Pine Cones & Pipe Dreams: Ogden on the Election Apathy


I part from the United National Movement party’s rally yesterday, the aggressive enthusiasm Georgians expressed in prior elections has not been overly evident; the general behavior of the populace does not compare to the previous general election of 2012, which saw people riding around in cars, honking horns (although admittedly this is a staple part of everyday Georgian life; the difference was they had Georgian Dream flags streaming from their vehicles back then), arguing and even fighting with family and friends, and screaming ‘Bidzina!’ in the same way that Stanley Kowalski once called for Stella (or how Rocky shouted for Adrian, depending on your dramatic tastes).

This general apathy assures me that Georgian democracy finally resembles politics almost everywhere else, in that the choice is between bad and worse: just look at the candidates for the upcoming US elections; since everything this year has gone wrong – Alan Rickman and David Bowie dying, Brexit, and Kell Brook getting knocked out by Gennady Golovkin – I say vote for Trump, and let’s all go out with a bang.

The fanatical enthusiasm of the Georgian people has taken a few hard hits over the last four years. The United National Movement is not united, Georgian Dream’s promises of utopia have indeed been revealed to be just dreams, and Burchuladze’s State for People is detested by the people of the state it hopes to run. Girchi is a pinecone. Make of that what you will.

The irony is, however, that now of all times, Georgians cannot afford to be apathetic.

It doesn’t really matter if Theresa May or David Cameron is Prime Minister of the UK; nor, despite what people might think, will it make too much difference if Hillary Clinton replaces Barack Obama as President of the United States. Even when a government transitions, whether it be from Labor to Conservative or Republican to Democrat, the changes – while important – remain intangible for most of the population (even Brexit, with all the doom-laden possibilities that came with it, has not changed much yet, and predictions indicate that for the UK, life will go on more or less as normal). Westerners are as apathetic towards politics as Georgians are fast becoming, but Europeans and Americans can afford to be; their countries are developed, their borders remain safe (except from terrorists).

I am not suggesting that Georgians return to the fire-and-brimstone denunciations of one politician and the praise of another. What I want to see is accountability, flavored with just a little common sense. Whoever wins the elections, Georgia loses. If the UNM win, Saakashvili will return, and while I have the utmost respect for his achievements in dragging Georgia into the 21st century, it would be both undemocratic and tragic if Georgia has to resort to a king figure to lead the country because nobody else managed to do a decent job.

If Georgian Dream win again, the country will continue to be under the influence of a man who claims to have no active role in politics, but still tours the country encouraging the population to vote for the party which he started, and who attends party conferences as the keynote speaker. This is the same party who put a footballer into the post of Minister of Energy and replaced the Prime Minister three times in four years.

The Free Democrats, while arguably one of the best of a bad bunch, have a leader who has always made sure he is on the winning side and whose decisions have come as a result of pressure rather than initiative; I still maintain the FD party would get my vote if they could get rid of Irakli Alasania.

If Burchuladze pulls off a miracle and wins, then Georgia will be governed by an opera singer with no political experience and with such poor grasp of finance that just yesterday his party was forcibly ejected from their offices for not paying the rent.

As I recall writing a few weeks ago, the eyes of the world are on Georgia, but the world has been treated to spectacles of televized violence, a shooting in Gori, and a car-bomb in Tbilisi. Georgia stands on the cusp of visa liberalization with the EU, but its politicians continue to embarrass the country.

I’ve heard it said that every country has the government that it deserves. Somehow, no viable alternatives to the poor choices on offer this weekend have emerged over the last four years, and the apathy of the Georgian people is to blame. Bidzina still pulls the strings, Saakashvili still shouts from his new kingdom in Ukraine, and Alasania whines about the government without describing what he would do differently.

I hope the next four years will change things. I hope that Georgian people will not blindly follow politicians as they once did, or treat every wild accusation as a proven truth, but I also hope they find something – or someone – with an ounce of sense who can exalt Georgian politics to where it needs to be. Cynicism is healthy; apathy is a cancer.

Tim Ogden

06 October 2016 20:46