Democratic bright spots are emerging in Armenia and Georgia despite their being wedged between less-than-democratic regional powers—Iran, Russia and Turkey, note analysts Denis Corboy, William Courtney and Kenneth Yalowitz. Both countries seek to consolidate democratic gains and overcome poverty while managing daunting challenges from Russia and separatist conflicts. Even as the West keeps its primary focus on Russian aggression in Ukraine, it can encourage positive developments in the two South Caucasus countries.
Armenia’s newly elected government, headed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, has wide backing and seems determined to fight corruption, enhance transparency, and restore popular faith in government. Georgia has made steady progress toward building democracy as evidenced by successive parliamentary and presidential elections that have generally been praised by independent monitors. Last month, however, the final round of the presidential election was flawed. It was won by Salome Zourabichvili, a former Georgian foreign minister who ran as an independent but in effect was the standard bearer of the ruling Georgian Dream Party and its leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili. International monitors criticized the abuse of administrative resources, attacks on civil society organizations, and lack of a level playing field.
In the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual Democracy Index, they add, Armenia showed the most improvement of “hybrid regime” countries in Eastern Europe and Georgia the steepest fall, although Georgia still ranked higher than Armenia.