The goal now is to make sure that election process and peaceful transition ends as peacefully as it started earlier this week, U.S. ambassador to Georgia, Richard Norland, said in the town of Zugdidi on October 4.
The U.S. ambassador made the remarks while speaking with journalists in midst of a protest rally which the Georgian Dream (GD) activists were holding in Zugdidi, demanding annulment of official election results in more than half of Zugdidi’s precincts.
Zugdidi in western region of Samegrelo, close to the Abkhaz administrative border, is one of those constituencies where GD has challenged official election results. Official results show that in Zugdidi Irakli Alasania, one of GD leaders, was defeated by UNM’s majoritarian MP candidate Roland Akhalaia, whose son Bacho Akhalaia was forced to resign less than two weeks before the elections after the prison abuse scandal. Results now show that Alasania has 36.32% and Akhalaia – 57.58%.
Addressing supporters at the rally in Zugdidi, Alasania vowed to defend each and every vote, but also carried a message voiced earlier on October 4 by GD leader Bidzina Ivanishvili that challenging of official election results would continue through legal mechanisms. According to a chairperson of Zugdidi District Election Commission, GD has filed complaints requesting annulment of election results in 59 out of Zugdidi’s 109 precincts.
Ambassador Norland, who said he was in Zugdidi in his capacity of an election observer, said that it’s been “a remarkable week in the history of Georgia.”
“A democratic election has produced a peaceful transition of power,” he said. “But that process is not yet entirely finished. [In] some parts of the country District Election Commissions are still counting the ballots and making final decisions on who won the seat.”
He also said that he was in Samegrelo to observe the process, because “it’s a very specific area and there’s a specific dynamic here.”
“Our goal is to make sure that just as the week began with a peaceful transition so the week will end also with a peaceful process,” the U.S. ambassador said.
“The important thing now, as Mr. Alasania said, is that the representatives from the various parties in the District Election Commission are able to carry out their work without any fear of intimidation,” he said.
“The entire world is watching and hopes that this process will continue to unfold peacefully and the most important thing is that if there are challenges to the results that those challenges are pursued peacefully through legal process,” Ambassador Norland added.
Earlier on October 4, GD leader Bidzina Ivanishvili called on supporters and activists in the provinces to stop rallying outside the District Election Commissions. But rallies continued in various towns, including in Khashuri and Tetritskaro where GD supporters are demanding annulment of results in various precincts.
Secretary of National Security Council, Giga Bokeria, welcomed Ivanishvili’s call for ceasing protest rallies, but also expressed concern that this call had not been put into practice yet.
“Intimidation and threat of violence, about which we are receiving numerous reports, are the main problems that peaceful completion of this [electoral] process is facing,” he said.
“How this process unfolds will influence on the establishment of our country’s future democratic tradition,” Bokeria said. “It will also have an influence on our security, our foreign policy goals, our future integration in the Euro-Atlantic space, Georgia’s NATO membership.”