The Messenger Online

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Washington is watching

By M. Alkhazashvili

(Translated by Diana Dundua)
Monday, December 17

The political opposition has taken some heart from a US Senate resolution emphasizing the importance of holding democratic elections in January.

Sponsored by Republican Dick Lugar—a senior legislator well-regarded on foreign affairs issues—and co-sponsored by two senior Democrats running for president, the resolution calls on the current US president to express the “expectation” that the upcoming presidential election here will be held “in a manner consistent with democratic principles…in order to restore faith in the democratic evolution of the country.”

Notably, the resolution also specified that all independent media in Georgia should be allowed to cover the election process freely.

Lugar, who is familiar with Georgia, clearly feels the Saakashvili administration should feel under the microscope as elections loom. That can certainly motivate the government to rein in any rash district-level election commissioners who may be planning to please their bosses by touching up the vote count. One of the best things Washington can do to provide for a democratic election is to expect one.

The Georgian opposition, meanwhile, is jumping on the resolution’s implicit message that there is something to worry about in the government’s election conduct. They should, however, pay more attention to the overt message that people will be watching to verify that this is indeed a free and fair election.

The ruling party has criticized opposition politicians, somewhat fairly, for harping on a presumed inevitability of election rigging. Prophesizing doom and despair on January 5 beyond what current evidence can justify is irresponsible and self-harming behavior.

Georgian voters don’t need reminders to be duly skeptical about the vote count on Election Day. A campaign vocally and singularly aimed at a fair win through elections will leave the opposition far better placed to protest irregularities should they lose.