President: Mikhail Saakashvili
Mikhail Saakashvili was elected president in January 2004, and won a second term in an early election in January 2008, called in response to opposition protests.
In 2004, Mr Saakashvili led the ''Rose Revolution'' protests which forced his predecessor as president, Eduard Shevardnadze, to resign, riding a wave of popular anger at a parliamentary rigged election. He won an overwhelming majority in the subsequent presidential election.
However, in 2007, he was widely criticised for using riot police to disperse a wave of mass protests demanding elections, triggered by allegations of corruption and complicity in murder. He responded by bringing forward presidential elections to January 2008, which he won in the first round.
The conflict with Russia in August 2008 led many Georgians previously critical of Mr Saakashvili to rally behind him, but later criticism of his role in percipitating the conflict mounted, and several opposition mass rallies were held demanding that he should step down.
In October 2010, parliament passed constitutional changes curbing the power of the presidency and boosting those of the prime minister. The changes are due to come into force in 2013.
The government said the reforms would make Georgia more democratic, but the opposition accused Mr Saakashvili of planning to stay on as prime minister once his second presidential term ends in 2013.
This notional ambition was dealt a fatal blow by the 2012 parliamentary elections, in which a coalition front formed by tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili scored a convincing victory.
Despite a bitter election campaign, Mr Saakashvili said that his party was ready to work with the "Georgian Dream" govermment, and hailed the first peaceful change of government in the country's history as a sign that Georgia was now "a normal European democracy".
Mr Saakashvili was initially a protege of Mr Shevardnadze, but a high-profile anti-corruption drive by Mr Saakashvili - then justice minister - sparked a major public row between the two in 2000.
On becoming president Mr Saakashvili vowed to restore Georgia's territorial integrity by returning its breakaway regions to the fold, and to take Georgia into Nato and the EU.
Born in Tbilisi in 1967, Mr Saakashvili trained as a lawyer in the USA and became an MP in 1995. He speaks fluent English, Russian and Ukrainian.
Prime Minister: Bidzina Ivanishvili
Parliament approved Mr Ivanishvili as prime minister in October 2012, after his Georgian Dream coalition's surprise win in general elections.
One of Georgia's richest men, Bidzina Ivanishvili announced in October 2011 that he was forming the coalition to challenge the eight-year rule of President Saakashvili.
Relations between the two men are not good. Mr Saakashvili's party accused Mr Ivanishvili of serving Russian interests and tried to revoke his Georgian citizenship ahead of the election. Since then Mr Saakashvili has pledged to work with the new government for his remaining year as president.
Mr Ivanishvili made his fortune in Russia, and is widely seen as more likely to try to restore relations with the powerful neighbour to the north. Critics fear that he will also be more likely to align Georgia with Russia on geopolitical and trade issues, althought the prime minister has paid lip service to President Saakashvili's aims of joining Nato and the European Union - neither of which is a realistic prospect.
Forbes magazine lists him 153rd in its 2012 list of billionaires, with an estimated wealth of $6.4bn. Georgia's annual GDP, in contrast, is $14bn. He made most of his money in Russia during the privatisation wave of the 1990s, and owns banks, chains of shops and housing projects in that country.
Georgian Dream is a highly diffuse group of parties, ranging from pro-Western liberals and nationalists to socialists and supporters of closer ties with Russia, and Mr Ivanishvili's enduring challenge will be to hold it all together.