But less than two months after democracy's victory, some are wringing their hands.
NATO and E.U. dignitaries, amplified by prestigious newspapers, are scolding the
new government for its allegedly undemocratic behavior. The Washington Post suggests we are seeing "a slide back
toward Russian-style autocracy," and concludes that, unless he mends his ways,
"Georgia's new leader should not be welcome in Washington." As The Economist has written,
"Ivanishvili is behaving as badly as he claims Mr. Saakashvili did."
At issue are the arrests by Ivanishvili's government of National Movement
officials, which look to some outsiders like unilateral political reprisals
unbefitting a democratic state. But consider this: Ivanishvili has not murdered
anyone, as Saakashvili's interior ministry did Sandro Girgvliani, in 2006. He
has not tortured or raped anyone, as was shown to be a
regular practice in Georgian jails under Saakashvili. He has not
confiscated property from anyone without legal warrant. He has not blackmailed
anyone. not kidnapped anyone, and not planted drugs on anyone. The new prime minister
has not attacked peaceful demonstrators, as Saakashvili did November 2007, or
sent riot police to beat independent television journalists and their equipment.
He hasn't seized broadcasting stations
from their owners, like Saakashvili did, by pseudo-legal maneuvers. Ivanishvili
never ordered an 11-month campaign to crush his electoral opposition, a move by
Saakashvili that involved cyberspying on the old prime minister's enemies and slapping
them with $125 million in fines. Rather, Ivanishvili was the victim of
these "dirty tricks," to use the language of the Post.
It looks like the world is using a double standard -- judging a new,
democratically elected government more harshly than the hardened human rights
violator Georgians just replaced.
In fact, viewed
government has actually begun with a naive desire to do things the Western
democratic way. Arrests have been accompanied by the reading of rights, the calling
of lawyers, and the posting of testimony
-- procedural standards that had been previously omitted. It used to be that Saakashvili
insisted all public employees work for his party, down to village
schoolteachers. The new Georgian Dream government is allowing officials below the
deputy-minister level to remain, even though many are probably still loyal to
the old government. Ivanishvili vowed to clean up government and leave in 18 months,
and Georgian Dream dismissed its army of well-paid lobbyists soon after forming
a government. Saakashvili never did the same, and his lobbyists are responsible
for much of the current tempest.
Having lost the election, Saakashvili and the National
Movement party have found a new battleground: international public opinion. Blackening
the outside reputation of Georgia's legitimately elected government, they hope,
will lay the basis for defeating the government from inside the country.