to consolidate their electoral success.
"Whether the opposition can turn its success into a stable trend depends on whether it can make an equal long-term offer to the Georgians. Everybody is waiting not for propagandist actions designed for a short period of time but something for a long period. The voters are waiting for answers regarding Georgia's development," he said.