December 23, 2015
Effects of Regime Change in the Power Structures of the Regional Elites in Georgia: Historical Sociological Analysis of Two Cases
In this presentation I will discuss the durability (and weakness) of formal and informal power structures that exist on a regional level in Georgia. The underlying question that was set for the research was – how does regime change affect the existing power structures and configurations on the local government (regional) level? What are the tactics used by both central figures and local influential players at worrying times of change?
After 2012 electoral regime change the United National Movement-led government with authoritarian tendencies was ousted. There was wide public expectation of a new wave of “democratization reforms”. Absence of effective decentralization was one of the problems which had to be solved by new authorities of Georgia. However, informal hierarchy which enabled central government to tightly control local government has not been abolished soon after 2012 elections. After winning elections, Georgian Dream Party has gradually established control over local government in most of the municipalities. However, this process was not uniform everywhere.
There is a consensus in literature on existence of informal institutions in center – periphery relations as well as in municipal government in Georgia. Modes of informal distribution of power were different in various municipalities during the previous regimes. We anticipated different forms of center-periphery relations in areas with different characteristics and conducted in-depth analysis of that transition process in two municipalities, Amereti and Jvari (fictional names). Together with other sources, stories of observers and participants of these events were collected.
Two different case studies were undertaken. In the first, we compared two regions, with fictional names of Jvari and Amereti, with different social – economic characteristics, configuration of local elites and modes of adaptation to transition of political regime. In Jvari, Georgian Dream has won elections and has soon imposed control on local government. In Amereti, informal group around influential Tetradze family preserved its power over local government despite former allegiance to ruling party of Saakashvili regime. In the second case study, we collected the effects of the 2014 drastic revision in the local government code and the local powerful figures reaction to it, in one of these municipal regions.