News / Europe

Georgia Elects New President, But Political Clouds Gather

Georgia's president-elect Giorgi Margvelashvili (R) and Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili are seen at a news conference in Tbilisi October 28, 2013.
Georgia's president-elect Giorgi Margvelashvili (R) and Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili are seen at a news conference in Tbilisi October 28, 2013.
James Brooke
Georgian voters gave a clean and clear victory to the ruling party candidate in Sunday’s presidential election. But voters woke up on Monday to find clouds forming over the political future of the former Soviet republic.
 
Giorgi Margvelashvili won an unexpected landslide in Georgia’s presidential election on Sunday, getting 62 percent of the vote in a race contested by 23 candidates.
 
Georgia has suffered from political volatility since winning independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Today, foreign observers are praising Sunday’s elections as free and fair.  But there may be political trouble ahead.
 
On the plus side, Georgia’s president and prime minister will once again be from the same coalition. For the last year, the nation’s two political leaders represented opposing political camps.  Sunday’s election results bring a clear end to one decade of rule by Mikheil Saakashvili, one of the most charismatic - and controversial - leaders of the post-Soviet space.
 
On the negative side, Georgia’s two most powerful politicians are to leave government in coming days.
 
Losing immunity
 
Now people in Tbilisi are asking: will Saakashvili go to jail?
 
Georgia's outgoing President Mikheil Saakashvili (C) is seen heading to a polling station in Tbilisi October 27, 2013.Georgia's outgoing President Mikheil Saakashvili (C) is seen heading to a polling station in Tbilisi October 27, 2013.
x
Georgia's outgoing President Mikheil Saakashvili (C) is seen heading to a polling station in Tbilisi October 27, 2013.
Georgia's outgoing President Mikheil Saakashvili (C) is seen heading to a polling station in Tbilisi October 27, 2013.
When the new president is inaugurated on November 17, Saakashvili will lose his presidential immunity.  Already a dozen of his former state ministers have either been charged with crimes or are under investigation.
 
Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili recently predicted to reporters that Saakashvili, his archrival, will be called in for questioning. Court inquiries could turn on Saakashvili’s leadership in the disastrous war with Russia five years ago.
 
Gela Vasadze runs Liberty Zone, a Tbilisi think tank. He predicts that Saakashvili will turn down job offers in the United States, and will stay in Georgia and fight.
 
“Saakashvili will remain active in politics and Saakashvili will remain chairman of the United National Movement,” he said, referring to what is now Georgia’s main opposition party.
 
Questions also revolve around the second pillar of Georgian politics - Prime Minister Ivanishvili.
 
Ivanishvili has promised to name a new prime minister by Wednesday and then to step down in November.
 
Who will fill the shoes of Ivanishvili, Georgia’s richest man?
 
Handpicked successor?
 
Elene Khoshtaria, a former member of the Saakashvili government, works with Georgia's Reforms Associates, a policy group.
 
“It is clear that he is quitting, that he is leaving,” she said of Ivanishvili, who has only been in power for one year. “But nobody knows what he is going to do.”
 
Under new constitutional changes, Georgia’s president now plays a largely ceremonial role. The future president, Margvelashvili, is a former university president who served this year as education minister. A few days ago, a photo went viral of this low key academic knitting winter socks.
 
Prime Minister Ivanishvili has made it clear that he will handpick Georgia’s next prime minister. He also is making policy promises through 2015, signaling that he will be pulling strings from behind the scenes.
 
“Considering his strong financial resources, as well as political clout, he will have very significant influence over the government at least for the first several years,” Khostova said.
 
Georgia faces an interesting political year ahead. It looks as if the country's two most powerful politicians will not be occupying formal positions in government.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs