Georgia - Free & Fair elections? Ignoring the means and legitimising the ends?

Well the Georgian people have spoken and President Saakashvili’s party are now in the minority.

I am neither surprised given the grievous and disgusting material to emerge from a Georgian prison,  nor sorry status quo in Georgia has been broken.  Whilst that may - or may not - prove disastrous for Georgia in the short term, lasting democracy is only ever built on the regular peaceful changing of government by public mandate when all is said and done.  To quote Aristotle - “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Not yet a habit, but at least an encouraging act.  Many bumps in the road ahead are undoubtedly waiting to be discovered.

Undoubtedly to get the result that we got, voting on election day was for the most part free.

However, the election campaigning itself was certainly not fair and I hope that it is not tidily swept under the carpet in view of the result few expected until the prison video scandal broke.

In fact, in all likelihood, had it not been for the aforementioned video galvanizing the Georgian public and returning the result they had, I strongly suspect the elections would have been deemed neither free nor fair by the international observers.

Certainly there are key areas that OSCE have already highlighted since the voting results have been given that remain cause for serious concern and would underline my suspicion that had the result been different, the Georgian elections would not have been deemed free or fair.

In short, the result meant that voting day was free only - but fair, the campaigning certainly was not.  Hardly a stunning success for the EU’s lackluster EaP, although we can expect the result to be somehow spun by the EU as some form of EaP policy win no matter how hollow such statements would be.

Ergo, once the knee-jerk international and domestic media furore calms down, ultimately we are left with a process that was not fair by international standards - despite those obviously discriminated against emerging victorious thanks to the prison scandal breaking so close to election day as it did.

The ends, were not supported by the means, and as a policy man (rather than a political man), process, and therefore the means, are critically important - as such Georgia failed its latest democratic test to quite a large degree despite the eventual outcome and thus far peaceful handing over of power.

The question is whether the western political class will remain tireless in their dogma and still criticise the process - or not - given the eventual result?

We will have to wait and see, as for now they will be very busy trying to work out who’s who, what’s what and ultimately how it effects their national interests throughout the multi-layered onion that is international relations.

(As an aside - Anybody fancy a bet on a mysterious video nasty suddenly appearing a few days before the Ukrainian election and such a bandwagon being jumped upon by an increasingly desperate United Opposition in an effort to repeat the Georgian experience?).

In the meantime, despite any problems that may lay in wait for Georgia in the short term, this does seem a positive, and much needed step as far as the peaceful handing over of power goes.  Under the microscope though, Georgia is still yet to hold a genuinely free and fair election campaign.