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Why did McCain visit Georgia?

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, January 14
The visit of influential American Senator John McCain on January 11 took the traditional form. He met President Saakashvili, his administration and opposition members and then left. The authorities called this a demonstration of support from the USA. The opposition however suggested that this visit was yet another attempt by the US administration to push Georgia’s leadership in a democratic direction.

American political analysts think that the Senator's visit to Georgia can be explained by the fact that there will be US Senate elections in autumn 2010. It could have been designed to bolster his image before the Senate elections, given his support for the country in the past and the positive response he received for giving it.

Of course the Senator once again highlighted his and his country’s support for Georgia’s territorial integrity. Analyst Irakli Sesiashvili thinks that the visit was another clear demonstration of the US position and a kind of preventive measure to counter Russia’s possibly aggressive plans. Secretary of the National Security Council of Georgia Eka Tkeshelashvili said that this visit proves once again how important Georgia is in US foreign policy.

McCain's visit could well have been connected with Georgia’s domestic situation. He met some opposition leaders who gave him their view of the situation in the country. Labour Party leader Shalva Natelashvili, who was not invited to the meeting with the Senator, held a press conference at which he criticised McCain, saying that he was still the ‘godfather of dictator Saakashvili’. He also said that McCain and Bush were responsible for the Rose Revolution, what he called an ‘anti-constitutional coup’. However most of the opposition are convinced that McCain’s visit was targeted at ensuring the further democratisation of the Georgian administration's policies. Analyst Paata Zakareishvili thinks that McCain came to correct the situation and put Saakashvili ‘in his place’.

Actually this visit was quite unexpected, as explained by the fact that some opposition leaders, such as Salome Zourabichvili and Nino Burjanadze, were unable to attend the meeting in Batumi or deliberately did not do so. Leader of Christian Democrats Giorgi Targamadze, head of the Defend Georgia Movement Levan Gachechiladze and Republican leader Davit Usupashvili, representing the Alliance for Georgia, attended the meeting with McCain. The Senator stressed that Georgia has a strong opposition and that is beneficial for the country. One party leadership is not a sign of democracy, stated McCain. The opposition highlighted during the meeting that the country needs support to conduct the forthcoming elections in a democratic way. They hope that the US administration will not tolerate the elections being rigged. Usupashvili in particular said after the meeting that he had informed the Senator that the media, the court system and business are under political control and this prevents the country developing in a democratic direction.

The Georgian population is very much concerned about the forthcoming local elections. These will be a test of how ready the Georgian leadership is to grant the new wave of democracy it has promised. They will show how effectively our Western friends are influencing the development of democracy in Georgia, and how genuinely they are committed to this.