Saakashvili Gets 2nd Chance In Georgia
Georgians began voting in an election on Saturday that President Mikhail Saakashvili is likely to win but surveys differ on whether his victory will be big enough to avoid a second round.Saakashvili have been making conciliatory noises and talking the populist talk after the Georgian economy faltered. Promises of better financial times paid off for him in this election ... now, if he does indeed become president, he's going to have to deliver.
Saakashvili, who swept to power in a peaceful revolution in 2003, needs to prove his commitment to democracy after shocking Western allies by violently crushing anti-government street protests in November. The West will watch the vote for fairness.
Georgia, stuck in the middle of a triange formed by an increasingly consternating Russia, all the nastiness that is Iran, and Turkey is about as strategically located as a country can be, so having an ally, a member of NATO, there would be a foreign policy coup. It all looked to be on track until Saakashvili, who swept into power as a reformer following an anti-Soviet revolution, started behaving like a little Putin.
Perhaps he's truly humbled and ready to embrace free markets and freedoms. Perhaps he'll end up losing to the next guy in the reformer line, Levan Gachechiladze, will end up with the win.
Or perhaps it will all crumble into a messy heap, like so many of our hopes for the post-Soviet era.