Georgia in transition: US leaders hammer in importance of free and fair elections

American political leaders have over the last few days highlighted the importance of free and fair elections in Georgia whilst also expressing support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and for the right of the Georgian nation to decide its future.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton linked the two messages during a press conference in Batumi on June 5th, at the end of her visit to the country. She said that free and fair elections that will result into a fully democratic transfer of power will be the “single best thing” Georgia can do to advance its security, democracy and international reputation.

The message was echoed a day later in Washington. Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives described parliamentary elections in October and the 2013 presidential election in Georgia as “critical” for the country’s democratic development. Representative Howard Berman (California), the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s top Democrat, said he was “concerned by efforts to prevent a prominent political opponent from running in the parliamentary election” — a reference to billionaire opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili. Berman also decried “reported attempts to intimidate local opposition leaders, including denying them access to media.”

House lawmakers also approved a resolution reaffirming support for Georgia’s territorial integrity, NATO aspirations, and democratic reforms made to date.

At the end of her visit to Georgia on 6 June, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, speaking in the presence of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili stated:

 “Today I met with leaders of the opposition parties and discussed their vital role in deepening Georgia’s democratic development. The United States believes competing energies and ideas drive the democratic process; civic activism, open debate and level playing field, citizens’ access to information are all vital as you move towards parliamentary elections and then presidential elections. We expect Georgia will hold free and fair elections this fall and then completely democratic transfer of power in 2013 and we believe that every party and every candidate should respect the political process and we look forward to welcoming a strong relationship with those that the Georgian people choose.” 

Freedom House categorizes Georgia as “transitional”

A Freedom House report has categorized Georgia as a Transitional Government or Hybrid Regime. The Nations in Transit 2012 report, published on 6 June, is Freedom House’s comprehensive, comparative study of democratic development in 29 countries across Eurasia.

The US-based organization found that those countries which achieved the greatest democratic success since the end of the Cold War “are now displaying serious vulnerabilities in their young democratic systems”. Over the past five years, stagnation and backsliding has been evident in key governance indicators, particularly in new EU member states and the Balkans, the report says.

Georgia has an overall score of 4.82, on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being the most democratic). It scores 5.00 in Electoral Process, 3.75 in Civil Society, 4.25 in Independent Media, 5.75 in National Democratic Governance, 5.50 in Local Democratic Governance, 5.00 in Judicial Framework and Independence, and 4.50 in Corruption. Apart from Georgia, the group of Transitional Governments or Hybrid Regimes include Albania at 4.14, Bosnia and Herzegovina at 4.36, Ukraine at 4.82, and Moldova at 4.89.

Source: CEW with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, IPN and civil.ge