Documents to download

Georgia has been a frontline country in the tussle for influence in the former Soviet space between Russia and the West. Western nations and organisations are attempting to support Georgia’s move towards Western-style liberal democracy, with NATO and EU membership as possible end points. Russia wants to prevent Georgia moving out of its claimed privileged sphere of influence, and particularly wants to prevent Georgia from joining NATO which, just on the Russian border, it would see as a threat.

The road towards democracy has not been completely smooth, as in other former Soviet states, so this year’s parliamentary election has been watched closely.

2020 parliamentary election

In November 2020 Georgia held the second round of its parliamentary election, under a new system based largely on proportional representation.

The electoral system itself had been in focus before and during the campaign, leading to large demonstrations in the capital, Tbilisi. The opposition felt that the old system, where half the seats in Parliament were allocated proportionally and half from single-Member constituencies, favoured the governing Georgian Dream party.

In March 2020 the Government reached agreement with the opposition on a new system featuring more proportional seats. International partners had encouraged compromise, hoping that the agreement would pave the way for an election less marked by polarisation.

Those hopes appear to have been dashed. The opposition claimed that the governing Georgian Dream party’s advantage in the first round was fraudulent, boycotted the second round of the election and is now boycotting Parliament altogether.

International observers from the Organisation for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and others assessed the election as broadly competitive, despite many shortcomings. Opposition leaders, generally considered more pro-Western than the present Government, denounced the international observers’ initial conclusions.


Since 2018 Salome Zurabishvili has been President. She is nominally independent but has the support of the governing Georgian Dream party. The presidency’s powers have been reduced in favour of the Prime Minister in recent years. But the real power in Georgia is widely thought to belong to Bidzina Ivanishvili, a billionaire who was Prime Minister from 2012 to 2013. He returned to a more frontline position in 2018 when he became Chairman of the Georgian Dream party he had founded in 2012.

The Prime Minister is Giorgi Gakharia, a relatively young former businessman and the third person to hold the post in the last two years.

South Ossetia and Abkhazia

Two Georgian regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, have broken away from Georgia and are now under Russian influence. A war in 2008 saw pro-Russian forces increase their grip on the enclaves and their armed forces are now incorporated into Russia’s. Russia and a few other countries not including the UK have recognised the regions’ independence

The ceasefire that ended the 2008 hostilities saw the creation of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia, although this only monitors the ceasefire from the Georgian side of the line of separation. Pro-Russian forces are accused both of shifting the line of separation further into the heart of Georgia and of “borderisation”: making the line look increasingly like an international frontier.

The situation is relatively stable at present.


Georgia’s possible NATO membership was one of the issues at stake in the tussle over the breakaway regions, with Russia seen by many in the West as holding the territories as a bargaining chip to prevent that happening. Georgia retains close relations with NATO but at present its move towards membership has stalled, although ultimate membership remains popular among Georgians and remains Government policy. The same applies to EU membership, a goal supported by most Georgians.

UK relations

The UK supports Georgia’s territorial integrity and a strengthening relationship with NATO. UK monitors participated in the EU Monitoring Mission until January 2020.

A treaty to replace the EU framework under which the two countries used to trade was presented to the UK Parliament in 2019. It includes provisions on political and security co-operation.

The UK has a development aid programme in Georgia

Documents to download

Related posts