THE LANDMARK victory of an opposition coalition in Georgia’s parliamentary elections Oct. 1, and the quick concession by the ruling party, was a rare triumph for democracy in post-Soviet Eurasia. It also raised a crucial question: Would this small nation on the Black Sea coast become a model of political pluralism in a region of strongmen, or would it follow the path of Ukraine, where the defeat of a liberal government led to the imprisonment of its leaders and a slide back toward Russian-style autocracy?
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the new regime, headed by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, to provide a preliminary answer. Within weeks of taking office, the new government has brought criminal charges against more than 20 senior officials of the previous administration, including the former ministers of defense and interior and the armed forces chief of staff.
Though President Mikheil Saakashvili, whose term does not expire for a year, facilitated the formation of the new government, Mr. Ivanishvili has repeatedly demanded that he resign while hinting that prosecutions of his associates will continue until he does. The new parliamentary majority has stripped funding from the president’s office and pressured members of the opposition to switch sides. Media that were sympathetic to the former government have been intimidated.