Unique Political Landscape
In addition, Georgian Dream must contend with a still-powerful UNM and with Saakashvili. The postelection political landscape is unique in Georgian history in that for the first time there is no dominant ruling party capable of passing legislation and even amending the constitution without regard for the opposition.
Constitutional amendments passed by the UNM in 2010 that will transfer much of the presidency's power to the parliament and government won't come into force until January 2013. Georgia will hold a presidential election in October 2013, and Saakashvili is barred from running for a third consecutive term.
Before those amendments take effect, Saakashvili technically has the right to nominate a prime minister and several key power ministers. But in a conciliatory gesture, he has said he will not use those powers and will accept any nominations endorsed by parliament.
Bakur Kvashilava, dean of the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA), suggests this is a savvy political move.
"This is the right decision politically because when the people have told you that they want a different government, you shouldn't be pouring oil on the fire by preventing the winner from building a government simply because the constitution that you tailored allows you to do so," he says. "It was the right decision morally and politically."
Georgian Dream has also tried to reduce tensions with the UNM following the election.
Although Ivanishvili said on October 2 it would be best if Saakashvili resigned and called an early presidential election, he clarified his position the next day by stating explicitly that the movement is prepared to work with the president in any case.
Georgian Dream spokeswoman Panjikidze has emphasized that the movement has no desire to create political gridlock.
"The most important thing at this stage is not to hamper Georgia's constitutional order and the work of the government bodies," she says. "So, this way or another, we will have to talk to the president, who will now represent the opposition forces. In order for everything to happen seamlessly and in order for the transfer of power to take place, we have formed a working group that will work along with the relevant group sent by the current government and go through all constitutional steps."
Levan Tsutskiridze, president of the Association for Foreign Affairs, maintains that Georgia's increasingly mature and professional civil service should be a stabilizing factor as the transition unfolds.
"Also very important is that even though we know that a lot of political appointees will be losing their jobs, which is normal, in Georgia we have already quite a large number of professional bureaucrats in the civil service who will maintain their positions, and this is important both politically and pragmatically for the good of the state," he says.
Looking forward, Georgian Dream and the new government face considerable policy challenges.
Perhaps most importantly, it must decide on the approach it takes toward neighboring Russia, with whom the country remains in a state of war since the five-day conflict in August 2008.
Ivanishvili has said he remains committed to Georgian European integration and eventual NATO membership but believes he can achieve these ends without antagonizing Moscow.
The key issue separating Moscow and Tbilisi -- Moscow's recognition of the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which Georgia considers to be occupied by Russia -- is an emotionally volatile one in Georgia that seems to offer little room for compromise.
Written in Prague by Robert Coalson, based on reporting in Tbilisi by Nino Gelashvili of RFE/RL's Georgian Service.
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.