What we did not get was, something that was in the preliminary statement of the White House, stating that: “The President will reconfirm U.S. support for the integrity of Georgia’s territory within its internationally recognized borders”. We did not hear that; and really lacked that comment. Apart from that we definitely got all we wanted.
We got confirmation of future partnership within the context of trade and military assistance, as well as support for our aspirations to join NATO. And most importantly for our political development, we got the message from President Obama, that he is “anticipating fair and free elections here; the formal transfer of power that will be taking place in Georgia”.
The message is definitely of special importance to the audience. I would probably differentiate among three kinds of interpretation of this message, with appropriate exclamations: “Hooray, the U.S. is changing Saakashvili!”, “Huh… that’s their general rhetoric, but they accept what we will cook here on the ground”, and “Ye! People will rile this time”. But let us distract from exclamations and guesses on what was really said in the Oval Office and concentrate of what we believe the phrase “anticipating…” -could mean.
The first point, as I understand it, is that now, Georgians can handle democracy. The context behind this “now can” is the myth that the People, the opposition, the system was not ripe for handling challenges of free choice. And though this thinking was never openly stated; yet it slipped in thinking, comments and of the record remarks of our western partners. The general cliché being: the group in government is visionary, open-minded, western-oriented and Anglo-educated, so let them lead and reform the state, the nation, and the people. At some point Georgians/Georgia will reach a climax turning point and will deserve and be granted the luxury of democratic choice. Until then, let the advanced lead the rest. And as it usually happens with the myths it started its own journey, gained its own life and began reassuring and reconfirming itself: the government had to carry further reforms, it had to be harder and harsher, the people confronted these actions more vigorously, the opposition become more lousy. This vicious circle was once more reconfirming the myth – the government is on the advance, let them lead.
Hence, to maintain the governance of the advanced over the lagging, more support and excuses were required which broadened the gap again and again. In very general terms this cliché could not proceed without sacrifice of democracy. The whole concept of the advanced ruling and leading the lagging might be very Platonic, but not democratic at all. The logic, and possibly even the fault of democracy is that the government it is adequate to the people no matter how good or bad they are. So a positive phrase — “here is a bunch of western-educated young leaders who have to be given a chance” — could be rephrased in negative terms as: forget democracy, these people need a strong hand and let us support them. Now, it looks like this cliché has been overcome. Either we – the people raised to acceptable standards, or the “advanced” lost their aureole of the “chosen bunch”. In any case, this is good news for the people that have been advocating for faster and more decisive steps in democratization of our country.
Secondly: the note – “formal transfer of power” roots in another assumption – that the ruling team lacks the good will for free and fair competition and it has to be “convinced” to “transfer power”. Now let us explore this point. There is no direct violation of democratic principles in Saakashvili becoming Prime Minister or Putin reincarnating himself as President – if this is the real free choice of the nation; in this case who has the right to confront it? Yet, there is a very realistic and true point in this request, that lies in the fact-based knowledge that in Russia as well as in Georgia the electoral process is far from being free and fair. Hence, the phrase “formal transfer of power”, which in its abstract reading has no connection to democracy, in the real world works perfectly well and reads as: we know you are manipulating the electoral process, and if you are not forced to get out of it you have no good will to conduct it fairly. So for securing democratic choice as a form of competition you have to stay out of it. Hence, for the sake of securing the free and fair choice of the people, the leader should secure the transfer the power.
So if the scenario develops as recommended by the White House, the democratic agenda has to be reinforced and the Georgian nation has to be given as broad as possible choice of their future government. The “advanced chosen” will have to compete for the ballots of ordinary Georgians. The people will be given a chance to make their decision, which might not be the smartest one, but that is the rule of the game that is called democracy. In this case, I can firmly state together with president Saakashvili that “we basically got what we wanted to get”.
Giorgi Margvelashvili is a PhD in philosophy.