The Russian Foreign Ministry criticized Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt for, as it put it, “inconsistencies” in his views over the people’s right to protest when visiting Georgia last week together with Polish counterpart Radosław Sikorski.
The Russian Foreign Ministry posted on September 10 on its website the following information note about its spokesman Alexander Lukashevich’s response to a question from media:
“Question: It was reported, that during his recent joint visit with Polish Foreign Minister R. Sikorski to Georgia, where parliamentary elections will be held on October 1, head of the Swedish Foreign Ministry C. Bildt has warned the opposition over counter-productiveness of its possible street demonstrations over election results. How would you comment on that?”
“Answer: We have paid attention to this statement by the Swedish Foreign Minister. He is known for his active support to ‘Arab revolutions’ and protest rallies in other countries. So attempts to a priori limit reaction on possible violation of democratic norms during the elections in Georgia seem to show at least inconsistencies in the views of the Swedish minister. In the next few days he [Carl Bildt] will be in Moscow on a private visit and we will inquire with him about such selective perceptions on people’s right to self-expression,” spokesman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Alexander Lukashevich, says in the information note.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement does not precisely specify which remarks of Bildt it is referring to. During his visit to Georgia, Bildt made public remarks about Georgia’s elections during the press conference in Tbilisi and also via two posts on his blog.
Before meetings in Tbilisi, the Swedish Foreign Minister wrote on his blog on September 4 that the message to the Georgian government was that it had to do its best to ensure that the October 1 parliamentary elections were held in accordance to the European standards and the message to the opposition was that “it has to accept the election results even if [the results] are not in its favor.”
Referring to leader of Georgian Dream opposition coalition, Bidzina Ivanishvili, Bildt wrote in the same blog post that “strange signals are coming” from the Georgian Dream leader, who “occasionally sounds like” it is the post-election street protests rather than ballot on the election day that has to decide who shall rule the country.
In a separate blog post after meetings in Tbilisi, including with Ivanishvili, Bildt wrote on September 5 that there might be an additional reason to emphasize this message to part of the opposition. He writes the impression that part of the opposition is more “focused on the day after the election, in terms of unrests” than on the election day democratic process “has rather reinforced from today’s discussions”.
Speaking at a joint news conference with his Polish counterpart in Tbilisi on September 5, Bildt said that there had been improvements in the conduct of elections in Georgia in recent years, but there was still room for improvement. He also said that it would be primarily up to the international observers, not parties involved in the electoral process, to judge about the conduct of elections.
“They [political parties] should concentrate on the issues of substance and then will come the judgment of the large number of observers on the quality of election and our firm hope and expectation is that there will be further significant improvement in the electoral standards of Georgia,” Bildt said at the news conference in Tbilisi.
At a campaign meeting in Vani on September 11, President Saakashvili said that the Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement amounted to a declaration by Moscow that it was “interested in unrests” in Georgia after the elections.
“But we will respond them with well-organized elections,” Saakashvili said.