Annals of Western Hypocrisy – Georgia Presidential Elections 2008

Saakashvili wins Georgian elections in first round (January 6th)

TBILISI, Georgia: Georgia’s American-allied president won re-election over the weekend and avoided a runoff election in this small former Soviet state by a margin of 1 percent of the vote, according to official results released Sunday.

The main opposition candidate, Levan Gachechiladze, did not concede the election and on Sunday he claimed that fraud had tainted the results. He called for street protests, threatening a muddy the outcome.

The campaign organization of Saakashvili, a U.S.-educated leader close to the Bush administration, had already claimed victory on the basis of on exit polling during the election Saturday. International observers called the vote free “in essence” but cited violations.

This normally wouldn’t matter much, but bearing in mind the narrowness of Saakashvili’s final score (52.21 as of 8 Jan) this can be significant.

The perception of the fairness of the vote was important because the Bush administration has cited Saakashvili’s government as an example of democratic success in a region where that has been scarce.

The country is important to the United States as an ally in the Iraq war. Georgia has deployed 2,000 soldiers in Iraq and is the third-largest contributor of troops there, after only the United States and Britain.

Saakashvili, 40, a graduate of Columbia University, had about one year left in his five-year term, but he called the election early in hopes of winning a new mandate to govern after he ordered a police crackdown on protests and declared a state of emergency Nov. 7. In the dispersing of demonstrators, more than 500 people were wounded, none fatally.

Immediately after authorities shut down Imedi, the main opposition TV channel.

Gachechiladze said Sunday that a second round of voting should be held and called for indefinite street protests to contest the results, if his concerns were not addressed. The turnout was modest and peaceful at a protest Sunday on a snowy square in the city and dispersed by early afternoon on a major holiday in
Georgia. Christmas eve on the Orthodox Christian calendar.

“We have won despite pressure, despite intimidation, despite televised terror exerted against us,” Gachechiladze said at the rally of several thousand people.

A statement by the observer mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe called the vote “in essence consistent with most OSCE and Council of Europe commitments and standards for democratic elections.” But it noted violations.

At a news conference in Tbilisi on Sunday, Alcee Hastings, a Democratic congressman from Florida (they’d know all about violations) and coordinator of the agency’s mission, declined to say whether the violations had been significant enough to upset Saakashvili’s margin, noting that the vote count was still incomplete.

Observers recorded apparent cases of the same individual’s voting more than once at 12 polling stations, according to the statement, and noted that in 3 percent of precincts visited the ballot boxes had notbeen properly sealed.

Giorgi Kandelaki, a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, said in response to the report: “To our knowledge, there were very few violations that could be regarded as serious.”

Now for some analysis.

1) Whether or not there was fraud, the opposition are a bunch of idiots. Their only hope was to unite around one candidate and they failed to do that.

2) It is doubtful whether this opposition, even if it had somehow made its way to power, would have been any more favorably disposed towards Russia. Badri Patarkatsishvili is wanted for corruption in Russia and Irakli Okruashvili has threatened to use force to re-establish Georgian control over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, both of whose populations overwhelmingly support independence.

3) In fact the main policy difference between Saakashvilli and opposition is that economically, Saakashvilli is a pro-growth neo-liberal while the opposition wants more investment into social services.

4) So Saakashvilli’s claims that the opposition is materially supported by Russia is highly suspect and aimed at a Western audience (infowar). Russia’s only interest here is to stir up instability. If that’s the case, it has been mildly successful and helped in its endevour above all by Saakashvili himself.

5) It is interesting to compare OSCE’s and Council of Europe’s treatment of the Russian 2007 parliamentary elections and Georgian 2008 presidential elections. The main complaint – the media environment – was exactly the same. (With the closure and taming of Imedi, the media environment in Georgia was heavily pro-gov’t). Furthermore, the only real complaint they made with Georgia, that Saakashvili’s political power and campaign overlapped, is exactly the same as the complaints about United Russia’s usage of ‘administrative resources’ to influence the election.

6) Saakashvili’s governing style is semi-authoritarian, like Putin’s. Only one of them gets intensely criticized by the West for it, though, illustrating their hypocrisy and double standards. This is, however, a digression and a topic for a future post.

7) The election coincided with a referendum. 61% of Georgians voted in favor of joining NATO and 18% were against. I will venture a guess that Georgia will be in by 2010 (Saakashvilli and the opposition are united on this), provided that:
a) election irregularities turn out to be very minor or are successfully concealed.
b) the country maintains a basic democratic tradition (i.e. no coups or magnoliophytic revolutions).
c) they don’t do something stupid, like invading S. Ossetia on their own.
d) we see the chances of an open Russian intervention as very slim – how that will go is beyond us.

Some more goodies…

Georgia opposition abandons street protests for the courts

The coalition backing Levan Gachechiladze, the principal opposition candidate, said that they had uncovered violations that invalidated up to 100,000 votes, more than the margin of Mr Saakashvili’s first-round victory.

Recall that the Central Election Commission gave Saakashvili 52.21%. Now 2.21% of the 1,912,943 voters is 42,300. (All figures from the Central Election Committee). If the above is true, and assuming most of the violations were pro-government (a fair assumption given these reports), then Saakashvili’s lead could have been exaggerated by as much as 5% – which would mean a runoff. The figure is also quite similar to that of Ukraine in 2004, with Yanukovich’s fraudulent win over Yushenko.

Georgia opposition seeks to overturn election result

Party officials told The Times that they had uncovered many discrepancies between vote protocols submitted to the Central Election Commission (CEC) from Georgia’s 3,511 electoral precincts and records collected by their own monitors.

Kakha Kukava, a member of parliament with the Conservative Party of Georgia, which backs Mr Gachechiladze, showed two examples where numbers had been altered to increase Mr Saakashvili’s total and reduce those of his rival.

A bundle of 200 ballot papers — all in favour of Mr Saakashvili and stamped with an official seal — were in a plastic bag on his table. Mr Kukava said that a supporter of Mr Saakashvili had been prevented from stuffing them into a ballot box at a precinct in western Georgia.

The claims were impossible to verify but they indicated the depth of opposition hostility towards Mr Saakashvili. Mr Gachechiladze has refused to admit defeat despite appeals from international monitors for all sides to respect the result of Saturday’s election.

If the West likes the result (Saakashvili wins), elections should be recognized. If the West doesn’t like the result and there were violations (Ukraine 2004, Shevardnadze 2003), elections shouldn’t be recognized. If the West doesn’t like the result and there were no violations (Putin, Chavez, Hamas), huff and puff a lot, then grudgingly recognize. (But not in the case of Hamas – that’s going way, WAY, too far!). If the West likes the result, but there were egregious violations (Nazarbayev, Aliyev), to hell with democracy anyway! That just about sums it all up.

“We want a second round of voting and we will stay on the streets until we get it. The protests will only grow bigger if our demands are ignored,” Mr Kukava said.

Mr Saakashvili called the early election to restore his credibilty after international protests at his use of riot police, firing teargas and rubber bullets, to break up opposition demonstrations in November.

He struck a conciliatory tone today (don’t they all?) and sought to play down political divisions, saying that he would seek to build consensus with the opposition. “In any normal European country if somebody gets more than 50 per cent outright in the first round, it is called a landslide and I don’t see why Georgia should be otherwise,” he said.

Except that you got more than 50% by one or two % – if at all.

The CEC said that it had received complaints about procedures at 70 precincts but that only 10 had been found to involve serious violations. Political parties were entitled to ask the courts to order a recount in any disputed precinct.

A watchdog group, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, said that it had filed 230 complaints and called on the CEC to invalidate results from 30 polling stations. However, the group, which fielded 400 election observers, said that there were no mass violations and that the election “was held properly and is valid”.

That is 0.85% of all polling stations, by the way. And possibly the tip of the iceberg.

International observers reached broadly the same conclusion. Alcee Hastings, a US congressman, who led monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, declared the election a “triumphant step” for democracy in Georgia.

The European Union was more circumspect. Javier Solana, its foreign policy chief, congratulated Georgians for “the peaceful conduct of truly competitive presidential elections” but urged a full investigation into all allegations of irregularities and made no mention of Mr Saakashvili.

Mr Gachechiladze’s side claimed that he had won about 36 per cent compared with 43 per cent for Mr Saakashvili. Its tallies covered only about a third of districts so far, however.

Mr Gachechiladze beat Mr Saakashvili easily in the capital, Tbilisi, a reflection of public outrage at the police violence in November. Final results will be confirmed on January 13, but Mr Saakashvili was confident enough of victory to invite his close ally Yulia Tymoshenko, the Ukrainian Prime Minister, to his inauguration on January 20.

…but Mr Yanukovich was confident enough of victory to invite his close ally Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, to his inauguration… The Orange Revolution happened a few days later.


  1. Hi, in my opinion America’s interference in the affairs of FSU / Communist Bloc states is quickly coming to end, with Latvia and Hungary being the two most recent states to abandon hopeless Washington (I believe this happened during 2007).Estonia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, and Georgia are now isolated. They are loosing A LOT by remaining hostile and instigating Russia because Russia rules right now economically; one of the fastest growing consumer markets, a thriving middle class, and [most importantly] sustainable economic and financial foundations (unlike the USA, Russia’s economy is not built on sub-prime debt and a fiat currency).Additionally, Russian companies do not have a history of exploitation, corruption, and savage capitalism (like your Exxon’s, Shell’s, BP’s, etc. who have basically raped the Third World). They are becoming much more welcomed than their western counterparts for oil contracts, infrastructure projects, etc. including in Eastern Europe.Anyway, nice blog. The situation in Georgia is lamentable, yes. But we all know that Russia’s strong again and that it won’t need to compromise with this hostile puppet state. If the Georgian side has really changed and wants to cooperate with Moscow, fine, it will be treated normally, but Russia’s principled positions on Georgian issues will remain as they are today and this includes keeping unsanitary food imports from Georgia out and disapproving the settlement of Georgia’s territorial problems through violent means.And the events in Georgia also show how hypocritical the west is with Russia. Just more proof.

  2. Thank you for your interest, colleen. Do visit again – we appreciate contributions from readers.I see you’ve got an excellent compendium of Russia-related stories on your two blogs. I’ll link to it, if you don’t mind.

  3. Pēteris Cedriņš says:

    Interesting blog, Stalker. Thank you for linking to mine. Re Colleen’s belief that Latvia abandoned Washington in 2007 — fortunately, that’s far from true. Though there certainly were some events to delight a certain type of “Russophile” (e.g., the conclusion of the Border Agreement with its implicit legitimization of Russia’s theft of Abrene/Pytalovo, a delay in the parliamentary resolution supporting Estonia when Russia threatened it, and an incident of censorship in Latvia during the Russian Duma elections), Riga and Washington remain close partners and no abandonment is taking place. Latvia strongly supports Georgia’s NATO bid, for example. The number of Latvia’s troops in ISAF in Afghanistan is rising. The resolution supporting Estonia was passed, and the gentleman responsible for the Russian-style censorship last month was forced to resign. If there was friction between Latvia and the US last year, it was primarily because of the previous Latvian Government’s attempts to introduce ill-considered security legislation and to remove the head of the anti-corruption agency. These moves, apparently directed by the oligarchs who influence the main coalition parties, were criticized by the US Ambassador. There were demonstrations — “the Umbrella Revolution” — by those who do not want to see a mini “managed democracy” here. The Government fell. The Baltic states have not been hostile to Russia — it’s the other way around. Apparently, Colleen defines “hostility” as not doing the Kremlin’s bidding. As to Russian companies not having a history of exploitation — that’s darkly funny indeed. Half of the indigenous population in Russia’s Arctic regions perished ca. 1989-2004, for example.

  4. @ Peteris,Thank you for linking Marginalia to my blog too. This blog needs it more than yours, so far (because its new and unknown).Personally, we certainly don’t see the events in Latvia this year as a reorientation in that country’s foreign policy alignments (in contrast, say, to Uzbekistan, which underwent a real shift from the American to the Russian axis in 2006).Rather, we see it as the appearance of pragmatism in Latvian foreign policy, thus joining the ranks of countries like Hungary and Slovakia. We think there are 4 kinds of country in the European Union. Russophilic (Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria), pragmatically positive (Italy, Germany, France), pragmatically negative (UK, Sweden) and Russophobic (Estonia, Poland under Kachinsky). What colleen is referring to is merely the shift of Latvia from the Russophobic to the pragmatically negative camp.If colleen defines being hostile to Russia as disobeying the Kremlin, then you must define Russian hostility as unwillingness to be dictated to by Washington after a disastrous decade of doing so and refusal to apologize every day to governments which repress their minorities in a fully neo-Soviet manner.Actually, you’ve given me an idea for a future Editorial: Annals of Russophobic Fascism: Repression of Russophones in the Baltics. (With special focus on Latvia). Thanks. :)Please substantiate your allegations – “half of the indigenous population in Russia’s Arctic regions perished ca. 1989-2004”. This seems like an accusation of genocide.According to data from the Russian 2002 Census (, from 1989-2002, this is how the population of major (5,000+) Arctic ethnicities changed, in thousands:Veps – 12.1 to 8.2Dolgans – 6.6 to 7.3Koryaks – 8.9 to 8.7Mansi – 8.3 to 11.4Nanajs – 11.9 to 12.2Nents – 34.2 to 41.3Nikhvs – 4.6 to 5.2Khants – 22.3 to 28.7Chukchi – 15.1 to 15.8Shors – 15.7 to 14.0Evenks – 29.9 to 35.5Evens – 17.1 to 19.1Total – 186.7 to 207.4 – an increase of 11%.Meanwhile, Russians declined from 119.9mn to 115.9mn – a decrease of more than 3%. In other words, relative to Russians the Arctic peoples increased by 15%.As for Russian (and Chinese) companies, you will indeed notice that they are currently very successful in scooping up contracts in the developing countries. Mostly because they don’t set neo-imperialistic political conditions for investment and bring other goodies to the table (like the recent news of Gazprom offering to built up Nigeria’s electricity grid in exchange for developing their gas deposits).

  5. Pēteris Cedriņš says:

    If Colleen wanted to say that — she should have said that. Latvia’s foreign policy has always been pragmatic; unlike the other Baltic leaders, former President Vīķe-Freiberga attended the anniversary “Victory Day” celebration in Moscow, for example. The Border Agreement that was finally concluded was actually drafted about a decade ago. My source on the Arctic is Donald Rayfield’s Stalin and His Hangmen (Viking, 2004, p. 457). — and he does term it genocide.I’m afraid I haven’t time to comment on the rest of your response in detail at this time — but I’m also not sure that doing so would be worthwhile, since you so like to bandy about silly terms like “Russophobic Fascism” and even “eSStonia” (Estonia has one “s,” by the way, unlike ruSSia…).I linked to your blog because I’ve long been disturbed by the nastier aspects of La Russophobe, which I had reluctantly linked to because Kim does provide a lot of valuable information between cheap shots. Trying to balance the nasty with the nasty is probably a bad idea, though.

  6. We’d have rather Vike-Freiberga not attended. We don’t need anybody demanding apologies for occupation and saying about our veterans, as she did, “Of course, we shall not be able to persuade or change the consciousness of elderly Russians who on May 9 will place dried Caspian roach on newspaper sheets, drink vodka, sing limericks and remember how they heroically conquered he Baltic countries”, particularly not on May 9th.But we concede. Latvia’s foreign policy was mostly pragmatic these 15 years, just very negatively so rather than irrational. Perhaps 2007 could be described as a hint of warming?OK, we’ve read a review on Stalin and his Hangmen. While we can’t comment authoritatively without reading the book itself, the last section (about modern Russia) sounds bizarre to say the least, with its implication that the country is returning to the era of Stalinist repressions.Nonetheless, to the point – the Arctic peoples. The claim that there’s a genocide that has killed half of them is absurd. Where are the Western news reports about this? They’d jump with secret joy at rumors of any such thing if Russia is involved.My own stats, which I have quoted and linked, indicate that their populations have increased by around 10-15% from 1989 to 2002.Perhaps Rayfield meant ‘cultural genocide’? Well, that reflects a general world pattern of indigenous societies collapsing (increasing rapidly in numbers, but losing their language and suffering from alcoholism/unemployment/etc) under the strain of contact with advanced industrial societies. The same phenomenom can be observed in countries like Australia and the US, where aboriginals have much lower socio-economic indicators than the majority population. Sad, but there’s nothing much one can do about that. Ironically enough, in this particular respect the USSR was less “genocidal” than Russia, in that then these indigenous peoples received state subsidies for their way of life.We stand by our decision to write eSStonia. (As a concession though, we won’t indulge in this again). Linguistic discrimination against Russophones is a well known fact documented by respected HR organizations like Amnesty International. Reading their report might do you some good. of thousands of Estonians served in the Waffen SS, not only in fighting but in “punitive expeditions” not only in Estonia itself but in Belarus and Poland. Nonetheless, they have no problems with putting up SS monuments and holding SS rallies. OK, whatever. Freedom of expression and all that. What is inexcusable is that they don’t extend those same rights to Red Army veterans, who in contrast to other non-citizens of Estonia, have no right to vote even in elections of the local bodies of power and don’t have social privileges enjoyed by other inhabitants of the country.Calling it eSStonia and Russophobic Fascism might be going too far in rhetoric, but it is no different from the various labels of fascism (as the Economist did), Stalinism and nationalism that are hurled at Russia everyday – and not only by bloggers like ourselves, but big respected media outlets. Furthermore, following your/Rayfield’s example, we can also call what Estonia does “genocide”, if we use use the same half-assed defition of genocide that Rayfield uses to describe the situation of Arctic peoples. In fact, its worse – unlike Estonia, Russia has no government policy of oppressing ethnic minorities.It is our impression that even La Russophobe’s “valuable information between cheap shots” is frequently suspect, because of its propensity to only ever look at bad trends, focus only on the worse part of those trends, and dismiss everything else with an infuriatingly smug arrogance.While we admit that we are slanted pro-Russia, we have a) made the fact clear – in contrast to LR, which pretends to be objective, b) we still lay out both sides of an argument and c) justified it by the need to provide an antithesis to the prevailing thesis that Russia is going in a bad direction, so as to allow the reader to reach a balanced synthesis. Frankly the market for “evil Russia” analysis is so saturated that we see little point in entering it.We are quite disappointed really, that you would equate us with La Russophobe. While we can sometimes get involved in heated rhetoric, most of what we say is sourced to documents or news reports on the Web. Furthermore, we allow free discussion on our posts (unlike LR, who filters them and rejects those who rebut her), use logic when debating with contributors and have a policy of ‘no first use’ as far as ad hominems are concerned. Become a Russophile for a day and see how just how far that approach takes you with LR. No matter how logical or well-sourced your comment is on a post of hers, you’ll be flamed as a ‘Russophile moronic scumbag’ (or similar) – that is, if she even publishes you.

  7. Pēteris Cedriņš says:

    I again don’t have time to answer in detail, and this is anyway drifting into too many subjects (as much my fault as yours) — but I will post two links that address two of the issues you raise.“Estonia and Amnesty,” by Edward Lucas“Indigenous Peoples in Russia Losing Ground”

  8. Edward Lucas is a Russophobe propagandist who dismisses the Amnesty International report out of hand without even quoting, let alone attempting to refute it. I will extend the same honor to his agitprop.The Arctic people’s site simply repeats what is global and well known – that modernization trumps traditional life-style, and drive its practitioners either a) into the dominant ethnic groups or b) into reservations with ghastle socio-economic indicators supported by the government. While sad, I fail to see how the process is qualitatively different from what went on and goes on in Canada, the US or Australia.