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International community offers broad praise for election

By Messenger Staff

Wednesday, January 9

The EU, NATO and a host of Western nations have praised Georgia’s conduct in the presidential election on January 5, while calling on the government to address shortcomings highlighted by election observers.

Russia, however, has criticized the elections as unfair and undemocratic.

A statement released by the EU on January 7 congratulated Georgians for their “peaceful conduct” on polling day, and welcomed the authorities’ “good cooperation” with the OSCE election observer mission. However, it also said there was an urgent need for the government to address the identified shortcomings “in order to ensure successful parliamentary elections later this year.”

A NATO spokesman toed a similar line, describing the election as “an important step in Georgia’s democratic development” and stating NATO would continue to deepen its Intensified Dialogue with Georgia.

The US congratulated Georgia on holding presidential elections “largely in accordance with international standards,” but urged the government to address problems raised by the OSCE election mission.

“On the whole, it’s the assessment of [the OSCE election observation] mission that it was a good election that reflected the will of the Georgian people,” US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said at a press briefing.

British Foreign Office Minister for Europe Jim Murphy released a statement on Monday saying that Britain welcomed “the peaceful, democratically-conducted presidential elections in Georgia.” He said it was a “tribute to the Georgian people that they have acted responsibly in elections that began in difficult circumstances.”

Murphy also called on the Georgian government to “address the challenges to the democratic process identified by international observers.”

Slovak Foreign Minister Jan Kubis, in his capacity as chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, welcomed election observer assessments that the elections “took place in a genuinely competitive environment,” and called on political parties to settle any outstanding issues through dialogue.

Meanwhile, Russia was quick to slam the election as neither free nor fair. The Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement on January 6 that drew attention to reports of violations on polling day and condemned the presidential race as tainted by “widespread use of administrative resources, open pressure on opposition candidates and severe limitations on their access to financial and media sources.”

The statement also dismissed as “superficial” an initial assessment on Sunday by Alcee L. Hastings, a US congressman and coordinator of the OSCE short term observation mission, that Georgian democracy has taken a “triumphant step.”