The Legacy of the “Rose Revolution”: Retrospective Analysis and Prospects for Future Developments

D. Zurabishvili, G. Meladze, G. Gvakharia, L. Chkhartishvili, M. Nachkebia

On the ninth anniversary of the Rose Revolution, the Heinrich Boell Foundation hosted a discussion on the “The Legacy of the Rose Revolution: Retrospective analysis and prospects for future developments.” The fact that the discussion was held in a semi-empty hall and the lack of questions asked could be indicators that Georgian society is not interested in the Rose Revolution any longer. “It is symbolic that the society is not interested in this topic anymore. This is a separate issue and we may discuss it as well if we have time,” said Gogi Gvakharia at the beginning of the discussion. However, no time was left for this topic, and participants took the discussion in a different direction.

All of the speakers, except for Manana Nachkebia, a representative of the New Rights Party, were active participants in the revolution. How do they evaluate the Rose Revolution? What was the cause of the revolution? What were the characteristics of the government before, and how should one describe the government that came into power after the 2003 events? Why have those people who were active supporters of the revolution so soon separated themselves from its results and become critical of everything related to the Rose Revolution and the United National Movement?

Manana Nachkebia spoke of the attitude of the New Rights Party towards the 2003 events. “Our position was to agree to the given situation, ensure legitimization of the parliament, continue fighting within the legitimate framework and not to step beyond constitutional bounds. It was obvious from the very beginning that if we started our own fight in this situation and pushed for no recognition of election results, there would certainly be a political party that would seize power and repeat everything. It would simply be someone else instead of the National Movement and single-party governance would continue,” said Nachkebia. She added that this is what happened, and they got what was feared most – single-party governance. Manana Nachkebia spoke of the current political situation and the dangers that she sees behind ongoing political processes.

David Zurabishvili spoke of the reality that preceded the Rose Revolution – clan governance, the Abashidze regime in Ajara, a corrupt system, and the authority of criminal clans. According to Zurabishvili, the 2003 Parliamentary Elections were to significantly affect this reality. The international community saw Zurab Zhvania and Mikheil Saakashvili as key resources for democracy. Zurabishvili also spoke of the expectations within the political circles as well as the broader society. “Some political parties, young liberals and NGOs expected that this force would be democratic, liberal, true to these values, and would lead the country towards Europe. This was not the mass expectation towards Saakashvili. There was a bigger expectation that he would create order.”

David Zurabishvili spoke of the results of the Rose Revolution, both positive and negative, and the lesson the society should learn: “The Rose Revolution should remain as a lesson about what can occur. It illustrates that good intentions may lead to bad results. This experience should be used positively.”

“Kmara” (“Enough”) could not possibly imagine what its purpose was, what happened after 2003, the success reached by the country, the key changes, or how Georgia turned into a country that generated interest of others. Key questions remain, such as the reason for liberals still being in the minority, what happened to the Georgian economy, why we have “multi-billion infrastructure projects, but life conditions of the population has not changed,” what is the public order and expectations towards government, and why it is saying that “we need to be ready for frustration that will take place in the society.” Giorgi Meladze spoke about these various issues.

In his speech Lasha Chkhartishvili especially emphasized the Shevardnadaze and Saakashvili governments’ criminal actions. “Saakashvili betrayed promises that were given in his statement, starting from “10 steps of Kmara,” he said. Chkhartishvili also spoke about why he participated in the Rose Revolution. He talked about the main issues that the country faced before, which the National Movement sought to change. However, they ultimately did just the opposite.