Revolutions devour their children. This oft-repeated adage pertinently describes the denouement of Mikheil Saakashvili. The Georgian leader’s United National Movement yesterday lost the elections, handing over the South Caucasus country’s presidency to Georgy Margvelashvili. The nation of 4.5 million people is strategically located to the south of Russia, between Azerbaijan and the Black Sea. It has borders with Turkey and Armenia and lies in the neighbourhood of Iran. The former Soviet Republic’s location vests it with a unique geopolitical advantage so as to keep the Kremlin perennially interested in the political goings-on there. Saakashvili led the Rose Revolution in 2003 to take over as the Georgian president. The Western-educated leader brought about significant changes in the country that was being fought over as one of the last pillars of the Cold War. In bringing about reforms, Saakashvili knelt heavily to the West, riling Moscow that was already wounded by the break up of the Soviet Union and could not see Washington spreading its feet in its backyard. Ties with Russia deteriorated to the extent that the two countries fought a five-day war over the breakaway Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia had backed the secessionist movements in the two provinces and kept a firm grip on the tiny enclaves after the war that killed hundreds and rendered thousands homeless.
Incoming President Margvelashvili cannot claim to continue the unfinished agenda of Saakashvili who completed two terms. The powers of the president will be curtailed in the new political dispensation that will see the Prime Minister command more authority.
Margvelashvili, a deputy PM in the current government, is a close ally of Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili who has promised to step aside after the vote.
Political uncertainty has hit Georgia hard and scuppered efforts aimed at development and fighting poverty. During his two terms as president, Saakashvili came down heavily on graft by carving out a zero-tolerance policy against corruption. He brought about significant changes in the administration, making it easier for Georgians to go through government procedures like issuing licences and permits. His inability to fight poverty in the former Soviet Republic proved to be his nemesis. There has been a political witch hunt after Saakashvili’s party lost the parliamentary elections in 2012. Ivanishvili has recently said that Saakashvili will not have it easy after his exit as the president. This implies that the richest man in Georgia will want to get even with his bete noire after the latter leaves the presidential palace. This will only add to the political chaos and may place a demand on the attention of the government from important issues of governance. Ivanishvili and Margvelashvili have an important job to do in steering the poverty-stricken country to a better future. For better governance and satisfied citizens, the political duo should look to the future than spend their energy on retribution•