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All the rest became a technical question, and despite losing in Tbilisi and Batumi (yet another paradox, as it was in these cities that the most had been done following the Rose Revolution), Saakashvili managed to win the January 2008 election. A decisive role in this victory was played by the ethnic-minority regions, particularly Borchalo [Kvemo-Kartli] and Javakheti, which became the pretext for wicked tongues among the opposition to declare Saakashvili the president of the Azeris and Armenians of Georgia. To Saakashvili’s credit, he answered this by stating that he truly was the president of all ethnic groups.
In his pre-electoral campaign, Saakashvili named as his main opponents “poverty” and “pessimism." Meanwhile, Saakashvili’s main opponent, Levan Gachechiladze, presented the country with practically no positive program of action in the case of his winning the presidency. The opposition candidate’s main message was the promise that “I’ll come to make you free." It may seem paradoxical at first glance that Saakashvili received the least votes in the places where he had achieved the greatest successes. If one looks at the central districts of Tbilisi or Batumi, it’s clear that the populations of these cities are the most opposition oriented.
But this is logical only on the first glance. It must be remembered that it was the population of Tbilisi that “suffered” the most from the events of November 7. What was more, the capital dwelling voter was not inclined to connect economic increases with the actions of the government.
With regard to Batumi, I would dare to suggest that, if not for the improper actions of riot police in Batumi on November 8 of the preceding year, Saakashvili would have drawn significantly more votes there. One way or another, the fact remains that Saakashvili owed his victory in the first round to precisely those regions where much remained to be done.
In essence, those who voted for Misha in that election did so no longer “with their hearts," that is, not because of emotions, but rather because of reason and hope. All that had been done by Misha and his team in the four years after the Rose Revolution gave the basis for this hope, and the election had in general been motivated by hope. For example, the high results in Samegrelo region, Western Georgia, were connected not only with the vocal and physical capabilities of the First Lady, but also with the hope that Abkhazia would be returned.
The example of Sighnaghi is typical, as there the authorities had done everything possible to turn this Godforsaken town into a distinguished tourist center. The population of that region gave their votes to the hope that this course would be continued, and that the government’s bold plans would be brought to life.
The situation was similar in Akhalkalaki (hoping for the Tbilisi-Kars railway), in Poti (a free economic zone), in other regions of Kakheti (the return of Georgian viticulture), in Ajara (the development of tourism and agriculture), and so forth.
After January 5, 2008 a new phase in modern Georgian history began. Later would follow the resignation of Nino Burjanadze, parliamentary elections, war, the civil confrontation of spring 2009, and much more. But these are the topics for another conversation.
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