A weakened president, an ineffective opposition, an unbalanced polity, and a country once again regarded in the west as a small component of the "Russia problem" - all this equals a political impasse in Tbilisi. Tedo Japaridze, the former foreign minister of Georgia, appeals to the country's western friends to help resolve a problem that is theirs too.
It's a sensible appeal published as an open letter in Open Democracy here, but will the West listen and do something? Locally, there are some signs of heads being banged by the diplomatic community, with emergency meetings being called after the mutiny and regular meetings with ministers and Saakashvili. The EU's special representative for the Southern Caucasus, Peter Semneby, appears regularly on TV and in the press, making suggestions that are generally well received, while denying he has any role as a mediator (which is true).
And will Saakashvili listen? Japaridze characterises Saakashvili's regime in this way:
President Saakashvili made a major contribution to the new by using television to promote his anti-corruption effort, by reviving the country's tax system and armed forces, and by taking steps that allowed President George W Bush to call Georgia "a regional beacon of democracy". This statement had less to do with any final victory (achieving democracy), as Saakashvili and some around him interpreted it, than as an indication of how far Georgia had come and how much it still needed to go on the path of reform to become a capable state.
In part because of that misinterpretation, the liberal extremism of the "rose revolution" became illiberal, a kind of radical Trotskyism with consequences that have proved far worse than anyone had expected.
It is clear that the current Georgian government, if left to its own devices, will not bring stability, peace or democracy to Georgia. I am confident that without those demonstrations, it would have continued to govern in the same "revolutionary", quasi-Trotskyist fashion. It has shown itself to be unwilling to listen to other voices, to govern more inclusively, or even to entertain the thought that those outside its own circles (including in the opposition) might have something valuable to contribute to Georgia - perhaps even more than they themselves currently offer to the Georgian people. This attitude will inevitably, in my view, lead to further instability, conflict and chaos.
What we Georgians need, and where you - my American and European friends - can help us, is to reach a consensus about the rules of the game so that we can move beyond the current blockage and focus on the legion of substantive issues.
It does not help in this respect if people abroad say to themselves and to Georgians that Georgia is "democratic enough"; or Mikheil Saakashvili is "not authoritative enough" to resolve them. In fact, we Georgians are neither fully democratic nor authoritarian - we do not have at this moment the capacity to be either. Instead, my country is a "quasi-democratic" or "quasi-authoritarian" state (or, as I would prefer to say, a "manipulative democracy").
All too often, the "democratic bureaucrats" in Tbilisi have learned how to talk so much "like" democrats that our western friends do not recognise - or prefer not to recognise - how undemocratic they truly are. That's why there are many more "newborn" democrats around these days than there is democracy itself, and why these days Georgia resembles a kind of demokratura where decisions are made personally by the president and his coterie of closest associates.
An American friend observed to me recently: "Georgian democracy lies at the intersection of Jonathan Swift's and George Orwell's fiction - the current Georgian minister for the penitentiary and probation system is responsible for dialogue about 'democratic renewal' with the opposition, and the security minister was declared by President Saakashvili to be the 'backbone of Georgian society'. As is usual when Swift and Orwell are taken together, the tears trump the laughter."
What should be done? We need to expand the circle and involve not just Georgians but you, our friends, as well. You need to press both sides to come together. President Saakashvili must be told that he has to make meaningful changes, including the promulgation of a new electoral code and a new electoral commission, to change the system and style of governance, and crowning that transformation by holding truly democratic and fair elections (or conduct a referendum, as identified by the constitution, in the case of a continued political stalemate); the opposition must be told that it must work within the system, but only if the currently warped system itself is recalibrated fundamentally.
It's obvious that neither side will only accept these strictures if they are accompanied by a western guarantee of trust. If the two sides can continue to talk and agree on something feasible, then the west should still monitor the implementation of any accord. Western involvement is any event essential - not least as there is a Georgian political tendency to agree and instantly disagree.
On the last, there is plenty of evidence.