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Alasania expects support for democracy, fair elections in Obama-Saakashvili meeting

By Ernest Petrosyan
Wednesday, January 25
Speaking on Maestro TV, leader of the Free Democrats, Irakli Alasania, said that he expects President Mikheil Saakashvili to be told at his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama that he should “follow [the] example of George Washington instead of emulating Vladimir Putin”.

"This is very important meeting,” said Alasania, adding that the White House statement on upcoming Obama-Saakashvili meeting noted that the upcoming parliamentary elections in Georgia would be a topic of discussion.

"The entire international community, including America, is telling Saakashvili explicitly, 'We support Georgian democracy, the building of democratic institutions and not individual [politicians] - either Alasania, Saakashvili or Ivanishvili'" he continued.

Presidential spokesperson Manana Manjgaladze has announced that the two Presidents will discuss defense and security issues, strengthening democratic reforms, and cooperation in a number of fields, including economics, energy, and trade. The parties will also speak about deepening ties and increasing cooperation in the field of culture.

She added that apart from the presidential meeting, a meeting with high officials of the legislative and executive branches is planned. Saakashvili will meet with Vice President Joe Biden and speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner.

According to Alasania, the next parliamentary elections are of crucial importance for the continued building of democratic institutions, and if the process becomes politically polarized, leading to street protests, the international community will take "relevant steps".

He also said that the international community has high expectations for the elections, particularly for setting democratic standards, as there are some signs that these elections will be "fairer and would be held in [a] more competitive environment”.

Alsania maintains that the current Georgian administration is trying to intimidate voters, especially in the regions, by using "dirty methods"; he claimed a party activist was arrested recently under fabricated charges of illegally keeping arms. An activist in Lanchkhuti, in western Georgia, was arrested on January 14 and released on bail the same day. Four teachers from a school in Chorvila village (the home village of opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili) in Sachkhere, said on January 18 that they had been let go of their positions because of their support for Ivanishvili, including signing a petition for the restoration his Georgian citizenship.

A similar story emerged on the Report of the Week, a program on Maestro TV, which reported on Sunday that approximately a dozen Sachkere residents, including a 17-year-old boy, were beaten and verbally insulted when they started chanting pro-Ivanishvili slogans at a New Year's concert. The perpetrators were allegedly Ministry of Internal Affairs employees.

Alasania believes that the launch of an effective inter-agency task force to address election-related violations would be important for reacting to, and preventing, intimidation of voters and opposition activists. A new election code, which went into effect this month, calls for the establishment of such a task force through the National Security Council. According to the election code, such a group must be established by July 1, 2012.