Jessica Baniukaitis's paper, "Saakashvili the State-Builder: Establishing State Capacity and its Consequences for Democratization in Georgia" was selected by the PLS/IR Student Awards Committee as the Political Science and International Relations Outstanding Paper written for a PLS/IR course in 2016. Jessica wrote her research paper last winter while taking PLS 385 Russian and Post-Soviet Politics. There were a total of six submissions, and Jessica will receive a $200 monetary award. Thanks to those students who submitted their papers for consideration, and congratulations, Jessica!
Here is the abstract to Jessica's excellent paper:
This article investigates why democratization in Georgia made little progress after the Rose Revolution in 2003. Recent research suggests that presidential ousters and Western assistance do not always result in successful democratization. This paper expands on these insights to show how promises to produce democratic and state-strengthening results can result in misguided actions that undermine both processes. It argues that while democratic rhetoric was widely used by activists and leaders of the Rose Revolution, the new government under Mikheil Saakashvili prioritized state-building to the detriment of democratization and even undermined the capacity of the state he wished to build. While state capacity is certainly an important element of establishing democratic procedures such as the rule of law, the methods used in Georgia after 2003 served to enhance executive power at the expense of democratic accountability and the integrity of the state. The argument is developed in three parts. The first section explains how the concentration of power in the presidency nearly eliminated horizontal and vertical accountability. The subsequent section describes the nature of Saakashvili‘s anti-corruption campaign and its use as a political tool. The third section explains how the attempt to reclaim Abkhazia and South Ossetia further weakened the integrity of the state. The paper concludes with a discussion of how the case of Georgia alerts us to a broader problem in which leaders’ misguided efforts to build states result in the undermining of the state as well as freedom and accountability.