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Trump’s Populism & its Impact on Liberalism in Georgia

Liberalism, says Fukuyama, is the “end point of Mankind’s ideological evolution” and the “final form of human government,” as it has no serious ideological competitor after the demise of the communist Soviet Union. Over the years, liberalism and democratic values have gained numerous followers in various countries- including post-Soviet Georgia and Ukraine. The global expansion of this political philosophy has been deemed as arguably successful. For some, democratization is a blessing; others see it as a Western instrument undermining the state’s sovereignty, yet both sides anticipate complications after the recent election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States.

With the recent US elections and the surprising victory of Donald J. Trump, academics as well as international media organizations have debated the upcoming collapse of the liberal world order specifically because of President Trump’s controversial statements during his election campaign. The demonstrated Populism by a newly elected leader of the Free World has sparked fears in Europe as it created ground for European Populist politicians such as Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders. Similarly, Trump’s announced American non-interventionist policy generated anxiety in newly democratized countries such as Georgia and Ukraine, as their key ally planned to leave them to face regional instabilities caused by Putin’s policies.

What implications can Trump’s populism have on newly democratized countries such as Georgia? Does it threaten democracy and the process of Westernization? Populism itself is a political doctrine that proposes that the common people are exploited by a privileged elite, and which seeks to resolve this. It is important to note that the ideology of populists can be left, right or center. Statistically, the general electorate of the political elites consists of relatively young urban citizenry, while the electorate of the populist politicians tends to be rather more senior from a rural background. The example and the outcome of Brexit also acts as an indicator of the correlation between age and populism.

In case of Georgia, the appearance of populist doctrine in the US should be perceived as a warning. While young people aged 10-24 make up only 19 percent of country’s population, nearly half of the population lives in rural areas, and as long as the economic situation remains unstable, Georgia might face populist politicians in the near future. To avoid this, it is crucial for the government to focus on addressing challenges related to further economic development and invest in education- especially in the rural regions of the country.

Despite the fact that Trump’s non-interventionist policy might act as an impetus for increasing Kremlin’s influence, Georgia remains deeply embedded within the core liberal principles as the country strives towards European integration. The decision of the European Union in regards to the long-awaited visa liberalization for Georgian citizens should be valued as a retribution and a well-thought manoeuvre against Moscow’s intentions to weaken liberal traditions in Georgia.

Zurab Khutsianidze

20 March 2017 17:45