Many Georgians have asked me who I think will win the election. The ones I've spoken with seem fairly evenly split between the two candidates. Of course, they are most concerned with how the outcome of the election will affect their country, especially in terms of military support and providing security from Russia. However, several are also concerned about US economic policy as it affects the world -- and Georgian -- economy. And some want the US to once again step up to its responsibilities as the world's oldest surviving democracy. One woman , Natia, told me today how disappointed she was when the US passed the Patriot Act, because it ceded citizens civil liberties to the state without providing any real check on these new powers of government.
"If young democracies see the oldest one doing this, then their leaders can say 'see, even America does it; it's no big deal'," Natia said.
Georgia's experiment with democracy and civil liberties is less than five years old, and is already come under attack from the state.
Whether or not the US wants to be, it is still the standard for democracy in Georgia -- and perhaps still in much of the world. The Bush Administration actively picked up America's role as the great crusader state of democracy, at least in rhetoric. Georgia, though, is one country that responded with action. The Rose Revolution in Nov. 2003 brought Pres. Mikheil Saakashvili to power and set the country on a pro-Western, pro-democracy and pro-free market path.
However, Saakashvili has heard power's siren song, and has found subtle ways to quiet dissent, as reported in previous posts. Many Georgians who are concerned about the future democratic development of their country feel that the US has not prodded the current government to stay committed to its reform rhetoric.