Society and Politics after October Elections: Challenges of “Great Changes” and “Great Hopes”

Representatives of non-government organizations, government, and the public gathered at the Press Cafe in Batumi on October 31 for a discussion organized by the Heinrich Boell Foundation. They met to discuss the public and politics after the October elections and the public’s expectations for changes.

The speakers included Tamar Gurchiani, human rights defender, Nina Khatiskatsi, public policy analyst and Davit Batsikadze, Vice-Speaker of the Ajara Supreme Council.
All speakers of the discussion stated that the election results increased public expectations for change, so civil society should be actively involved in the process of developing the new governance structure.

The October 1, 2012 elections became a landmark for Georgia’s further political development. The election results showed that the society is not inert towards political processes and there is willingness for involvement. Besides, a number of issues were identified that could not mobilize society and ignorance of such issues led the existing political elite to a dead-end. More importantly, this occurred under public pressure. These factors influenced the change in the balance of power and radically shifted the political layout – for many, this transformation occurred unexpectedly. David Batsakidze, Deputy Chair of the Supreme Council of Ajara, believes that on October 1, people’s dreams of changing the government through elections came true. However, Batsakidze places civil responsibility on voters again. “You have to be attentive and not forgive us, even for small evils,” he said.

If we give due consideration to these unexpected events along with the political importance of these changes for the country’s further development, we can see that a whole set of expectations and attitudes were created in society. This means gradual, but substantial change of the previous socio-political framework, or in the extreme case, its destruction.  The lowest expression of such changes was the request to publicly punish “the guilty,” often coming from a fear of “public revenge” among part of the society. Nina Khatiskatsi also stated, “these changes mostly depend on civil society’s engagement. Today, luckily, the government does not have the luxury to act alone without the opposition with its political knowledge. Building constructs for the future, removed from the past, is an expectation for the political order involving “quick development” and “justice for all.” It is important to understand whom the creator of this framework – the mainstream public – sees as recipients of “justice for all.” Informal discourse shows that “all” does not include “servants” of the regime before the October elections, and it is even less inclusive of groups that are not part of mainstream society (foreigners of different races - turkophobia and xenophobia is especially visible - and representatives of different minorities).

Based on these observations, it is extremely important to define whether such expectations and fears are compatible with the yearning of the “new political order,” and whether the new political establishment can overcome such attitudes.