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Will Mikheil Saakashvili retire?


Tuesday, 05 October 2010

images/stories/articles/news/gruzja_vojna/saak_news.jpgWhat will follow Saakashvili or, perhaps better to say, who will follow Saakashvili? Today politicians and commentators across the country, together with analysts in Moscow and Washington are searching for the answer to this question. A yet more precise question perhaps, is what the hero of the Rose Revolution will decide to do after his presidential term expires – whether he will stay in politics or retire.

Although there is much time left before 2013, a cursory glance across the political landscape is enough to see that Georgian politics is abuzz with anticipation of the changes the ruling party is preparing to the constitution. The scheme of power distribution envisaged in the new constitution looks very much like the French model, wherein voters elect a president through national elections, and the government is formed by the party winning at separate parliamentary elections. The president will take responsibility for the country’s defense and foreign policy, whilst the government and Prime Minister decide on domestic issues. The Prime Minister becomes the leading figure in the country in terms of the state and, independent of the president, can appoint regional governors and develop budgets.

The opposition has claimed that with the new constitution, Saakashvili has launched what has been dubbed “Operation Heir”, in which the vacant position of president will be taken up by a successful face from the ruling party.

It is difficult to doubt the opposition’s prediction. According to the leader of the Labor Party, Shalva Natelashvili, Mikheil Saakashvili is tailoring the new constitution to his needs so that he can take the Prime Minister’s post when the new constitution comes into force in 2013.

The new constitution does not set prime ministerial terms, so it is also possible that the ruling party will continue to put forward the same candidate for the post of prime minister’s post at consecutive elections. Under this format, the current leader of the United National Movement (UNM) has a theoretical 30 years of guaranteed power as there is no convincing competitor to its monopoly over Georgian politics

Fears of the opposition became even more convincing when President Saakashvili reminded the people of the 60-year rule of the Liberal-Democrats in Japan and recalled the 17-year rule of the Christian-Democrats in Germany.

As the Georgian Republicans have stated, the problem is in Saakashvili, not the constitution.

Others disagree, asking why should a young president of 46 leave politics at the zenith of his career whilst ahead of every opponent in the ratings. As the current Tbilisi mayor Gigi Ugulava has said, this is a “hyper-energetic person with unimaginable abilities.”

Add to this his purposefulness and love of power and it is possible to see that Operation Heir could well be implemented in Georgia without any serious political fluctuations.

On the other hand, political life in Georgia is a constantly developing and organic affair and external factors may always dictate political decisions. Today it can be confidently said that Operation Heir could not be implemented under the conditions of the “Russian Scenario”.

Why will not/cannot ex-president Saakashvili become the Prime Minister Putin?

The new constitution enters into forces in December 2013, right when the second term of Saakashvili expires. The parliamentary elections are planned for spring 2012. The newly elected parliament will appoint the new government and elect the Prime Minister with expanded rights. Thus, after the spring 2012 until December 2013 the country will live in anticipation of the new constitution and will have the temporary government. And temporariness is not Saakashvili’s style.

Besides, standing up from the president’s chair and sitting down in the Prime Minister’s one right away looks very much like Putin. And Saakashvili is very proud of the image of “democracy” among the western states and only likes Russian classics.

At the meeting with the parliamentary majority while speaking about the constitution the president pointed out frequent change of the governments and prime ministers. Saakashvili would not have gathered the majority to speak about the sufferings of releasing his own government. This is why it is more convincing to think that Saakashvili is truly planning to resign from politics in 2013 and his main political goal is to leave his team in the government. As he stated several times, the main thing for him is to ensure unequivocal political course of the country.

Judging from the president’s comments it becomes clear why this particular model of the constitution was lobbied on the side of Saakashvili, instead of the model, which the ruling party ideologists from the Liberty Institute presented. In the new constitution parliament’s rights are drastically increased at the expense of the president’s rights. The president’s calculations are for his own party. And until 2013 the president’s efforts will be directed at reinforcing the United National Movement.

As for the personalities, there are several leaders in the United National Movement who stand out. First of all, the current mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava, Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili and First Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria. Before the parliamentary elections of 2012 there will be full harmonization between the teams. But the main aim of President Saakashvili is not to enable them change the western course of the country and topple the gains of the revolution.

Story by Zaza Jgharkava

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