Tbilisi’s protests and the Georgian Dream Political paradox

By Lincoln Mitchell

The protests and political drama that have engulfed Tbilisi over last week or so has highlighted all of the flaws of Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream party (GD). While the image of a pro-Kremlin Russian parliamentarian holding court in Georgia’s legislature was to many Georgians a troubling symbol, that event, and the political outrage it evoked, is less emblematic of Russian sway as much as a reminder of Georgia’s fraught and paradoxical political balancing act.

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EDSN 2019 Conference on Democracy and Security

June 3, 2019

09:00-17:00

Holiday Inn Tbilisi

Join the Center for Social Sciences and the Eurasia Democratic Security Network (EDSN) for its 2019 conference on democracy and security in Eastern Europe and Eurasia.

Featuring a slate of distinguished speakers — including the 2018-19 cohort of EDSN fellows, prominent guest speakers, and invited experts — the 2019 conference will explore and articulate the linkages between democracy and security, with a particular emphasis on the practical policy issues in the broader Eurasia region and the wider world.

Panelists include:

  • Amb. Carl Hartzell, EU Ambassador to Georgia
  • Dr. Rosaria Puglisi, NATO Liaison Office in Georgia
  • Elizabeth Rood, Charges D’Affaires, U.S. Embassy Georgia
  • Dr. Maryna Vorotnyuk (EDSN Fellow and Central European University)
  • Dr. Kornely Kakachia (TSU and Georgian Institute of Politics)
  • Mihai Popsoi (EDSN Fellow and MP, Parliament of Moldova)
  • Dr. Giorgi Khelashvili (Advisor to Speaker, Parliament of Georgia)
  • Ana Tsurtsumia (EDSN Fellow and Program Manager at EWMI/ACCESS)
  • Dr. Anna Dolidze, High Council of Justice of Georgia
  • Tigran Grigoryan (EDSN Fellow and Founder, National Revival Party)
  • Babken DerGregorian, Acting Minister of Diaspora of Armenia

Download Conference Agenda

EDSN is a project of the Center for Social Sciences (Tbilisi) made possible with the generous support of the National Endowment for Democracy.

Zelenskiy faces tough choices amidst high expectations

By Maryna Vorotnyuk

On April 21, Ukraine held the second round of presidential elections where Ukrainian citizens had to choose between the incumbent president Petro Poroshenko and the popular comedian-turned-politician Volodymyr Zelenskiy. With 73 percentof the vote, Zelenskiy secured a landslide victory across an absolute majority of Ukrainian regions. Zelenskiy is widely believed to reflect the voices of so-called “protest voters” – those who are dissatisfied with the way the state, from the economy to the public sector, is performing. Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose political and ideological preferences remained intentionally vague, rode in on a wave of public dissatisfaction with incumbent President Petro Poroshenko. He offered himself as an anti-system alternative – honest and unstained by political experience. Although he is allegedly supported by powerful Ukrainian oligarch and Poroshenko’s arch-rival Igor Kolomoisky, Ukrainian voters obviously believed that Zelenskiy was the lesser of two evils.

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When corruption trumps geopolitics: lessons from the Moldovan election

By Mihai Popsoi

In international circles, Moldova is frequently described as a country torn between Russia and the Euro-Atlantic West, where the push-pull of geopolitical competition is the defining feature of national policy and politics. Yet, while geopolitics may fill the headlines and fuel sombre discussions in Western capitals, the flawed recent elections in Moldova reveal a simpler truth: that political expediency and corruption often wins over strategic and geopolitical orientation.

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Armenia is a Russian ally and EEU member, so how did it pull off a democratic revolution?

By Dr. Karena Avedissian

For Armenia, a Russian ally, a member of the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), and once regarded as increasingly autocratic, the 2018 Velvet Revolution was a remarkable achievement.

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Keeping Pace: Ukraine’s Foreign Service Reforms

By Maryna Vorotnyuk

Amidst the war in its eastern regions with Russia-backed militants, Ukraine is struggling to maintain the functionality of the state. The ongoing reform of its diplomatic service is intended to make its foreign policy more efficient and fit for the purpose of keeping Ukraine on the international agenda and securing the cohesion of the West against revisionist Russia, an issue commonly linked to the survival of the state. This reform is not an easy endeavor, though, the problem of the public sector’s unhealthy performance is a truism casually referred to in the country. With the adoption of the long-awaited law on diplomatic service in June 2018, the situation in the diplomatic realm in Ukraine might be changing for the better.

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COMMENT: Imitation Game – the theatre and risks of the Karabakh peace process

By Tigran Grigoryan

After the democratic revolution in Armenia and the peaceful transition of power to the current government of Nikol Pashinian, regional experts and international observers have expressed cautious optimism about the prospects for progress in Karabakh peace talks. While many of the signs are encouraging, and represent a welcome change from the region’s more typical foreboding, the underlying dynamics of the conflict remain unchanged—along with the extended spectre of war.

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POLICY BRIEFING: How Turkey’s Initial Response to the Syria Conflict Weakened Security Governance

By Cüneyt Gürer

Turkey’s foreign and regional security policies have been deeply affected by the Syrian crisis for at least the past seven years. Different dimensions of the crisis and the spillover effects in Turkey (refugees, terrorist attacks, foreign terrorist fighters, etc.) have raised questions and concerns about the country’s approach to regional security. For years, Turkey’s Syria policy has been dominated by the idea of playing an active role in Middle East politics.

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What can Moldova Learn from Georgia?

By Mihai Popsoi

After having visited Georgia several times since my first visit in 2016, I am in awe with the sheer splendor of the country’s booming new architectural landmarks. The controversial former president Mihail Saakashvili undeniably left a mark by embarking on a rapid modernization process that entailed drastic anti-corruption reforms as well as large investments in infrastructure. All over Georgia one can see the glass monuments to transparency, accountability and revival starting from the new offices of the Legislature, Presidency, Courts, Police Stations etc. One can discuss the aesthetics and the architectural value of the new edifices, but their symbolic importance for the young and ambitious country is unquestionable. Meanwhile, in stark contrast, Moldova has struggled for almost five years to renovate its parliament and failed to renovate the presidential office for almost a decade following the riots of April 2009. The Moldovan President Igor Dodon had to ask the Turkish President Erdogan not just to rebuild the Presidential Office, but also pay for the furniture.                

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