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Liberal International expresses concern for Georgian elections

By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, April 11
Liberal International (LI) - the world federation of liberal and progressive democratic political parties – has discussed so-called “anti-democratic events” in Georgia. In a statement released by Georgian Dream member Tina Khidasheli, LI called on the Georgian government to ensure a free and fair competitive electoral environment for the upcoming parliamentary elections in October 2012.

According to LI, the Georgian government did not consider the recommendations of the European Council and the Venice Commission when amending the electoral code. The organization also noted limitations on freedom of the press, and criticized the withholding of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian citizenship as well as the administrative sanctions against his businesses, including cases of oppression and manipulation of Georgian Dream members.

At a recent committee session, LI spoke of financial transparency for participating parties, equal access to state and private media, protection of the rights of property of private individuals and organizations, and of little intervention into private political activities as important components of a healthy electoral environment.

LI called on its member states to establish intensive monitoring of political events in Georgia in order to ensure “peaceful distribution of power” in the country.

The statement released by Khidasheli also announced that a delegation from the EU Liberal Democratic Party will visit Georgia at the beginning of May to familiarize themselves with the political environment. Representatives will study civil rights violations and pressure enacted on members of Georgian Dream, as that is what prompted their “immediate reaction" and decision to visit.

The 25-member delegation will meet with Georgian Dream officials, and then hopefully speak with government representatives.

Acting as "a citizen and a person engaged in political processes,” Khidasheli asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to publish the official requests for monitoring delegations they sent to international organizations. Doubting their trustworthiness, she said the Georgian people should know what kinds of invitations are being sent abroad.

As Khidasheli said, Georgian Dream intends to continue active cooperation with other organizations in order to provide the international community with the “real picture” about the ongoing situation in the country.

According to the MFA, sending invitations to foreign observers seven months before the election is "unprecedented”. Hoping that an unlimited number of observers will monitor the parliamentary elections this fall, letters have been sent to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, in order to ensure "free and democratic elections in a maximally transparent environment”.

Political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze does not doubt the government's intentions. As he told The Messenger, Georgian officials are in the limelight of political attention, and so are unlikely to lie about their interaction with international organizations. “But as suspicion has risen, it’s better to check,” he said, welcoming foreign monitors. “The earlier the observers arrive, the better".