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Georgian opposition activists attend a rally in support of Nika Melia in Tbilisi Georgian opposition activists attend a rally in support of the United National Movement party leader Nika Melia in Tbilisi, Georgia, Feb. 26, 2021 (AP photo by Shakh Aivazov).

Georgia’s Political Crisis Puts Its Democratic Future in Doubt

Monday, March 8, 2021

In late February, police raided the party headquarters of the opposition United National Movement in Tbilisi, Georgia, to arrest its chairman, Nika Melia. The raid and arrest, which were live-streamed and video-recorded by observers, have thrown the country deep into political crisis. Given Melia’s longstanding role as a thorn in the side of the ruling Georgian Dream party, his detention appears to be a politically motivated show of force to intimidate the government’s critics. The move provoked outrage in Georgia, the European Union and the United States, where members of the U.S. Congress and human rights organizations have expressed concern.

The incident raises clear questions about Georgia’s democratic trajectory. For almost two decades, the former Soviet republic has been lauded as one of the region’s shining star democracies. However, a closer look at political developments since its 2003 “Rose Revolution” reveals repeated swings between democratic promise and authoritarian backsliding. ...

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