GEORGIAN UNREST INTENSIFIES


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Last week, we reported that the Georgian Dream, the governing party of Georgia, announced the nomination of Irakli Gharibashvili as the country’s next prime minister. Gharibashvili is a close associate to Bidzina Ivanishvili, the billionaire who founded the party.
There was a contested parliamentary election in October and subsequent arrest of opposition leader Nika Melia of the United National Movement. Melia is accused of organizing “mass violence” during protests after the election. He was placed in custody in a move his party called a political witch hunt, and he faces up to nine years in prison if convicted. 
With tensions rising, protests again erupted last week in response to Melia’s arrest.
Putin or the West?
Ivanishvili has strong ties to Moscow, made his fortune in Russia, and is considered the kingmaker, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Georgia has been praised for its strides over the past 15 years toward democracy and has been considered the gold standard for former Soviet satellite states, but its reaction to the election puts it in serious jeopardy of further isolation from Europe and the West. 
The consolidation of power toward the Georgia Dream is seen as a turn to Moscow. The Trends Journal reported last week that the EU’s envoy to Georgia called Melia’s prosecution “a dangerous trajectory for Georgia and for Georgian democracy.”
Georgia’s 2008 war with Russia lasted five days, but last month, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia was responsible for “ill-treatment and acts of torture against Georgian prisoners of war, arbitrary detentions of Georgians and ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’ of 160 detained Georgian civilians,” according to the Associated Press.
The arrest and subsequent protest prompted the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi to issue a statement condemning the “force and aggression” exhibited on protesters.
“Today, Georgia has moved backward on its path of becoming a stronger democracy in the Euro-Atlantic family of nations,” the statement read.
TREND FORECAST: We have been reporting on the unrest in the region, most recently between Armenia and Azerbaijan, over disputed territory, in which Turkey intervened. As economic conditions continue to deteriorate, the higher tensions will rise throughout the region, which in turn will increase tensions between Russia and Western nations as they both take sides in the conflicts. 

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