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Election 2012: US Deputy Assistant Secretary to visit Georgia

By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, September 12
United Stated Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) Thomas O. Melia of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, visited Georgia accompanied by an interagency delegation to assess Georgia's pre-election environment from September 10-12.

The main purpose of the delegation’s visit to Georgia is to “highlight the importance of a democratic electoral process that results in a Parliament which reflects the will of the Georgian people.”

According to the information released by the US Department of State, the delegation will “urge the Georgian Government to implement Georgia’s electoral laws in a fair, impartial, and transparent manner” and also “urge all political parties to fully participate in the process while abiding by the law.”

Zurab Kharatishvili, Chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC), briefly introduced the US interagency delegation with the preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections. The US guests received information about the Election Day schedule and the vote counting procedures.

The election environment and the government's plans were in focus during Georgian Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili’s meeting with the US interagency delegation. According to the PM’s web page, the sides focused on the current situation in Georgia and about the continuation of cooperation between the two counties.

On the first day of their visit the US delegation met with Georgian political parties, media and NGOs. Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) leader Giorgi Targamadze said the US delegation was interested to know how competitive the election environment is, how the media is covering the election campaigns, what has been done to ensure the accuracy of voters’ lists and if there have been cases of intimidation.

Targamadze said his team was oriented on the challenges of the “modern Georgian election campaign” and shared their expectations regarding the results of the parliamentary elections and further legislative activities with the US delegation.

Stressing that the Georgian Dream will do everything to ensure peaceful and democratic elections in Georgia, Georgian Dream coalition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili said the visit of the high-ranking US delegation illustrates how much attention the US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pay to the fairness of the elections in Georgia. “They know what the situation is in Georgia and we will only assist them with additional facts,” Ivanishvili said, stressing that the US delegation did not arrive to Georgia to express their support to a particular political team, but came to encourage the Georgian people.

“The UNM aims at winning in fair and free elections,” UNM MP Akaki Minashvili said, welcoming the interest of the US in Georgia.

The misuse of administrative resources, the selective approach to political parties, the illegal seizure of property and the increasing tension in the country were discussed by the NGOs on Monday. Chairperson of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) Tamar Chugoshvili told The Messenger that they provided the US Interagency delegation with detailed information about the election process.

Emphasizing the preventive effect of the public statements made by international organizations, the NGOs asked the US guests to react to the violations. “We also asked them to support the continuation of Must Carry and Must Offer principles on Election Day and beyond,” Chugoshvili explained, stressing that the US delegation shared their approach. The seizure of Maestro’s TV dishes was also a focus of the discussion.

DAS Melia plans to summarize his visit to Georgia at a press conference on September 12.