As the United States watches its 2020 election season drag on longer than most presidential elections, the highly charged partisan domestic environment raises concerns over possible protest against the final results. It is an illustration that paints the twenty-first century very well; this century has become an early indicator of electoral revolutions. From across the Atlantic to the Old World, history provides several examples of protest against controversial elections of leaders fighting to maintain the status quo. These elections were remembered for electoral malfeasance, popular reactions often marked by public protests, and by the government’s response.
In Eastern Europe, two “color” revolutions in the new century come to mind. In 2003 Georgia, which had been suffering from economic mismanagement and government corruption, the Rose Revolution began with widespread protests over the disputed parliamentary elections. The International Election Observation Mission led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) discovered electoral fraud—such as stark differences between official and unofficial vote counts—and concluded that the elections fell short of OSCE and international standards. When President Eduard Shevardnadze refused to void the results and, later, refused to resign from office, it sparked a twenty-day revolution from anti-government protestors led by opposition parties like Mikheil Saakashvili’s National Movement. Opposition parties took the revolution’s leadership role, increasing the support against the Shevardnadze government.
President Shevardnadze’s position proved fragile. As a special negotiator for Eurasian conflicts, Ambassador Rudolf V. Perina, in an interview with ADST, described President Shevardnadze as being widely unpopular with an unhappy Georgian population. His popularity rating was significantly low, and he had lost the confidence of the people. The country was facing a revolution standoff between non-violent anti-government protesters and the military. The central streets of Tbilisi witnessed campaigns of civil disobedience, and Kmara, a youth organization, became a key factor for non-violent protests and government reform. The government sent soldiers to suppress the unrest, but as the revolution carried on, more and more people—including eventually the soldiers—joined the movement. By nightfall on November 23, the government lost its right for authority, and more than 100,000 protestors celebrated as Shevardnadze penned his letter of resignation. This paved the way for a new government under Saakashvili.