Increased public confidence in the legitimacy of the democratic process is “the most important objective for this electoral cycle”, U.S. ambassador to Georgia, John Bass, said on June 28.
“We believe the most important objective for this electoral cycle is increased confidence by the Georgian people in the legitimacy of the democratic process, in democratic institutions in this country,” he said. “In that context, I think, it’s important for everyone involved in contesting the elections, even as they express their opinions about specific aspects of the electoral framework and the competitive environment, to remember that the ways in which they do so have a bearing on impressions about the overall legitimacy of Georgia’s institutions and its electoral processes.”
“So everyone involved in this process, I believe, has an obligation to remember that the stakes are bigger than their specific electoral aspirations,” Bass said.
The U.S. ambassador was speaking at a news conference, which he convened to announce about the U.S. funding of a long-term observation missions for upcoming elections, conducted by the International Republican Institute (IRI) and International Democratic Institute (NDI). In addition the U.S. will also make its contribution to a broader observation mission that the OSCE will be conducting.
“Intention here is to provide from the United States a presence outside of Tbilisi and across the country that will provide some objective monitoring efforts on what is happening across the country as we get deeper into the campaign season,” Bass said.
IRI plans to deploy its twelve long-term observers to the regions – in Adjara, Samegrelo, Imereti, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Kvemo Kartli and Kakheti – by July 21. NDI, which has already conducted an assessment mission this week, will also be deploying its long-term observers in July.
Ambassador Bass reiterated that the U.S. was not supporting any individual candidate or a political party and that the U.S. efforts were designed to support the people of Georgia and to deepen democratic culture in the country.
Asked what he thought about the Mereti incident, as well as impounding some of the Georgian assets of Georgian Dream leader Bidzina Ivanishvili, as well as about GEL 2.38 million fine imposed on Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition, the U.S. ambassador responded, without addressing any of these specific cases, by stressing importance of holding a competitive election in which “all parties have an opportunity to compete”. He also said that he had been in Georgia long enough "to know that often it is very hard to differentiate between fact and opinion.”
He said that despite of “pretty polarized political environment”, it was important that the electoral contest to occur “without violence and without intimidation”.