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Democracy: All eyes on Georgia

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, September 6
From both Georgia's perspective and from abroad, the country is currently at a cross roads. The West has repeatedly underscored the importance of holding democratic elections this October. Whether these elections are fair and transparent will go a long way in determining Georgia’s future integration into Western institutions. Here in Georgia, these international expectations are paid close attention to by the current government, as well as the opposition. In fact the current Rose administration is very sensitive to remarks made by Western critics and react accordingly when they are made. The opposition meanwhile uses this to their advantage and actively tries to involve the West in the election process. Georgia's opposition encourages Georgia's western allies to increase the severity of the statements and the demands on the current government in an attempt to ensure a fair election environment this October. The West meanwhile makes well-balanced statements where on the one hand it, criticizes the current administration but puts certain responsibilities on the opposition as well. These Western statements are repeatedly interpreted in Georgia.

According to the Georgian Dream's Tina Khidasheli, the fact that the West places certain responsibilities on the opposition means that the West has lost trust in the current regime and indirectly expects the opposition to take responsibility for the events in the country. Moreover, the opposition has begun to demand more and more from the West to help it fix its categorical commitment for holding fair elections. According to the opposition and some independent analysts, Georgia could face civil confrontation if help isn't provided from abroad. Eventually, this could result in the West's total alienation from Georgia and its values.

Much speculation came about over the recent 'must carry' legislation that obliges cable providers to provide the transmission of all TV channels throughout the country. After the efforts of the independent media, the current government allowed the new legislation but only for a short period of time. The opposition has requested to prolong this new legislation for couple of weeks more. However, the government has insisted on ending this on the day of the elections. This position gave ground for independent analysts to suggest that the present administration has designs on rigging the elections and therefore it does not want the media and TV channels in particular, to be covering the post-election day events in the country. Such a position is further reinforced by the fact that the ruling administration wants to receive consent on the ultimate recognition of the results of the elections immediately after its announcement. The Georgian opposition of course does not agree to that proposal and insists that open access to all TV channels should be possible after the elections as well.

Much speculation followed the joint statement made by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, and EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, Stefan Fuele. The EU's leadership hopes that Georgia will prove to the world community that its claims are genuine.

Both the present administration and the opposition comments about the statement highlight their vision of support from the EU, so the rival forces in Georgia are preparing for battle claiming to follow the rules established by EU and other international bodies.