Opening Statement: Our delegation has come to Georgia to highlight the importance of a democratic electoralprocess that results in a Parliament which reflects the will of the Georgian people. We met with a range ofsenior Georgian Government officials to urge that Georgia’s electoral laws are implemented in a fair, impartial,and transparent manner, and to urge all political parties to fully participate in the process while abiding by thelaw.
The message that we have conveyed privately to the various stakeholders has been identical: The United States supports the Georgian people’s aspirations for a free and fair democratic process. We do not favor anyparticular party or candidate, and look forward to continued close cooperation with the leaders the Georgian people choose.The upcoming elections are critical to helping Georgia advance its Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
Domestic andinternational perceptions of fairness of the campaign environment, including adherence to the rule of law,media access, transparency, and fair play in the adjudication of disputes, will be important indicators of Georgia’s democratic development.
The long term work of building a vibrant democracy is not over on election day. I would like to highlight the importance of several principles that, all of which are essential for a meaningul electoral processes.
• A level playing field: it is essential that the political environment is conducive to full participation in the campaign by all parties on equal terms. Notwithstanding a variety of shortcomings in recent months, it is clearthat there is a competitive campaign underway.
• Rule of Law and Due Process: In our meetings with the Georgian Government and the political parties, westressed the importance of ensuring that campaign and election laws are applied equally and transparently,and that all participants are held to the same high standards of conduct as spelled out in Georgian law. At thesame time, we urged political parties to participate constructively, follow the law scrupulously, and to pursue their political goals at the ballot box.
• Respect for fundamental freedoms: Respect for peaceful protests and freedom of assembly is a hallmarkof democratic society. We have heard from all the political parties we have met that they have been able totravel the country, hold rallies, and get their messages out to the voters. At the same time, all parties should renounce violence and avoid provocations.
• Access to media: We applaud the electoral reforms enacted late last year that expanded access of parties tothe mass media during the 60 day campaign. More recently, we were encouraged to see the implementation of “Must Carry” legislation during the campaign period and we strongly support its extension through the post-election grievance process and beyond. Efforts to promote wider access to a diversity of opinions and media outlets would reflect fundamental values democracies share.
• Constructive engagement: We have every expectation, based on the political parties commitment to containany violence and the government’s commitment that security forces will be scrupulously professional, that election day and its immediate aftermath will unfold peacefully. We certainly hope this will be the case. We remind all parties that after October 1, they will need to work together constructively in the new parliament to advance Georgia’s democratic and economic development, and they should conduct their campaigns in that spirit.
Finally, we call on all participants to work to ensure that the Georgian people judge the elctions as free and fair. We commend the work of domestic and international observation groups, including principally OSCE/ODIHR, to help ensure the election process is transparent and consistent with international standards and theresults reflect the will of the Georgian people.