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The News in Brief

Monday, July 24
NDI’s Pre-Election Assessment: Two Divergent, Parallel Georgias

Georgia approaches the October municipal elections “with many achievements to its credit, including a vibrant political landscape and overwhelming public support for a democratic future,” the National Democratic Institute’s (ND) pre-election assessment mission said on July 21.

The seven-member delegation from the U.S. based non-profit organisation, which has been working on political party development and democracy programs in Georgia since 1994, met on July 17 - 21 with country’s leadership, senior government officials, wide range of election stakeholders across the political spectrum, and civil society representatives.

The NDI delegation said in its statement that despite achievements “the NDI delegation encountered two divergent, parallel Georgias, a dichotomy that could undermine confidence in the political process.”

“One, seen through the lens of the ruling Georgian Dream party, is characterized by very few democratic challenges: a free media and political environment; swift and unbiased justice; and reforms reflecting broad input,” the document said.

The other, the delegation added, “held by nearly all the other interlocutors with whom the delegation met, represents a stark contrast: it is characterized by a calculated consolidation of power; uneven and political application of the law; an uneven and unfair electoral playing field; reforms designed to benefit the ruling party; shrinking media space for alternative viewpoints; informal governance; and abuse of state resources, particularly the use of state security services.”

Such a disparity, the delegation believes, “could confuse and alienate citizens and contribute to instability over time.”

The NDI delegation noted several key challenges and opportunities in the upcoming electoral process, including the “controversial” reform processes that are being conducted very close to the Election Day, referring to the ongoing constitutional, local government and electoral reforms.

“Abuse of state resources, an entrenched and longstanding problem in Georgia, remains a widespread concern,” the delegation also said, adding that the Georgian media “faces the challenge of providing the public with reliable, unbiased information about their electoral choices, while the space for pluralistic political discussion appears to be shrinking.”

The delegation also said that the National Democratic Institute will deploy a team of long-term observers, as well as an international Election Day observation delegation for the October municipal polls.

Iceland puts Georgia on list of secure countries

The authorities of Iceland have put Georgia on the list of safe countries, reads the statement of Iceland's Immigration Service.

According to the Service, "human rights are generally protected in Georgia and the Constitution of Georgia guarantees the equality of citizens".

Iceland's Immigration Service also notes that foreign human rights organizations work without hindrance in Georgia.

"Iceland’s Immigration Service has studied the situation in Georgia and it is clear that there are all prerequisites for Georgia to be called a safe country," the statement says.

Russian border guards hand over Georgian shepherd to Georgian authorities

The Border Police of Ministry of Internal Affairs have brought a missing shepherd back to Georgia. As InterPress News was informed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, on July 19, a shepherd contacted the border sector "Shilda" of the MIA Border Police N5 Division and informed them that on July 18, another shepherd and a citizen of Georgia, Zurab Chakhtauri born 1977, was missing.

In connection with the incident, the Kakheti Police Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs launched a preliminary investigation which found that Russian border guards allegedly detained the shepherd near the Russian-Georgian state border, on the Dagestani side, due to an apparent violation of the border line.

It was also found out that Zurab Chakhtauri had the right to have his sheep in the vicinity of the border line.

On July 21, Russian border guards handed over the shepherd to the Georgian side.

Zurab Chakhtauri was then taken to a safe place by a Border Police helicopter.

Rally and counter-rally

A movement "March of Georgians" leaded by Sandro Bregadze, former MP and political leader as well as Gia Korkotashvili, a public figure, different parties and citizens of Tbilisi with the slogans "No to Russian fascism", organized a protest march on Aghmashenebeli avenue in the center of Tbilisi on July 23. A counter-rally was organized by European Georgian Party and some other opposition political organizations who denied ultra-nationalistic position of supporters of "March of Georgians," highlighting the historical tolerance of Georgian people towards different nationalities.
(The Messenger)