To make governments truly accountable to their citizens, by far the best basis is to have credible elections. When citizens can actually throw out governments they no longer approve of then you have a fundamental framework for transforming accountability relationships. This is true even when you concede that elections are not perfect instruments of accountability. More needs to be done in the period between elections; citizen vigilance must not wane. But free and fair elections are incredible accountability devices.
That is why for new or young democracies, the first time a sitting government concedes defeat in an election is a milestone. It does not follow that the new democracy is going to make it but you know immediately that the basis is being created for constitutional democracy. Hopes begin to rise that maybe, just maybe, another new democracy is becoming viable. So, while staying out of the intricacies of the politics of Georgia and its passions, please join me in saluting the fact that President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia conceded that his party lost the recent elections in that country and promised to work with the new government for the remainder of his own term. That singular act of statesmanship has now set the stage, as CNN reports, ‘for the nation’s first peaceful, democratic transition through election since the breakup of the Soviet Union’. And as the political scientist Joshua Tucker, writing in The Monkey Cage, points out, ‘this is a further step of the incremental growth of Georgian pluralism. But it is not a final step.’ Here’s hoping Georgia continues to take these steps to pluralism.