Mikheil Saakashvili

Does this joke make me look fat?

Did you hear that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was voted the sexiest man alive for 2012? In the words of one contest judge, “this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman’s dream come true,” with his “devastatingly handsome, round face … impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and … famous smile.” The Chinese Communist Party’s official paper took the story from The Onion and ran with it, not realizing it was satire.

Cartoon by Heng in NYT Nov 30, 2012

Cartoon by Heng in NYT Nov 30, 2012

It’s unlikely that North Koreans could ever get away with something like this. (Back to that whole “freedom of expression” thing I’ve been writing about.) I love that we can make fun of our own leaders in the U.S. I love it even more when they’re willing to make fun of themselves. (more…)

About the Georgian parliamentary election

The parliamentary election in Georgia this week has been very surprising, for several reasons. I believe this could be the first time that the opposition “officially” beats the ruling party (by actual vote count and not simply by exit poll results). That would be a tremendous step forward for a country where, at least in the past, those in power could fix things to assure themselves a victory, and the people could do little about it. The final results aren’t in yet, but this could be the first time for the country to have a transition of power that happens through elections, and not by means of a coup, civil war, or mass protest. The people need and deserve that kind of precedent.

I was also surprised that President Mikheil Saakashvili acknowledged that his ruling party would now become the opposition–before all the votes were even counted.

English: Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvil...

English: Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi, March 22, 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Going from the time I’ve spent living there and all of the political conversations I’ve had with Georgians, such “gentlemanly” behavior is not typical for their country’s politics. (more…)

Protest and Political Culture in Georgia

An enlargeable basic map of Georgia

An enlargeable basic map of Georgia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I listen to the nauseating campaign ads for the 2012 US presidential election, it makes me think back to previous years when my preferred candidate did or didn’t win. In cases where my guy lost, I assumed it was because more voters supported or turned out for the other candidate. I didn’t worry that the winner had cheated (too much). I also thought to myself that it was for eight years at most. More likely four, if he turned out to be as bad as I feared. Whatever the case, I’ve never worried that any president would change the constitution and make himself “leader for life.” Call me naïve, but I just don’t think any politician could get away with that here. It would go so strongly against American political beliefs and democratic values, against what is accepted.

I’ve thought about this because I’ve studied other countries, like the Republic of Georgia, where leaders stay in power long after a large part of society wants them out. There, people told me President Eduard Shevardnadze seemed “eternal” because he had ruled Georgia in one capacity or another for decades. Shevardnadze and the members of his ruling party wanted to stay in power, so they doctored the election results as necessary. (more…)