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OSCE chair urges Tbilisi to use elections as opportunity

By Christina Tashkevich
Friday, February 29
A top OSCE official has called on Georgian officials to use the upcoming parliamentary elections in May to demonstrate Georgian progress toward pluralistic democracy.

“The government and the opposition must continue a constructive dialogue. Improving the electoral system should be a joint effort,” OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Finnish Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva said at a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Davit Bakradze on February 27.

He also said the interim OSCE/ODIHR report released in mid-January “shows [Georgia] the way forward.”

The report lists vote-counting irregularities and unusually high turnout at some polling stations as some of the shortcomings of the recent presidential election and criticizes the Central Election Commission for failing to apply uniform procedures in ruling on ballot validity.

It also noted that nearly a quarter of vote counts observed were assessed as “bad or very bad,” and highlights inconsistencies between tabulation protocols at the precinct and district levels.

While noting the progress Georgia has made in the past four years, Kanerva emphasized the necessity of strengthening democratic institutions in the country.

“The task is to translate the existing reforms into practical implementation on the ground,” he said.

Foreign Minister Davit Bakradze said that the Georgian government is ready to receive “as many observers as possible” from the OSCE and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

“The Georgian side remains absolutely open,” Bakradze said at the briefing on February 27.

Representatives of the political opposition also met with Kanerva during his trip to Tbilisi.

“We asked the OSCE to convince the government to go on more serious compromises on election law,” opposition coalition representative Salome Zourabichvili said on February 27.

The OSCE official also encouraged both sides in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict to use the negotiation format to achieve progress in the conflict settlement.

“Improving the security situation on the ground would be helpful to the process,” he said. “Also, the Economic Rehabilitation Program is already contributing to confidence-building between the sides…Confidence-building is the key.”