A tale of two color revolutions

With the anniversaries of both Ukraine and Georgia’s “color revolutions” this month, Eurasianet‘s Salome Asatiani looks at the progress and disappointments that both countries have faced since casting out authoritarian governments and finds that they’ve followed very different paths. Here’s how it breaks down: Georgia Ukraine “Rose Revolution”: November, 2003 “Orange Revolution”: November, 2004 Current ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
597999_071126_georgia_0_15.jpg
597999_071126_georgia_0_15.jpg

With the anniversaries of both Ukraine and Georgia's "color revolutions" this month, Eurasianet's Salome Asatiani looks at the progress and disappointments that both countries have faced since casting out authoritarian governments and finds that they've followed very different paths. Here's how it breaks down:

Georgia

Ukraine

With the anniversaries of both Ukraine and Georgia’s “color revolutions” this month, Eurasianet‘s Salome Asatiani looks at the progress and disappointments that both countries have faced since casting out authoritarian governments and finds that they’ve followed very different paths. Here’s how it breaks down:

Georgia

Ukraine

“Rose Revolution”: November, 2003

“Orange Revolution”: November, 2004

Current President: Mikheil Saakashvili

Current President: Viktor Yuschenko

Progress: Georgia has been far more successful at pushing through much-needed economic reforms, thanks largely to the free hand enjoyed by Saakashvili in setting policy.

Progress: Despite inheriting a devastatingly corrupt political system and a linguistically and culturally divided population, Yuschenko’s government has been able to establish a robust system of checks and balances in governance that has made political compromise possible.

Letdown: The same executive power that has allowed Saakashvili success in liberalizing the economy has also allowed him to demonstrate disturbing authoritarian tendencies, such as this month’s crackdown on peaceful protesters in Tbilisi and the government’s increasing control over the media.

Letdown: The rivalry between Yuschenko and onetime ally Yulia Tymoshenko has frayed the “orange coalition” and the continued influence of former president Viktor Yanukovych (he was briefly elected prime minister) has resulted in political stalemate. Few of the promised economic reforms have been accomplished.

The Russia factor: Saakashvili has been among the most vocal critics of Vladimir Putin’s government, denouncing Russian involvement in the still-simmering regional conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He has also been a strong supporter of George W. Bush and the war in Iraq, hoping to pave the way for future NATO membership.

The Russia factor: Although the Orange government came into power promising a Ukraine free of Russian influence, its leaders have been far more muted in their criticism while in office for fear of angering voters in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking eastern region.

One analyst quoted in the story sees the contrast as one between “In the case of Yushchenko — passivity and weakness… In the case of Saakashvili — strong-headedness and, I would say, an overtly great desire to see things done right away, and only his way.”

It’s certainly too early to say for sure, but this month’s events seem to indicate that Ukraine’s frustratingly slow progress may be more sustainable in the long run.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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