Hilary Clinton in the South Caucasus pushes for reforms and free elections

Hilary Clinton with the Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in Yerevan on 4 June 2012 (picture courtesy of the Press Service of the President of Armenia)

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has pushed for reforms and free elections during her whirlwind tour of the South Caucasus on 4-6 June 2012.

Using measured words aimed at not upsetting her government hosts Clinton flagged up important issues related to democratic reforms and free and fair elections.

Speaking in Yerevan after meeting with President Serzh Sargsyan, on 4 June, the US Secretary of State said “I was very pleased at the reports from international monitors about Armenia’s parliamentary elections last month being generally competitive and inclusive, where candidates were able to campaign for the most part without interference. There were some electoral problems that were identified, and we hope that Armenia will work with the OSCE and others to ensure that the next election is even better.”

A similar message was delivered in Georgia the following day when in Batumi, Clinton addressed the US Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission. In her opening remarks, the U.S. Secretary of State said that the two countries shared “common goals and common interests”. She said that Georgia had “taken important steps” since the Rose Revolution and Georgia’s “progress has been noted worldwide.” “Now it is up to Georgia to consolidate your democratic gains. That is the key to Georgia’s future and it will bring Georgia closer to achieving your Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” Clinton said.

The parliamentary elections this fall and presidential election next year are opportunity for Georgia “to deepen its democracy and strengthen the legitimacy of Georgia’s democratic institutions in the eyes of your public and of the world,” she said.

“We urge Georgia’s leaders to ensure that it will be a competitive  campaign and the elections are free and fair” both during the elections day and in run up to it, Clinton said.

She said that creation of Inter-Agency Task Force for Free and Fair Elections (IAT F) at the National Security Council of Georgia to prevent and react on possible electoral violations “is a good step.”

Clinton also welcomed introduction of financial incentives for political parties to encourage them recruit women candidates in their party lists for parliamentary and local elections. She said that “more difficult and ultimately the more important work  may well be ahead” in order to build habits and practices to sustain democracy over time, “which means not only holding of successful elections, but also going beyond elections and strengthening the other pillars of democracy that is labor rights, judicial independence, media independence and access.”

During her visit to the three South Caucasus countries Clinton has also made it a point to meet civil society leaders and to praise their work.

Source: CEW with US State Department Press Office and Civil.ge