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Targamadze returns from inspiring U.S. visit

By Salome Modebadze
Tuesday, February 7
Giorgi Targamadze, leader of Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM), has returned from a nine-day visit to the United States. As Targamadze told journalists on Monday, he met with members of Congress, representatives of the Department of the State, and other American officials and analysts actively working on Georgian issues, prior to President Mikheil Saakashvili's visit.

He called his visit “a good way to cooperate,” as he was able to see a democratic country from different points of view.

The safety of the state, foreign aggression, regional tension, economic prosperity, the pre-election environment, and democratic transfers of power were among the issues Targamadze discussed with U.S. officials. Speaking of the importance of the “democratization exams” Georgia has to pass this year, the opposition leader hoped that the upcoming elections would prove whether Saakashvili is really a democratic president or not.

“If we see the U.S. as policemen responsible for order in Georgia, it is offensive,” Targamadze said, explaining that the U.S. can simply give advice as a friend. “But if we fail this democratic exam, America won’t be our friend any more – and our northern comrades [Russia] would have a great chance to make [their] order in here,” he remarked.

He also expressed confidence that Saakashvili will not be able to remain in power after the elections.

Targamadze explained that when he meets world leaders he does not talk about “authoritarianism” in Georgia, buts ask them to ensure that Saakashvili acts within the framework of democracy. He also suggested that other opposition parties should actively work on improving the execution of elections by checking voters lists, participating in door-to-door registration, and restricting administrative resources to avoid falsification of elections. Targamadze went on to stress the need to reach those in the electorate who are sympathetic to the opposition, and encourage them to vote, “as their votes can define the future of their families and the future of the country in general.”

Having the opportunity to familiarize himself with the U.S. agricultural sector, Targamadze said he would consider other countries’ experiences when implementing policy in Georgia.

Meeting with Georgian businessmen living in the U.S. was particularly special for Targamadze, especially when they discussed future economic cooperation. These people, as Targamadze said, could see serious potential for Georgian products in the U.S. market. Wondering why the Georgian government has not carried out active branding campaigns for promoting Georgian wines at international markets, Targamadze said “a plan is not enough,” as raising public awareness about Georgian products is also necessary.

Speaking of the need to attract more investment to create long-term jobs and promote economic development, the CDM leader spoke of the “experiential democracy” President Saakashvili has been trying to build so far. Democracy, according to Targamadze, should have its basis in grassroots society; therefore the promotion of small and medium business is vital. Despite the global economic crisis, Targamadze is optimistic about Georgia’s potential to become a major destination for foreign investment – especially after successful democratic elections in 2012.