Under any circumstance a flawed election can be an uncharacteristic setback in democracy. The amount of democratic electoral systems around the world attempt to maintain equity between mathematical fairness, and political deliberations like accountability and the urge for a stable and powerful government. However, if electoral systems are partial then social movements can arise due to the limited control and representation that citizens have.
Georgia certainly has had a convoluted relationship with democracy and a difficult balancing act with embracing democracy and rejecting it. Charles Tilly’s framework of democracy can be applied to Georgia’s democratic incompletion. Tilly focuses on the evolving process of democratization that creates multifaceted and reversible paths to democracy, which he defines as the “broad, equal, protected, binding consultation of citizens with respect to state actions.”
In addition to this claim, according to Tilly democratization is sparked by variations in three keys areas including trust networks, categorical inequality, and autonomous power centers. In Tilly’s mind democratization is not linear and in fact irreversible and can run the risk of reversal or what he calls de-democratization. De-democratization can even frequent well-developed democratic countries because of the impacts of popular protest and foreign invasions. If one considers the four dimensions of democracy that Tilly offers including breadth, equality, protection, and a mutually binding consultation then Georgia during the moments of resistance, democratic incompletion, and corruption does not align with these dimensions. In short, there is a complete disproportionate relationship between Georgia and its citizens.
Electoral systems are crucial for the survival of a properly functioning democracy. In Georgia and mot Post-Soviet countries, corruption and authoritarianism was an unavoidable component of the Soviet legacy. Now, Georgia has a mixed voting system with 77 members of parliament members elected through proportional party lists. Proportional representation has its own mathematical folds, as there is simply no way to allocate a whole number of seats in exact proportion to a larger population. Additionally, in this system even if a particular party does not have the support of the majority voters can still win a majority in the parliament and this was evident during the 2016 Georgian elections. Due to this imbalance, the mixed electoral is clearly insufficient and weakening Georgia’s chance for democracy and functional governance. The lack of positive incline and heightened internal tensions in Georgia could potentially create the space for increased Russian meddling in the country and throughout the region. Additionally, Georgian government’s decision to prevent change clearly indicates an incomplete democracy from Georgia’s promises to mold the institutions of their government.
Georgia (who once successfully embraced the idea of democracy) continues to struggle with corrupt presidential elections, violence against protestors, and manipulations from a covert billionaire that leads the Georgian Dream Party. The Dream Party has overwrought public confidence that exacerbated public protests and resistance from the top down framework. However, in 2003, Georgia made promising progress during the Rose Revolution (a peaceful uprising), which enhanced democratic traction until last year where democratic momentum came to a halt. While the protestor’s temerity should be applauded, the Parliament fails to uphold its unwavering commitment to electoral reform as the government’s violent suppression of peaceful protests prevails.
A staggering majority of Georgians (60%) believes that the government is performing poorly. The government’s violent suppression of the peaceful protests is a violation of Georgians’ democratic rights and the government’s duty to protect its citizens. In 2019, the Interior Ministry used lopsided force such as rubber bullets against those who protested the government and left hundreds of citizens hospitalized. The street protests clearly reflect a surge of a widened gap between the powerful and the people, and dissatisfaction. Historically, protests similar to the ones in Georgia, has often lead to widespread convulsions. Leaders in Georgia have to look for a way through with their ongoing reputation as a bad parliament with a corrupt prime minister and president. Proper discourse with the political opposition and civil society is needed combined with more transparency and better government. As long as the government continues to use unnecessary force, and the economy does not grow to benefit the people, then people will remain taking the streets.
A majority of Georgians are undecided when it comes to the next elections (October 2020) and with a full transition to a proportional system with no clear threshold, the elections will most likely increase in the amount of political parties competing for support to enter parliament. In order to earn citizen support, political parties must distinguish their policy platforms by providing competing solutions that will show that citizens are at the core of priorities or the optimism of democracy in Georgia will be limited. But will this be enough to reduce the risk of Georgia declining towards a bigoted political system?