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Kelly Degnan on 'rigorous election reforms'

By Khatia Bzhalava
Tuesday, September 1
The US Embassy in Georgia published ambassador Kelly Degnan’s responses to the questions asked by the media representatives. Ambassador estimated political activities in the context of upcoming elections and gave out recommendations to the parties. She also talked about the involvement of OSCE/ODIHR and the US Embassy in the elections with the role of observers.

The ambassador believes the election campaign to have already started as a result of what "we are already beginning to see extreme and, I would say in some cases, irresponsible rhetoric." Even though she assumes to see more of that, the ambassador encourages political parties and leaders to help the Georgian community better understand what their platforms are regarding the issues such as education, healthcare, and the economic recovery after the COVID-19, so that the voters will be able to cast their ballot fully informed.

Degnan encourages vigorous enforcement of the recent electoral reforms, which are adopted based on the ODIHR recommendations.

“This is, again, the way the voters are going to be able to go the ballot and cast their ballots free of intimidation, free of vote-buying, and truly have free and fair elections here in Georgia in October,” Degnan said.

As the ambassador noted, OSCE/ODIHR plans to send a robust monitoring mission, both long term observers and short term observers. There will also be embassies’ teams of election observers on election day. She also noted to be certain that NDI and IRI will be involved in the upcoming elections as "they have a long history of being a part of elections in Georgia and they would not want to miss this one either."

Degnan positively estimated Speaker Talakvadze’s recent initiative to toughen the penalty for voter intimidation and other kinds of violations. She believes that any effort that is directed to eradicate problems that Georgia has seen repeatedly in its elections over the last thirty years (such as vote-buying, voter intimidation, abuse of administrative resources) is a step forward.

On the question about Russia’s possible meddling into Georgia’s elections considering the recent information that Kremlin funds Alliance of Patriots and how it can be prevented, the ambassador answered that Georgia should be ready for interference in the elections from Russia. She stressed the frequency and consistency of the disinformation campaigns (‘not just related to the elections, but in general’) and noted that the United States Embassy, as well as other international donors, are seeking to raise awareness among the Georgian public and help the community to learn how to tell the difference between fake and authentic information.

Degnan once again highlighted the importance of political leaders educating the voters about the information that is important to them, such as education, economic recovery, and health. She believes that “this is the way to ensure the voters go to the polls well-informed and ready to cast their ballots and the best way to push back against the disinformation from Russia or anywhere else.”