In Russia’s ‘near neighbourhood’ (the former Soviet Union), a small but strategically important country was faced by economic decline, and even more worrying, signs of democratic erosion. Leading up to 2012 parliamentary elections, the incumbent president and his government ramped up pressure on journalists and opposition leaders to suppress the first real challenge to their party since for almost a decade from a coalition of citizens united under the leadership of a businessman and philanthropist.
The country’s president had many friends in the West, while most policymakers in Europe and America were unaware that a legitimate and democratically-minded opposition party even existed, and had never heard of its leader.
The opposition party knew that in order to win the next election, they needed to raise their profile in the United States and Europe in tandem with its internal campaign. It was critical to build credibility and expose the dishonesty and poor record of incumbent rulers.
Working with public affairs consultancies in Brussels and in Washington, Sandy McLean played a Europe-wide media relations role in a fully integrated public affairs campaign. The comprehensive communications strategy targeted media, policymakers and opinion-formers throughout America, continental Europe and the UK, and secured placements in influential print, broadcast and online outlets, as well as meetings with top elected officials and diplomats. The incumbent government suddenly faced difficult questions about their economic development and human rights record, and their answers were often challenged. Inside the country, it became more difficult for the incumbent government and its allies to dampen the enthusiasm of the people for transparency, truth and change.
Defying pundit predictions that, this time, David would be crushed by Goliath, the opposition party captured a significant majority in parliamentary elections, and its leader went on to serve as Georgia’s Prime Minister for two years.