Ironically, Ivanishvili's political shenanigans have been partly enabled by one of the weak points of Saakashvili's legacy, namely his failure to adequately reform the country's justice system. One of the most pertinent criticisms of the Saakasvhili government has centered on the lack of judicial independence, a charge that some Saakashvili confidantes now reluctantly admit. "The judiciary was not independent enough for sure during the 10 years of our government," says presidential advisor Glucksmann. "Contrary to the reform of the police, we partly failed to reform the judiciary." Now that there's a new crowd running the country, the opportunists in the judicial system appear to have made an about face in their loyalty. While admitting these faults, however, Glucksmann insists that, while the UNM ran the country, "we had a fundamental rule: No leader of the opposition should be sent to jail, whatever crime he was suspected to have committed."
Turnover and transformation is to be expected in any political transition, but jailing one's political opponents on spurious charges would risk everything Georgia has overcome in the two decades since it won independence from the Soviet Union. That such a scenario has followed so swiftly after the October 1 elections, however, comes as little surprise. Many of Ivanishvili's supporters are members of the old guard -- former police officers sacked during Saakashvili's restructuring of the corrupt force, ossified bureaucrats from the Eduard Shevardnadze era -- who supported Ivanishvili not because of any specific policy changes he offered, but as a form of revenge against the man responsible for their downsizing. Add to this Ivanishvili's authoritarian personality, his ties to Russia, the crudely nationalistic and xenophobic makeup of his coalition, and you have a recipe for retribution, and worse.
Georgia has enough problems on its hands -- high poverty and unemployment being the two biggest -- that the last thing it needs is a political witch hunt. Fortunately, the pro-Western desires of most Georgians should be enough to prevent a full reversion back to Soviet or post-Soviet levels of repression, the sort of setback that would shutter Georgia's Western integration. 71 percent of Georgians, according to a 2011 survey by the Caucuses Research Resource Center, said that the country should be closest diplomatically to the United States. In a speech last week, Saakashvili told his people that, "You wanted, we all wanted to bring back Georgia to the European family of free and prosperous nations it should never have been separated from." The coming months will test whether Georgia's young democracy is strong enough that no amount of political shenanigans can undo it.