Members of opposition parties met with NATO behind closed doors
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, November 11Election reforms, upcoming elections and the appearance of businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili’s issue were some of the topics raised during the meeting of the opposition and NATO member state ambassadors at the Hotel Radisson Blue on November 10.
Parliamentary and non-parliament opposition representatives participated in the meeting. “NATO’s interest for the upcoming elections is extremely high,” said a representative of the parliamentary Christian-Democratic Movement, Levan Vepkhvadze. He added that there were questions on the judicial system, constitutional changes and almost all the issues that the democratic development of the country depend on. "Such serious international interest makes us realize that Georgian authorities will have to hold better elections than in previous years and that for the 2012 elections Georgian citizens' choices must be truly reflected in the outcomes.”
The upcoming parliamentary elections will significantly affect Georgia’s fate on its path to NATO, said Parliamentary opposition MP, Guram Chakhvadze. Although all ambassadors supported Georgia’s participation in the organization, "there are still issues Georgia should work on to satisfy NATO demands." In the short term these include the election system, the election environment and of course, parliamentary elections.
There were other issues that the opposition was interested in and some concrete appeals voiced by them to NATO's leadership. "We gave detailed information regarding the illegal revocation of citizenship of businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili, and there are ongoing issues concerning the bank he owned,” said leader of Our Georgia–Free Democrats, Irakli Alasania. "All ambassadors in Georgia support change through democratic elections. This is the standard Georgia must satisfy. Only after this is done will our country's participation in NATO be realistic.”
Fellow non parliamentary Republican party leader, Davit Usupashvili had some concrete requests. According to him NATO has no alternative than to accept Georgia "however, without building democratic institutions, the alliance will not take responsibility for us. Thus my request was that they deliver concrete recommendations with a timeline.” He also mentioned that “if Saakashvili attempts to use his repression and propaganda machine to maintain power, NATO and some other objectives will be unattainable for him. I told the NATO ambassadors that Georgians wish to join the organization but it should not just be an element of Saakashvili’s propaganda machine.”
New Rights representative, Mamuka Katsitadze underlined that NATO “knows Georgian reality extremely well.” He said, “NATO supports the Government and the processes going on in the country, and not concrete figures or parties,” and that the NATO has expressed its support for reforms to the election system.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the ambassadors made no comment after the meeting, held behind closed doors. However Rasmussen told students of Tbilisi State University that "free and democratic elections need a very clear election code for all eligible citizens to take part in it without obstacles.” However, according to him “real democracy" does not only mean an election system—"It's much more that this—it's listening to minorities, freedom of expression, complete freedom of media and complete independence of the judicial system.”
However the “real democracy and its principles" described by Rasmussen still do not exist in Georgia, according to most analysts. They maintain that the media and judicial systems are partial to the Government and that election reforms being carried out don't foresee any genuine changes to improve the overall election environment.