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Can Clinton guarantee democracy?

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, June 7
Georgians have been long anticipating US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s visit, primarily so that she could answer the question of how Georgia’s main strategic partner will approach the upcoming elections. Will she throw her support behind the current administration and its policies, or will she encourage the opposition with strong emphasis on fair elections?

Yesterday in Batumi, Clinton made several very important statements concerning democratic development and fair elections, highlighting the significance of the elections for Georgia. The US considers Georgia to be a beacon of democracy in the region, and have consequently highlighted and supported its recent achievements. She also mentioned “democratic transfer of power” a phrase that President Barack Obama used in January and one that has send Georgian opposition activists into a tizzy, as they interpret and over-interpret the phrase in an effort to bolster their own position.

The administration has said that a “transfer of power” can merely mean from one administration to the next, as in most democracies when a party or leader wins re-election. Most of the opposition see it as a secret US hint that they wish to see new blood in the government. As current President Mikheil Saakashvili has yet to announce his “retirement” plans – if he will leave politics, seek the Prime Minster’s seat, or become Speaker of Parliament – there are feelings of insecurity about a genuine transfer of power, regardless of the outcome of the elections. Saakashvili, when asked about this future in front of Clinton, maintained that his interest is in carrying out reforms and building democratic institutions, rather than securing his own personal position.

Clinton also met with some of these opposition representatives, who noted that she was well-aware of the problems Georgian democracy faces, and hopes that she will use her influence over the government to facilitate democratic conduct of the elections.

Yet there was some disappointment from members of the opposition parties who met with the American diplomat, as she did not give a concrete guarantee of US help in ensuring a democratic election. If the Georgian public believes that the elections are rigged, and the international community does not point at this, then this could create a rift between that two that would hinder any further relationship, and likely hinder Georgia’s development, too.