Two and a half years after the war with Russia, Georgia's political life is increasingly turning towards preparations for the 2012-2013 elections and debates around divisions of power after a recent overhaul of the constitution. The substantial amendments, which come into force in 2013 at the same time as President Mikheil Saakashvili steps down due to a term limit, will give much greater power to the prime minister. The next two years will go a long way in determining whether the country progresses toward a truly stable, modern democracy, or deteriorates into a fragile, pseudo-pluralistic and stagnating system. The government and political opposition movement need to use that crucial period to create public trust in democratic institutions. The best way to achieve this is by engaging in meaningful dialogue to ensure a fair election cycle, strengthened rule of law, economic stability and the legitimacy of the future government.
Much speculation centres on the role Saakashvili will play after he leaves the presidency. Detractors allege that the constitutional amendments are intended to allow him to continue to dominate the country from the newly empowered position of prime minister. He denies this, says that he has not decided on his future course, and the amendments were not made for any specific individual. His ruling United National Movement (UNM) argues that the constitutional changes were necessary to improve the balance of power and facilitate the implementation of reforms and that they meet long-held demands of opposition parties to cut back presidential powers. The changes in fact did very little to create a more parliamentary-based system, and the haste in which they were pushed through was criticised by international observers.