Trouble in Tbilisi

Trouble in Tbilisi

Mini Teaser: Liberty and security are hard to combine. Georgians risk losing both.

by Author(s): Whit Mason

But what constitutes real reform? Beating crime once and for all? Or merely replacing one criminal elite with another? This question gains particular urgency in light of Georgia declaring itself a model for newly democratized Ukraine--itself coping with questions of official corruption. Given President Bush's second-inaugural pledge to promote liberty around the world, it is important to assess whether liberty can be promoted against fierce opposition without betraying the very values it purports to advance. Now that the Rose Revolution has faded, Georgia reminds us that the best intentions in the world can't dismiss such hard questions.

Georgia's Prime minister, Zurab Zhvania, was found dead on February 3, 2005. Though many Georgians are skeptical about the official cause of death--carbon monoxide poisoning due to a faulty heater--a team sent by the FBI has confirmed this preliminary conclusion. "The system of government of Georgia was specifically (and hastily) designed for Zura and Misha to rule", says Mark Mullen, the head of Transparency International Georgia. "With the great and sad loss of Zura, some might say it doesn't make much sense anymore."

Even before Zhvania's death, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had criticized the constitution for concentrating too much power in the hands of the president. Without Zhvania, Saakashvili has become even more powerful. There are also concerns about his proposals to allow judges on the Supreme Court to serve two terms and to give the exclusive right to nominate them to--you guessed it--the president.

Essay Types: Essay