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USA support for local elections in Georgia

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, July 8
Jonathan Conly, USAID Caucasus Mission Director, Nermin Nisic, IFES Chief of Party and Zurab Kharatashvili, Chair, CEC
USAID allotted USD 450,000 to local NGOs during and before the recent local elections in Georgia to enhance citizen participation and improve the election environment. Altogether 18 grant projects were funded, covering a wide range of activities throughout the country, concerning voter education, media monitoring, election observation and so on. The aim of this programme was to activate citizen participation in various directions through encouraging Georgian NGOs to serve as watchdogs of democracy.

On July 7 a summarising event was held in Tbilisi Marriott Hotel. 5 organisations, the Union of Azerbaijani Women in Georgia, the public movement Multinational Georgia, Liberali, Transparency International Georgia and Internews, made presentations on their funded work. It should be mentioned that the reports painted a rather controversial picture. The Central Elections Commission (CEC)'s work before and during the elections was assessed as positive, with only minor violations occurring, but the NGOs said that multiple abuses were conducted before and during the elections, most of them beyond the remit of the CEC. These included the intimidation of voters, pressurising people, threats and other violations.

Answering The Messengerís question one of the presenters mentioned that the recommendations given by the NGOs participating in the project were not binding on Georgian officials or the local or central election commissions. They are only attempts to enlarge public awareness in the hope that things will change, with better elections being conducted in future years.