On Sunday, 27 October, Georgia held presidential election, and with 99.68% of votes counted, candidate from the ruling coalition "Georgian dream" Georgiy Margvelashvili is leading with 62.12% against David Bakradze from "Common national movement" (Saakashvili party) with 21.72% and Nino Burdzhanadze from "Democratic movement" with 10.18% of votes.

According to the country's Constitution, final results must be announced within 20 days after the voting, and inauguration of the president will take place on November 17. With 3.538 million of voters in the country, voting turnout made 46.6%.

A 44-year-old academic brought into government last year as education minister, and then promoted to deputy premier, Margvelashvili owes his rapid rise entirely to Mr Ivanishvili, current premier of Georgia.

Margvelashvili claims his main foreign policy goal is to pursue close ties with the West and Russia, but no return to the Commonwealth of Independent States. "We respect declarations of our colleagues from Belarus and other countries, but the Georgian people expressed its will at the referendum of 2008. Georgian membership in CIS was not effective for our country and did not provide for any guarantees, thus we will pursue the European course," the politician said.

ForUm has asked experts about possible changes in domestic and foreign policy of Georgia following Margvelashvili's coming to power.

Viktor Kaspruk, political scientist, expert on Middle East:

-Mikheil Saakashvili laid a good foundations for domestic policy of the country. In fact, his presidency has defeated corruption, and people voting for his rival will have a possibility to compare, and this comparison will not be in favor of pro-Russian forces.  However, any president after Saakashvilli will not be able to "flirt" with Russia. The problem is that Georgia wants Russia as a friend and partner, while Russia wants Georgia to be a dependent satellite to support its international policy.

As for Ukrainians and Georgians, we've always had friendly relations regardless of the authorities. There might be certain corrections, but in general the relations will not change. Our mutual support has always been stable on the international arena.

Ihor Popov, president of the analytical center "Politics":

- Election of a new president will not change the policy of Georgia, because the president does not have much influence on it. The ruling party remains the same, headed by Premier Bidzina Ivanishvili. However, the very fact of presidential election proves that the movement of Mikheil Saakashvili is passing.

As for the foreign policy, Georgia plans to initial the Association agreement with the EU anyway. And regardless of the party the new president represents, Georgia will not change its foreign policy. Moreover, Georgia does not have such advantageous position as Ukraine (common borders with the EU, transportation routes, etc.), thus none of the political forces can show great achievements and success.

Georgia will continue cooperation with NATO and will activate trading relations with Russia, considering that Russia has permitted the sale of Georgian fruits and mineral waters on its territory. Most probably Georgia will sanction the railway corridor from Russia to Turkey via its territory just because it is economically beneficial. But in rhetoric, exclusively pro-Western policy will prevail, as after the latest war with Russia, no other policy will be understood.

Ukraine and Georgia have modest trade turnover, and though Georgia now actively promotes its tourist possibilities and more and more Ukrainians go to Georgia on vacation, no breakthrough is expected in the economic relations anyway. 

Mykhailo Pohrebynski, political scientist:

- Nothing extraordinary has happened. The candidature of the president-elect proves previous forecasts about popularity of the ruling party "Georgian dream". As for its policy, they demonstrate willingness to reach a compromise with both Europe and Russia.

However, according to the restated Constitution, the Prime Minister has more authority than the president, thus the domestic and foreign policies will not undergo drastic changes, as the premier remains the same. Moreover, Bidzina Ivanishvili has already declared he has no intentions to change the geopolitical course of the country, aimed at the EU and NATO. Besides, Ivanishvili demonstrates certain success in finding a compromise with both Russia and the EU, and here Ukraine may learn something from him.

Oleksandr Paliy, political scientist:

- Considering that the President does not have much influence in the country, the policy of Georgia will not change much, which means European and Euro-Atlantic courses will prevail. However, many things will depend on the personality of the President himself and his ability to dig in to his position, though I doubt he will ever be as popular as Saakashvili was in his first term of presidency. Moreover, Georgia does not have advantageous economic position, as well as any other post-soviet state, thus I believe the President-elect might have difficulties to hold the situation.

As for Ukrainian-Georgian relations, Ukraine does not hold an important place in Georgian policy, as we do not play an important geopolitical role yet. Our good relations are limited to everyday fellow-feeling and developing trade. Nevertheless, despite the small size of Georgia our trade turnover is big enough and keep growing.

Volodymyr Kornilov, director of the Center for Eurasian study:

- Considering that President's authority in the country is shrinking, the presidential elections are not as important as the parliamentary ones. However, the candidature of the President-elect proves that Georgian people are disappointed in Saakashvili's policy and want changes.

As for possible changes in the foreign policy of the country, well, Ivanishvili's government has been trying to fix relations with Russia, and most probably will continue to do so. Georgia has lost a lot having withdrawn from CIS, and to normalize economic and political relations it has to come back, which is not possible, at least for now. The matter concerns newly recognized republics - South Osetia and Abkhazia. Moscow should not and will not withdraw its recognition, while Georgia still cannot accept the loss of a part of its territory. However, I want to point out that CIS already has an example of coexistence of republics, having territorial claims to each other, and this example proves that Georgia may come back to CIS eventually.

Vadym Karasyov, director of the Institute of global strategies:

- No serious changes in Ukrainian-Georgian relations are expected. Firstly, President' role in formation of country's policy is not that big. The changes started when Bidzina Ivanishvili won the parliamentary elections. Thus, the election of new President and leaving of Sakashvili do not mean fundamental changes of the country's course.

The Ukrainian-Georgian relations have always been stable, friendly and based on partnership regardless of the figure in power. Both countries trade actively; Ukrainian business seriously invests into Georgian economy, and Ukraine remains an attractive marker for Georgian products. Indeed, Georgia has withdrawn from CIS, but may come back, and Ukraine can make this process more active, considering its future chairmanship in the Council of CIS heads.

However, Georgian course remains pro-Western, though it tries to balance relations with Russia as well. It somehow reminds the character of foreign challenges of our country: Ukraine has also taken the pro-EU course, but not at the cost of breaking bonds with Russia, and we also make every effort to preserve partnership with Moscow and Customs Union countries.


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