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Condoleezza Rice and Mikheil Saakashvili. Photo: unknown

On 4 January 2004 Mikheil Saakashvili, the leader of the Rose Revolution, was elected as Georgia's new president with 96 percent of the popular vote. He was 35 years old.[191] He had witnessed the failures of the Shevardnadze style of governance for almost a decade. He had seen the impotence and incoherence of international donors and advisors. And he had heard the argument that the real obstacle to fighting corruption was "Georgian culture ". As one foreign expert told the New York Times in early 2004

"Georgia is what in the 1960s people used to call an honor-and-shame society. It has relied to heavily in the last few decades on social networks and kinship that this not only demands corruption but ultimately economic stasis."[192]

Georgian criminologist Georgi Glonti wrote that Georgians "automatically resist law in any and all forms." This explained previous failures of reform:

"Assuming that American laws and market rules could be grafted onto Georgian society was like trying to graft an artichoke onto an orange tree. The reforms wither and die. The Georgians politely do what the Americans and other Western reformers ask by way of passing laws, adopting constitutions, changing police procedure, customs and tax procedures and instituting whatever other reform measures are suggested. And then, basically nothing happens."[193]

In this view, what was working in Georgia were the unwritten laws upheld by the so-called thieves-in-law, criminal groups with their own codes and hierarchies, who managed to "infiltrate every aspect of Georgian life." These thieves existed across the former Soviet Union but Georgians were vastly overrepresented among their ranks. Georgian thieves like Shakro Kalashov, Gogi Chikovani or Tariel Oniani were among the leaders of organised crime in Russia. The fact that following the coup against Georgia's first elected president in early 1992 a Soviet-era thief, Jaba Ioseliani, ended up running the country "shows that Georgia had developed a unique relationship with its criminal institutions."[194]  In March 2003 Ioseliani was buried in Didube, Georgia's pantheon for its most respected public figures.

As Saakashvili and his associates saw it, however, Georgia's problems had not stemmed from a lack of policy ideas, but from implementation. Culture was not an acceptable excuse, and the fact that criminal structures, such as the Thieves-in-Law, had begun to replace state structures in providing protection and arbitration was a threat that had to be confronted.[195]  What had been lacking was courage and political will to reassert the state's authority.  Now, the Rose revolutionaries believed, Georgia's voters had given them the chance and the mandate to do just that.

Georgian Parliament in Tbilisi. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

The government that Kakha Bendukidze joined in the summer of that year was the first truly post-Soviet cabinet in the history of independent Georgia. None of its members – 20 ministers and state ministers – had held any position in the Soviet era. Only three had been ministers in previous governments. Six had worked or studied abroad and eight had worked in the NGO sector.[196] Above all, it was a government dominated by (largely) young men in their mid 30s. As one observer noted, Georgia's governing party had long been home to "urbane, thirty something, English-speaking politicians."[197] The Rose Revolution was their cue to take the reins. Analyst Ghia Nodia described the new elite in June 2005 as "a very juvenile government, probably the youngest in Europe and sometimes inexperienced, sometimes it makes blunders, and sometimes it is ineffective, but it is certainly extremely motivated."[198]  One thing these new leaders did not have, and were convinced Georgia could not afford, was patience.

Their first two initiatives made it clear how reforms would be handled in the post-revolutionary era. As early as 29 January 2004, Mikheil Saakashvili argued that the Georgian constitution should be amended as to allow a complete overhaul of the entire system of governance.[199] On 5 February, already as president, he urged legislators to pass the necessary constitutional changes as soon as possible.[200] Parliament approved them with almost no debate. By the time renewed parliamentary elections arrived in March 2004, Georgia had a super-presidential system.

Under the new system, the prime-minister – a newly created post in its own right – was to be appointed by the president. The power of the parliament was seriously curtailed. From now on, even parliamentary majorities could neither reject the president's choice of prime minister nor his proposed budget without risking the Parliament's dissolution (whereby the president could still impose his prime minister and his budget by decree). Even in cases where the Parliament adopted a vote of no confidence, the President could dissolve the legislature and retain his government.[201] The so-called "power ministries " (interior and defence) were made directly subordinate to the president, not the prime minister. In Saakashvili's Georgia the presidential office was to be the absolute centre of power – even more so than under Shevardnadze. The March 2004 elections were the icing on the cake. With 65 percent of the total seats, Saakashvili's party coalition obtained a super-majority in parliament.[202]  As one observer wrote in February 2004 "the amendments create a system in which the people's ability to influence their life through the political process and to voice their grievances through their elected representatives is more limited than it was in the past."[203]

Mikheil Saakashvili. Photo: unknown

After the constitutional consolidation of power, the new administration's second immediate objective was to eliminate graft from state institutions. The promise to end the impunity of corrupt officials had been central to Saakashvili's appeal. In his inauguration speech in January 2004, the new president warned, "As far as I am concerned, every corrupt official is a traitor who betrays the national interest."[204] Two weeks later Saakashvili told BBC:

"People voted for me with the main mandate to clean up the country. I warned them against extravagant expectations, we should not expect that overnight Georgia will be exuberantly rich or relatively rich, we are unfortunately a devastated country with huge poverty. But what I promised them was that we will really start to clean up the country and we really did start that, even before I stepped into the office."[205]

The new leadership wasted no time. Already on 12 December 2003 the former president of the Georgian Football Association, Merab Zhordania, was detained on charges of misappropriation of funds.[206] A new wave of arrests followed Saakashvili's inauguration. On 16 January the former Chief of the Georgian Railway Company, Akaki Chkhaidze, was arrested in Batumi, the capital of Adjara Autonomous Republic.[207] On 17 January former Energy Minister Davit Mirtskhulava was arrested in a Tbilisi hospital. In February 2004 Saakashvili closed down Omega Group, a powerful corporate conglomerate linked to the authoritarian leadership in the semi-autonomous region of Adjara. A raid was conducted against an Omega-owned television station. On 20 February former president Eduard Shevardnadze's son-in-law was arrested aboard a plane scheduled to leave Tbilisi for Paris. Footage of the arrest was repeatedly aired on TV. On 4 March three policemen, one alleged car hijacker and one by-passer died in a clash between police and criminals in Georgia's second biggest city, Kutaisi.[208] March 12 saw the violent arrest of Basili Mkalavishvili, an excommunicated Orthodox priest who had repeatedly led assaults on religious minorities.[209] Several dozen people were injured by heavily armed police using batons and tear gas. Finally, on 31 March Shevardnadze's former minister of agriculture, David Kirvalidze, was summoned by the General Prosecutor's office.

The arrests were accompanied by bellicose rhetoric. Challenged on the decision to raid the Omega TV station, Saakashvili responded that "people are objecting to tactics – that's not the most substantial thing. Look, at what we are doing: we are putting people in jail who have stolen millions."[210] At a news conference in Tbilisi on 12 January 2004 Saakashvili vowed to take a tough line against prisoners preparing to riot in support of criminal bosses.

"We will shoot down the rioters. We will not spare bullets against them. I know that the criminal world will resist. But we are not afraid."[211]

In March, Saakashvili used the funeral for the policemen killed in the gunfight in Kutaisi to declare "war on criminals " and to send them the following warning: "Do not shoot these [policemen]. Shoot me if you can, because I order [them] to shoot you."

On 12 January Saakashvili nominated one of his most trusted associates at the time, Irakli Okruashvili, as Prosecutor General. On 27 January he presented a draft law "simplifying the procedures of arresting those officials suspected in corruption " to the Georgian parliament."There is too much evidence for too many cases, " Okruashvili later told journalists."We could arrest everyone."[212] On 5 April 2004 the new Prosecutor General announced that his goal was "to make corrupted officials reimburse the funds they have stolen."[213] Thanks to such a policy, he noted, over 20 million Lari had already been paid into the Georgian budget.[214]

Another immediate objective was to transform the key law enforcement institutions, starting with the police. Within the state apparatus, one of the most corrupt and predatory government bodies was the ministry of internal affairs. Giorgi Baramidze, Georgia's first post-Rose Revolution minister of internal affairs, noted in 2004:

"Every single relationship inside this ministry and all relations between the ministry and the public were based on corruption … the Ministry was involved in the drug business, weapons smuggling, protecting criminals, extortion, kidnapping."[215]

It was a situation of enormous risk, calling for extraordinary measures:

"we have to realise this is a real war … once you start the real fight against mob people, criminals, there is a huge danger you will be killed." [216]

Almost immediately, Baramidze raised police officers' salaries, provided them with modern equipment, and began to go after the hitherto untouchable crime bosses, the so-called "thieves-in-law ". At the same time downsizing of the staff in the ministry of interior stated. Baramidze also sent a circular to local police chiefs warning them that they would be fired if there were still thieves-in-law in their regions one month later: "everybody in Georgia knew who they were."[217]

In December 2005 a law entered into force making it a criminal offence, punishable by prison and confiscation of assets, to declare oneself to be a thief-in-law.[218] The criminal code was amended in September 2006 with a new article on "membership of the community of thieves in law ". 214 people were arrested as "thieves."[219] A prison riot in March 2006 in Tbilisi was also suppressed with force, resulting in the death of 7 inmates.[220] Human rights groups raised questions and demanded an investigation, but the government was unapologetic.  As Saakasvhili told parliament, following this crackdown: "The backbone of the system of crime bosses has been broken."[221]

Georgian traffic police officers in Tbilisi. Photo:

In the summer of 2004, the government implemented one of its best-known and most popular reforms, the complete dismantling of the corruption-ridden traffic police.  Some 15, 000 officers were fired. In total, according to data provided by the Ministry of Interior, about 30, 000 officers from the Ministry of Internal Affairs were dismissed in 2004-2005.[222]  This reduced the number of police officers per population from 1:89 to 1:214.[223] Soon trust in the police increased sharply in different surveys. People have fallen in love with law-enforcers, Saakashvili declared in February 2005:

"In Georgia and the former Soviet Union nobody thought that people could trust and love a police force. We thought it was true only in the US. We could never imagine that one day it could happen here."[224]

Public investment in policing continued to rise along with salaries of police officers. A new Police Academy was created, mandatory exams and training for all officers set up and more modern equipment, from cars to laboratories, purchased. Only public spending on the penitentiary system grew from 200, 000 Lari in 2003 to 67 million Lari (US$ 38 million) in 2007 as prisons were modernised.[225]

At the same time new, draconian provisions of the penal code were adapted. Stealing a mobile phone could send somebody to prison for many years. Petty corruption was treated like a serious crime, warranting years in jail. In July 2008 a law lowered the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 14 to 12. The Georgian prison population increased from around 6, 200 people in 2003 to 18, 500 in 2008. This resulted in continued massive problems of overcrowding, despite the fact that new modern prisons were built.[226]  It also earned Georgia the distinction of having the highest per capita prison population in Europe after Russia and Belarus. [227]

Table: The Rose Revolution and Georgia's prison population 2003 - 2008[228]








6, 274




6, 654




9, 051




15, 464




18, 310




18, 491

Table: Georgia's prison population in context (2008)[229]


per 100, 000 people























At the same time rates of convictions for people charged with a crime now approached 99 percent. In 2007 a total of 21, 170 people were convicted (and only 30 acquitted). The first six months of 2009 saw 8, 780 convictions and only 7 acquittals.[230] This was also the highest rate of convictions in Europe.[231]

The government's fourth immediate priority in the spring of 2004 was to assert its authority in the small Black Sea province of Adjara. Adjara had been both semi-separatists and a local tyranny run by the family of one man, Aslan Abashidze.[232] It had also drained the Georgian budget of resources, keeping the revenues from Batumi port and the most important customs points with Turkey.[233]  The new government was unwilling to accept this and mounted increasing pressures. The Georgian army organised an exercise in April 2004. Popular protests were organised in Batumi, the capital of Adjara. Former supporters of Abashidze defected and on 6 May he fled to Russia.[234]

For political scientist Ghia Nodia this was the biggest success of Saakashvili in his first year in office. The Adjara experience suggested that by taking risks it was possible to restore the control of the Tbilisi government. A problem that had appeared insurmountable for 13 years was overcome within weeks. The conviction was growing among Georgia's new leaders that they could walk on water. In early 2005 Saakashvili proudly summed up his first year in office."For the first time in modern history Georgia has become a proper state, " he proclaimed.[235]

"I suggest we recall what Georgia was like a year ago. Georgia was a failed state - disintegrated, demoralized and humiliated. It was a country that had lost all attributes of statehood; a country where corruption, lawlessness and injustice reigned supreme; a country where ordinary citizens were routinely cheated by the state; a country where the state and its representatives were constantly extorting money from ordinary citizens; a country that had no budget and that never fulfilled social pledges to its citizens; a country where human rights were blatantly violated; a country that had no defence capabilities, not a single working tank or enough ammunition to last for just an hour in battle."[236]

There were some who raised doubts about the way these reforms were implemented. In October 2004 a group of 14 notable Georgian civil society representatives voiced their concerns about "alarming developments in Georgian politics, " citing restrictions on freedom of speech and the lack of political pluralism in an open letter addressed to Saakashvili.[237] In October 2004 Jaba Devdariani, writing in Eurasia Insight, complained that

"the state is governed more by the law of the ruler, rather than by the rule of law. A lack of transparency in the government's operations is, likewise, prompting people to believe that instead of cleaning up corruption, the government is merely redistributing the loot."[238]

Paradoxically, argued Jonathan Wheatley, the very reforms that sought to clean up Georgia threatened to undermine its democracy."While attempting to eliminate bureaucratic pluralism from within state structures, " he warned, "the new government made little effort to forge any meaningful links with society or to foster democratic pluralism."[239]  By early 2006, following the murder of a bank employee by members of the Ministry of Interior, following an altercation in a Tbilisi restaurant, protests by civil society grew even louder.[240]

The US administration of George W. Bush did not entertain any concerns, however. The US view, according to Lincoln Mitchell, was that Rose Revolution had "transformed Georgia from a kleptocratic, weak, semi-democratic regime into a consolidated democracy in a period of weeks."[241] On the day of Saakasvhili's inauguration, US Secretary of State Colin Powell gave the new government a hearty endorsement.

"I was very impressed by the President and the members of his new Cabinet that I met … they are absolutely committed to moving this nation ahead in a very aggressive way to fix the problems that has beset the nation in recent years."[242]

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and US President George Bush. Photo: NATO

One and a half years later, the American president himself would address the biggest crowd in the modern history of Georgia. Before tens of thousands of people gathered in Tbilisi's Freedom Square, President Bush proclaimed:

"You are making many important contributions to freedom's cause, but your most important contribution is your example. In recent months, the world has marvelled at the hopeful changes taking place from Baghdad to Beirut to Bishkek. … As you watch free people gathering in squares like this across the world, waving their nations' flags and demanding their God given rights, you can take pride in this fact: they have been inspired by your example, and they take hope in your success."[243]

Such praise, appealing to the Georgian sense of mission and coming on top of the government's achievements during its first year in power, was not likely to induce caution or humility among Georgia's young leaders.


[191] Turnout in January 2004 was also very high, at 88 percent. OSCE/ODIHR, "Georgia: Extraordinary Presidential Election 4 January 2004, " OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Report, Warsaw, 28 February 2004, p. 16.

[192] Georgia expert Christopher Waters, quoted in New York Times, The not-so-velvet revolution, 30 May 2004.

[193] Virginia Davis Nording and Georgi Glonti, Thieves of the Law and the Rule of Law in Georgia, Caucasian Review of International Affairs, Winter 2006.

[194] It was Ioseliani who in 1992 invited Shevardnadze back into Georgian politics. In 1995 he was arrested. Gavin Slade, Review Article: Georgia and Thieves-in-Law, Global Crime, August 2007.

[196] Lincoln Mitchell, p. 117 and p. 162.

[197] Charles King, Potemkin Democracy: Four myths about post-Soviet Georgia, The National Interest, 1 July 2001.

[198] Ghia Nodia, Interview with Radio Free Europe, 15 June 2005. LINK

[201] OSCE/ODIHR, "Repeat Parliamentary Elections, 28 March 2004, " Georgia OSCE/ODIHR Final Report, p. 5.

[202] OSCE/ODIHR, "Repeat Parliamentary Elections, 28 March 2004, " Georgia OSCE/ODIHR Final Report, p. 24.

[203] Irakly Areshidze, An Opportunity Lost? Constitutional Change in Georgia at the Start of the Saakashvili Presidency, Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), February 2004.

[204] Molly Corso, "Georgian President Saakashvili's Campaign against Corruption, ", 22 December 2004.

[205] "Ask Georgia's President, " BBC News, 16 January 2004.

[209] Giorgi Sepashvili, "Assailant Ex-Priest Arrested, " Civil Georgia, 13 March 2004.

[210] Ilan Greenberg, The not-so-velvet Revolution, New York Times, 30 May 2004

[212] Ilan Greenberg, The not-so-velvet Revolution, 30 May 2004.

[215] Ken Stier, "Behind a Desk, Georgian Official Promises War on Corruption, ", 19 December 2003.

[216] Ken Stier, "Behind a Desk, Georgian Official Promises War on Corruption, ", 19 December 2003.

[217] ESI interviews with Giorgi Baramidze, October 2009, January 2010.

[219] A movie produced by the Ministry of Interior on the crack-down on thieves-in-law is on their website: (in Georgian). A good article by Lili di Puppo from March 2006 is here:

[221] Mikheil Saakashvili, State of the Nation address, 15 March 2007.

[222] Information from the Ministry of Interior sent to ESI, February 2010, Annex 1.

[223] Zoran Krunic and George Siradze, "The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia - Report on the Current Situation with the Recommendations for the Reform " (Jan. 2005), p. 54. Krunic and Siradze note that "in democratic countries a usual ratio is between 1:250 and 1:400."

[224] "President Saakashvili's annual address to the Parliament, " 24 February 2005, Official website of the President of Georgia.

[226] For different estimates of the prison population see: UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Follow Up Report (2008), p. 50.  For a recent critique of overcrowding in Georgian prisons: Human Rights Watch, Statement issued in April 2009: "overcrowding persists in almost all of Georgia's penitentiary facilities, leading to many human rights violations, including inadequate medical care and lack of exercise and family visits."

[230] Supreme Court of Georgia website, subsection: "Statistical data on hearing criminal cases " (sorted by year)

[232] Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Georgia: Analyst Ghia Nodia Assesses Saakashvili's Attempts to Transform Country, June 2005.

[233] Nino Khusidze, Adjara Boosts Government's Financial Hopes, Civil Georgia, 8 May 2004

[234] For a good account available online see: ICG, Saakasvhili's Adjara Success: Repeatable elsewhere in Georgia?, 18 August 2004.

[235] Lincoln A. Mitchell, Uncertain Democracy, 2009, p. 6.

[236] "President Mikheil Saakashvili's annual report to Parliament, " 10 February 2005, Official website of the President of Georgia.

[237] Paata Zakareishvili, Irakli Melashvili, Gia Nodia et al, "To His Excellency, the President of Georgia, Mr. Mikheil Saakashvili, " Full text of the open letter, Civil Georgia, 18 October 2004.

[238] Jaba Devdariani, "Georgia's Rose Revolution Grapples with Dilemma: Do Ends Justify Means, " Eurasia Insight, 26 October 2004.

[239] p. 226

[241] Lincoln A. Mitchell, Uncertain Democracy, 2009, p. 6.

Suggested readings

On Georgia's perpetual revolution, see Till Bruckner's essay Decision Making and Georgia's Perpetual Revolution: the case of IDP Housing (2009):

"Observers tend to enthuse about Georgia's leadership or damn it, but such black-and-white views do little to explain what is really going on in the country. Examining the government's recent efforts to provide housing to those internally displaced by the August 2008 conflict with Russia sheds light not only on the housing program itself, but on contemporary Georgian politics in general. In particular, four traits characteristic of the ruling United National Movement's revolutionary governance are brought into focus: informal decision-making, fluid roles, heroic action, and vanguard politics."

Regarding police reform, there are a number of sources.

The reform of the previously highly corrupt road police has been recognized as one of the most popular measures taken by the Georgian government. In her 2005 article, Caucasus correspondent Lili di Puppo describes the reform as a "visible success":

The purge in the corrupt police, where 15.000 officers were fired, was another drastic step of the government and has been so far the most visible success in the government's new policy. Car-drivers are no longer stopped and asked to pay bribes by policemen at improvised road check points and the disappearance of the corrupt traffic police is said to be the factor behind the surge in the number of Armenian tourists this summer.

The bigger question posed by di Puppo, however, is whether Georgia would be able to go beyond dramatic radical measures and commit to long-term institutional development:

"The biggest challenge for the Georgian state, as stated at different occasions by Georgian officials, is to eliminate the dependence on individuals and move towards a more predictable system based on institutions."

Alexander Kupatadze, Giorgi Siradze, and Giorgi Mitagvaria, "Policing and police reform in Georgia", in Organized Crime and Corruption in Georgia, eds. Louise Shelley, Erik R. Scott and Anthony Latta (Routledge, 2007). In this chapter, the authors describe Georgia's legacy of being an over-policed society prior to the reforms:

"When the Soviet Union collapsed, Georgia had a population of 5,400,800, with 25,000 employees in the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) and 900 in the KGB (Committee on State Security), a ratio of one law enforcement official per 208 citizens. Georgia, therefore, remained a heavily policed society. Despite reforms in other parts of government, the Ministry of Interior maintained a dysfunctional structure with 28 departments, two branches in autonomous republics, and nine regional units. Additional unnecessary departments were created before the revolution, and personnel in the ministry more than doubled to 56,000 at a time that the population decreased by nearly one million. At the time of the Rose Revolution, the police-citizen ratio was 1:78" (pp. 93-94).

In its report "Reform of Law Enforcement Bodies in Georgia: The Ministry of Internal Affairs" (Dec. 19, 2005), Transparency International Georgia also describes the rigid, unreformed interior ministry left over from the Soviet times:

"Prior to the new government's coming to power in 2003, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs had seen very little change and effectively remained a Soviet-style police structure with a significant degree of militarization. The former authorities had failed to demonstrate the political will to transform the ministry in accordance with the needs of a democratic state. Rampant corruption had resulted in extremely low public confidence in the police structures."

In June 2004, the Ministry of Internal Affairs presented its strategic vision of reform at the Donors' Conference for Georgia in Brussels. The vision had been elaborated based on the materials of the Democratic Policing conference funded by the EU. These include the May 2004 statement from the European Commission, which stresses the importance of a purely civilian character for the reformed MIA:

"a very clear message was sent to the Ministry of the Interior by the EU and ISAB experts present that any capacity to undertake independent military operations must be removed from the Ministry of Internal Affairs or disbanded. This includes the removal of military doctrines, structures, terminology and ranks and is essential in achieving policing standards." (p. 15).

The key objectives for the structural reforms in the Ministry of Internal Affairs were summarized in the MIA's document entitled Strategic Vision and Development Priorities in 2004-2006.

  • Reorganization of the ministry into the body responsible for the internal policy of the country, with duties including the execution and coordination of police activities;
  • Professionalization of the police force to make it completely non-political, including the bolstering of public confidence in the police by increasing its effectiveness in fighting crime, ensuring civilian security, and combating the system's existing corruption;
  • Creation of appropriate work conditions, suitable remuneration, and job stability for the employees of the Ministry system and protection against the hiring of unqualified persons;
  • Gradual execution of the reform process, ensuring that the necessary material, technical and human resources are determined and their sources are defined before components of the reform are implemented." (p. 6).

To access all Democratic Policing conference materials and for an overview of the European Commission activities with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, go to the website of the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia. Here you will find a brief historic background, key events and key documents of relevance to cooperation between the European Commission and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. A selection of those documents can be found here:

Report on the current situation with the recommendations for the reform

  1. GE - MOI Reform - Strategic Vision & Priorities 2004–2006;
  2. GE - MOI Reform - Strategic Vision & Priorities 2004–2006;
  3. GE - MOI Reform - Strategic Vision & Priorities 2004–2006;
  4. GE - PA - MOI Reform - Outline of Structural Reform of MOIA – 28.

An assessment of the situation in the Ministry of Internal Affairs was provided in January 2005 by two EU-funded experts, Zoran Krunić and George Siradze ("The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia - Report on the Current Situation with the Recommendations for the Reform"). The experts identified a number of aspects where improvement was needed. In particular, they noted the absence of a clear, well-thought out reform strategy and the excessive influence of the Minister on the reform process:

At the moment it seems that the reform which is going on without a real plan/strategy and depends too much on the Minister of IA. It seems that reform could go in different direction (better or worst) and with different speed (slower or faster) if there would be another Minister of IA. This kind of reform should be done according to plan/strategy which is adopted/approved by higher authority (President, Parliament). Also, it seems that reform of IA is not well coordinated with the overall reform in Georgia. The reform is elaborated on the high level without taking into consideration the views of the Georgian police officers (and practical consequences), but on the other hand it involves some people who have no or not enough knowledge on policing. Police officers who actually provide police services are not fully informed of changes. Also, it seems that the reform is too much attached to American advices and often non-critically transfers US law-enforcement system and practice to Georgian conditions (p. 56).

For another assessment of the reforms, see the chapter written by Jozsef Boda and Kornely Kakachia, entitled "The Current Status of Police Reform in Georgia", in DCAF (Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces). Philipp H. Fluri & Eden Cole, eds. From Revolution to Reform: Georgia's Struggle with Democratic Institution Building and Security Sector Reform. LaVac, 2005.

For an official view of the police reform, see a recent (March 2010) interview (also available in English) given by Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili (in office since December 2004) to Kommersant – Vlast. Merabishvili describes his ministry as a service agency designed to make people's lives easier: "the police is not just a state institution, it's a service which helps people solve their problems."  He is also an advocate of radical changes: "When you are changing from the Soviet way of life to a Western one, you cannot stop at half-measures. You need non-ordinary methods." He does not deny the importance of the personal factor in driving the reform.

A source for material on corruption is the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC), Caucasus Office. In reviewing their publications, you can find papers on everything from Corruption in the Pharmaceutical Industry (2006) to Corruption in the Ongoing Process of Privatization in Georgia (2006) to Corruption in Illegal Construction in Urban Territories (2006).

See also: International Crisis Group (ICG), Georgia: Sliding towards Authoritarianism? Europe Report N°189 (2007).

April 2010

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