David Mdzinarishvili / REUTERS Georgian soldiers at a military base near Tbilisi, December 2014. 

Georgia's Western Turn

The Elections and After

Democracy has been in retreat across Eurasia in recent years, and in many countries, the lure of Western political models has faded. But Georgia has been an exception. Over the past four years, the country’s media and civil society have flourished and the government has pursued a robust program of reforms. Tbilisi’s pro-Western policies—from its signing of an association agreement with the European Union to its aspiration to join NATO—enjoy solid support from Georgian citizens and the backing of the country’s major political parties.

Georgia’s current stability and pro-Western stance were hardly inevitable. Two decades ago, as Tbilisi dealt with ethnic strife, civil war, and economic collapse, many observers believed Georgia was on the verge of becoming a failed state and a haven for organized crime and terrorist groups. Nor are Georgia’s political gains irreversible. Russia sees Georgia's tilt  to the West as a threat. And although Georgian politics has matured considerably in the last two decades, personality, rather than policy, is still a major determinant of Georgians’ electoral choices.

The country’s parliamentary elections on October 8 will determine whether the democratic trajectory of the past few years will continue. In all likelihood, the new parliament will press forward on its current path after October. Georgia's Western partners should welcome that outcome. For its part, Georgia needs to press forward with its economic and political reforms.

At a polling station in Tbilisi, May 2008.

At a polling station in Tbilisi, May 2008.

FROM TURBULENCE TO TRANQUILITY

Since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Georgia has seen civil war, secessions, war with Russia, and political turmoil. The country’s leadership swung from the loose grip of President Eduard Shevardnadze to the often-heavy-handed style of his successor, Mikheil Saakashvili. Saakashvili's United National Movement was widely credited with shaking up the political scene after coming to power in 2003, but rode roughshod over Georgians’ rights in the years that followed.

The turbulence ended with the 2012 parliamentary elections, when the Georgian Dream, a centrist coalition

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