Is the Georgian Election “already stolen”?

Two pro western Georgian politicians have exchanged sharp words last week through a European media outlet. Comments by Georgian Vice Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze  were strongly rebuked by former Foreign Minister Tedo Japaridze as tension in the Caucasus country increases.

A few days ago the Brussels newspaper and web portal New Europe carried an interview with Georgia’s Deputy Prime Minister and State Minister for European Integration, Giorgi Baramidze, who was in the Belgian capital to attend the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Eastern Partnership countries.

In the interview Baramidze lashed out at Georgia’s opposition, and through innuendo rather than facts, tried to link the opposition Georgian Dream Coalition, and its leader Bidzina Ivanishvili to the Russian leadership, whilst warning of ominous Russian moves ahead of the elections.

This prompted a sharp rebuke from one of the current leaders of the opposition coalition and former Foreign Minister, Tedo Japaridze. Japaridze suggested that given the latest moves by the Georgian government against the opposition, next October’s Parliamentary election may have already “been stolen.” He further accused the current Georgian leadership of betraying the original ideas of the Rose revolution which brought them to power in 2003.

Japaridze however reiterated the Georgian Dreams commitment to work within the constitutional process, as well as its adherence to a policy of full European and Euro-Atlantic integration.

The Georgian government has regularly attached a pro Russia label, or worse, to anybody who has disagreed with it in both Georgia and abroad. Sometimes they were justified, often they were not. It is very doubtful if this strategy is going to work this time round, but more importantly this should not be used to justify a flawed electoral process.

This exchange of views in the European media has been seen as somewhat bizarre, given that Baramidze and Japaridze are both considered amongst the staunchest pro-western politicians in Georgia, and both have influential friends in Washington.

Georgian politicians often indulge in brinkmanship, only to draw back at the eleventh hour. Whenever they did not the nation paid a heavy price subsequently.

In the forthcoming parliamentary elections much will depend on what conclusions the international community draws at the end of the process. It is important that international monitoring organisations take a holistic approach that takes into account the broader election environment. More importantly all sides need to be judged on their deeds and not simply on their words.

Georgia needs an electoral process that both government and opposition trust and believe in. Anything less will do untold harm to the country’s future. It is about time Georgian politicians understand this. If the Georgian Opposition thinks that the October Elections are already stolen than the Georgian government needs to be worried, and to do something about it.

source: Caucasus Elections Watch