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Opposition ask for international support

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, December 3
Recently the Labour Party initiated the idea of asking the United Nations to not only monitor but conduct elections here in Georgia. By taking this initiative Labour is actually trying to undercut all the efforts made by the ruling party and certain opposition parties to change the elections code.

It is very important for both sides, ruling party and opposition, to cooperate. Without the participation of the opposition elections cannot be considered democratic, therefore the two sides should peacefully coexist for the benefit of the country. However Labour's move suggests that the authorities have exhausted any confidence they might once have enjoyed. The opposition parties which gathered at the Labour headquarters on November 30 were almost unanimous in saying that the administration should not be trusted. Labour leader Shalva Natelashvili expressed his confidence that Saakashvili and his team will never hold free and genuine elections unless forced to accept UN-organised ballots.

Labour suggests that a document listing the reasons why the country wants the UN to conduct the elections should be drawn up for submission by December 20. This appeal would have much effect if a number of opposition parties signed it, as the ruling party's commitment to democracy would thus be seriously challenged. Almost all the opposition parties except the National Democratic Party, Democratic Party (Gia Tortladze), Movement for Fair Georgia (Zurab Noghaideli) and Democratic Movement-United Georgia (Nino Burjanadze) participated in the meeting at which drafting this document was suggested. Opinions on how international institutions should be involved in the elections differed. If international organisations run Georgia's elections this will further increase the responsibility of these bodies and decrease the role of the CEC.

The opposition unanimously agreed that the elections conducted last year created serious grounds for protest and distrust. They are convinced that the Government does not want to conduct fair elections and is intending to rig the forthcoming local elections in the same way as has until now. It was highlighted at the meeting that the Rose Revolution took place precisely because of rigged elections, and this should have been a guarantee that no further elections were rigged.

Ruling party members immediately and very aggressively responded to this initiative, saying that it is pointless as the country has enough democratic will to hold its own elections and invite foreigners to take part as observers. Chairman of Parliament Davit Bakradze has asked opposition parties to work with Government members in drawing up more credible voter lists. However opposition activists are claiming that they have found cases of people loyal to the National Movement living in rural areas being systematically registered to vote in the capital Tbilisi, and not a few at a time. These people will presumably be voting for the ruling party on election day. It has yet to be explained how many UN staff will have to be here, and for how long, to achieve the end we all desire.