Georgian and foreign experts are positive about the changes in the country’s leadership, noting, however, that the foreign policy priorities of the official Tbilisi will remain unchanged and will be focused on Euro-Atlantic integration.
The independent Georgian publicist and political scientist, editor-in-chief of the information agency “Gruzinform”
“Despite the fact that foreign policies of the former and the new leadership are the same, at this stage the new power suits both the US and Russia, in relation to which the tone has changed and there is no more abusive rhetoric – everyone is talking about peaceful resolution of territorial issues. We should not expect some news surprises a la Mikhail Saakashvili’
According to him, the political atmosphere inside the country became more relaxed.
“Citizens, who were recognized political prisoners during the reign of Mikhail Saakashvili, were amnestied. Some people targeted in the investigation are key figures such as former Prime Minister and Interior Minister Bacho Akhalaya and former Prime Minister and General Secretary of the United National Movement Vano Merabishvili. MPs of minority National Movement believe that it is a settling of scores on political grounds and call those people political prisoners; and the West goes on to say that we cannot use this method to solve the problem. Nevertheless, the position of the new government and the new prime minister of Georgia is that the perpetrator of a crime should be responsible for it regardless of whether he was the highest state leader or a middle manager,” the analyst explained.
Commenting on the foreign policy of the state in the context of relations with Russia, Arno Khidirbegishvili pointed to a positive trend.
“Grigory Karasin, Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, made a very encouraging statement on the prospects in this direction after a meeting with the Special Representative of the Prime Minister of Georgia on the relationship with Russia Zurab Abashidze. According to him, the two countries have already achieved good results. I think he was talking about the removal of the embargo on imports of Georgian wine and agricultural products, positive changes in the humanitarian field and enhanced cultural exchange. Countries do have great promise in the field of commerce and culture and I think cooperation will be deepened in these areas. In addition, I expect that Russia will facilitate visa requirements for Georgian citizens entering its territory, but I believe that it will happen most likely after the Olympic Games in Sochi,” he said.
In turn, Uwe Halbach, Senior Research Fellow at German Foundation for Science and Politics reminded that the amendments and changes announced in October 2010 for implementation after the presidential elections in 2013 bring a new power shift within the executive branch — from president to prime minister — and between the executive and the legislative power — with more competences for the parliament.
“The new president Giorgi Margvelashvili will be in a less powerful position than his predecessors. The most powerful incumbent in the executive branch will be the new prime minister Irakli Garibashvili. Both new leaders are said to be without much political experience and to be the choice of Bidzina Ivanishvili who pressed his very personal stamp to the political new beginning in Georgia before he officially left politics,” the foreign expert said.
Asked about potential internal transformations, the analyst noted that it is difficult to say how effectively domestic reforms will take place and added that there are many serious problems.
“In the socio-economic sphere the most challenging one is the agrarian sector where production has shrunk dramatically in the last two decades. This sector involves 55% of population but contributes only 8% to the GDP. Another challenge is generally the high rate of unemployment. It will take time for the new political leadership to get along with these challenges. Another urging reform challenge is the “de-politicization”
According to him, the main vector of Georgian foreign policy will remain the orientation toward Euro-Atlantic institutions and partners.
“The question arises, however, how far this vector will be compatible with the modification of the Georgian Dream’s policy toward Russia to a more pragmatic approach in a time when Russia is hardening pressure on its “near abroad” for more Eurasian, less European orientation,”
The Georgian Dream MP, chairman of factional group on electoral issues Zakaria Kutsnashvili expressed the view that the new president is a moderate, experienced and educated person who can establish relations with all countries, neighboring Georgia.
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