Abstract

Abstract:

This paper explores the impact of two important informal leaders – former president Mikheil Saakashvili and former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili – on recent parliamentary elections in Georgia. It is argued that informal governance has predominated in Georgia’s political system for a long time and that the interference of informal leaders in the 2016 parliamentary elections was the latest manifestation of this tendency. It is further contended that the electorate’s perceptions of the consequences of interference by informal leaders determined the outcome of the elections. Whereas the role of Bidzina Ivanishvili – the informal leader of the governing GD party – was perceived as undesirable yet necessary to stabilize political processes in the country, the active role played by Mikheil Saakashvili – the former president and exiled leader of the main opposition party – was assessed rather critically and contributed to handing the ruling GD party a somewhat unexpected easy win.

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