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Opposition politicians lukewarm on international election observers

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, December 20
A representative of the nine-party opposition coalition, emphasizing his allies’ trust for international election observers, denied government accusations that the opposition plan to reject the results of the January 5 presidential election if they lose.

“We are preparing not for January 6 or January 7, but for January 5, and if they are fair elections, confirmed by the Georgian people and the international organizations—we also have observers—we will recognize the election results,” said Republican leader Levan Berdzenishvili, a member of the United National Council opposition coalition, at a December 18 Paris press conference, according to the online news source

Opposition campaigners have frequently alleged violations of election law by the ruling party, and some have accused the government of planning to rig the vote.

Berdzenishvili was in France together with ruling party MPs Elene Tevdoradze and Giga Bokeria as members of Georgia’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). A PACE monitoring committee had earlier reported on their trip to Georgia to observe election campaigning.

The PACE monitoring committee reported that the state has made admirable progress in technical preparations for the election, but that “allegations of intimidation and pressure are too many for comfort.” The monitoring committee also warned of a potential for voter fraud and misuse of administrative resources, urging the government to clearly demonstrate to the public that “no one is above the law.”

At the same time, the PACE monitoring committee noted that “for some, the events of the Rose Revolution have set a standard for affecting political change in Georgia.” That statement echoed criticisms levied by the government against opposition parties which, the government insinuates, would like to see a repeat of the 2003 revolution which brought the current administration to power.

The monitoring committee called on opposition politicians to “refrain from already questioning the credibility of, and undermining public confidence in, the electoral process.”

While Berdzenishvili’s comments in France seemed intended to back his coalition away from what Bokeria, the majority MP, characterized as a “radical” approach to the presidential election, his colleagues in Tbilisi were less ready to honor the verdict of international observers.

“The opinion of international organizations is very important for us,” opposition coalition member Zviad Dzidziguri, of the Conservatives, said. “But I want to remind you that the 2003 election was approved of by the OSCE, and after this election the Rose Revolution happened.”

Kote Gabashvili, a top majority MP, said that Dzidziguri was misremembering his history.

“The first, instant reaction from the OSCE on the 2003 elections was positive, but I remember very well that the full report which followed did not approve of the results,” he said. The OSCE report on the January 5 election would be very important, Gabashvili added.

A campaign spokesperson for Badri Patarkatsishvili, one of six candidates vying against de facto incumbent Mikheil Saakashvili, said they would be ready to recognize the election results if they are approved by international organizations.

Giorgi Gugava, a spokesperson for Labor candidate Shalva Natelashvili, however, warned of an “adequate answer” if they suspect the government of rigging the election.