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Yearbook 2012

Georgia. At the beginning of the year came signals of thawing of the frosty relationship between Georgia and the Russian Federation, almost four years after the war between the two countries. President Micheil Saakashvili proposed visa-free travel for Russians, and Russian Foreign Ministry responded that Moscow was ready to resume diplomatic relations with Georgia.

2012 Georgia

At the same time, Saakashvili's political problems at home increased after the environmentalist Bidzina Ivanishvili decided to challenge Saakashvili's party the United National Alliance in the autumn parliamentary elections. Ivanishvili had become popular with many by financing the renovation of cultural buildings and the construction of the country's largest church. The regime sought to stop Ivanishvili in various ways. He had been deprived of his Georgian passport, and in March an investigation into the financing of Ivanishvili's opposition alliance's Georgian dream began.

In the poor Guri region in the west, residents stated that the audit authority controlling campaign finance warned them of contact with the Georgian dream. Transparency International reported how prisoners of Ivanishvili were threatened with imprisonment and that their children would become orphans.

According to countryaah, President Saakashvili tried to take the initiative in the election campaign in May when he inaugurated the country's new parliament building in the city of Kutaisi, taking over from Tbilisi. But the event was followed by a mass rally in protest against the regime and in support of Ivanishvili's opposition alliance. One of the most Saakashvili-critical speakers at the meeting was the popular football star Kacha Kaladze, who was a clubmate with Zlatan Ibrahimović in Italian Milan. Kaladze soon had his bank accounts frozen in connection with an investigation into money laundering, and both Kaladze and Ivanishvili were sentenced to high fines accused of illegally funding the Georgian dream's election campaign.

In September, the minister in charge of prison care resigned after a video was released showing guards brutally abusing and raping prisoners. The interior minister was also allowed to leave his post; he had previously been a prison minister. The scandal became a severe hardship for the regime in the electoral movement, and the government accused the opposition of planning and directing the film with bribes to the prison leadership. Saakashvili also portrayed Ivanishvili as corrupt and allied with the Russian Federation.

But the October 1 election turned out to be a major victory for the opposition, with the Georgian dream taking close to 55% of the vote and receiving a clear majority in parliament, 85 out of 150 seats. The ruling United National Alliance stopped just over 40% of the vote, lost half of its mandate and ended up at 65. According to the OSCE, the election was free despite some cheating and shortcomings and a fierce election campaign. Saakashvili acknowledged defeat, Ivanishvili regained his Georgian citizenship and was given the task of forming a new government.

The Georgian dream was a motley alliance dominated by Ivanishvili's own party, the Georgian dream - Democratic Georgia. Five smaller groups were included, with everything from Western-friendly market liberals to xenophobic nationalists.

When the new Prime Minister Ivanishvili presented his government at the end of October, Kacha Kaladze became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure. The new Foreign Minister Maja Pandzhikidze declared that Georgia would continue to strive for NATO membership and have the United States as a strategic partner. But the country would also work for a new line of improved relations with the Russian Federation. According to Pandzhikidze, peaceful control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which declared itself independent after Georgia's war against the Russian Federation in 2008, would be restored peacefully.

During the year, presidential elections were held in the breakaway republic of South Ossetia, where former KGB chief Leonid Tibilov won. The election was held since the ordinary election before the New Year was rejected by the court after the opposition candidate won.

In December, the Georgia and Russian Federations held their first direct talks since the 2008 war. This took place in Switzerland, where the parties agreed on regular meetings, including on trade.

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