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US comes to see what's going on

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, May 14
Tina Kaidanow, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State at the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, held official meetings in Georgia on May 13 with Government representatives, opposition parties, members of NGOs and political and media analysts. All the meetings were held behind closed doors.

“The aim of my meetings has been to study the election situation in Georgia. I have had a nice day, as I have met members of different parties and other stakeholders and listened to their opinions and remarks. I am glad that political processes are developing positively. All procedures concerning the elections should be extremely transparent,” Kaidanow said after talking to Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze.

Opposition and NGO representatives gave more details of what had been discussed. "The main theme we discussed was the election environment. The non-Parliament opposition has obviously underlined that there have been no positive moves in terms of improving this. The present Government frequently says that everything is being done to hold free elections, but the reality is totally different. However despite this the opposition has a significant chance of winning these elections,” Salome Zourabichvili, leader of The Way of Georgia, stated. “We have frequent contacts with the US State Department and this visit, especially coming in the election period, is very important. We gave the Deputy Assistant Secretary our views on the electoral situation and she promised her complete support and directly stated that Georgia should develop democratically, without conducting revolutions, and only changes through elections will be acceptable,” Nika Laliashvili, from the Christian-Democratic Movement said.

Press involvement in the elections was discussed at the meeting between the Deputy Assistant Secretary and NGO and media representatives, which was attended by Multinational Georgia, Fair Elections, New Generation- New Initiative and Liberal Magazine. "This was a closed meeting and I cannot talk about it in detail, but I can say that she showed great interest in the upcoming elections and how the campaigns are being covered by the Georgian media. The Central Election Commission’s activities were also assessed positively,” Editor of Liberal Magazine Shorena Shaverdashvili said. Chair of Multinational Georgia Arnold Stepanian said he had informed Kaidanow about problems concerning election monitoring. "She was interested in monitoring issues and wanted to hear what the current situation was in this area. I informed her, that there are some problems with monitoring, especially in the regions. Election monitoring has not been yet conducted by NGOs in the Gardabani and Marneuli regions,” Stepanian said after the meeting.

Analyst Nika Chitadze told The Messenger, "this very important meeting made clear one more time that the United States' position on Georgia has not changed; we are a strategic partner and ally of the US. This meeting confirmed however that America also has serious demands of Georgia and its representatives want to know to what extent these demands are being fulfilled. One of these demands is holding free elections, and the US representatives are interested in how far different political directions are being allowed to conduct proper election campaigns. I welcome US and Western representatives' visits to Georgia, especially at this time, as their observations will act as a significant guarantee that free local elections will be held in Georgia. Their role will significantly increase, especially on polling day and in the post election period,” Chitadze said.

Kaidanow left Georgia the same day.