Highlights from an interview with US Ambassador Kelly Degnan. Giorgi Targamadze
About how the elections were held ::
Everyone had high hopes for this election. Let’s start with the good news – there was less violence in these elections, more parties to parliament, and many women were elected. But on many issues we were disappointed. There were many serious violations and the process of appealing them also realized the shortcomings. As a result, people have lost confidence not only in the election process, but also in the results, which is very sad.
About what we have today:
I would not say that this is a dead end, I do not agree with the use of this term. I saw that there was a real desire to interact and find a solution, despite the big difference between positions. I am encouraged that nine parties with different goals are sitting down at the negotiating table, explaining their views to each other and looking for choices that can be the way forward
About what needs to be done:
Now we want to see political will, political courage to take a step towards making a decision. I am sure that the parties will do this, put the interests of Georgia above the interests of the parties and make a decision – this is what they need to do in parliament, when the parliament is diverse, the parties should speak. They must find out if they have common interests and work for the future of Georgia, including the reforms needed to improve Georgian democracy.
About what gives hope:
It is encouraging that these parties have agreed on important electoral reform components that will ensure that future elections no longer experience the same irregularities that have been observed for many years in a row. It is very important not to plan new elections under the same system that did not work properly before. But this requires that all members of parliament accept the constitutional amendment and fight for change within parliament. There is a democratic format, now Georgia’s political leaders need to use this format to improve democracy
The March 8 agreement raised hopes that these elections will be a chance to demonstrate Georgia’s democratic progress. An important achievement was that there was less aggression, less hate speech during the pre-election period. It is very important. The high turnout was also a good sign of how interested Georgian citizens are in participating in democratic processes. Also very important is the fact that more women were elected to parliament and, of course, the fact that nine very different parties were elected, and a step was taken towards a more proportional system that the citizens of Georgia wanted. But like others, we were disappointed as the elections were marred by numerous gross irregularities and the appeal process that followed the elections was also flawed. Many complaints have not been fully investigated or addressed. As a result, people lost confidence not only in the process, but also in the election results, which is ultimately very sad …
about what has always been, but should not be:
To be honest, over the past 30 years, almost the same violations have occurred: bribery and intimidation of voters, abuse of administrative resources, carousels. This is indicated by the ODIHR and OSCE observers in their findings over the years. Georgians want their votes to be counted, they want the system to change. This is what we want, which is why the US Embassy has supported electoral reform efforts over the years, including last summer when we actively worked with parliament to strengthen the electoral reform package that was recently adopted. However, we also loudly stated that this package did not include recommendations proposed by the ODIHR and other experts.
On the possible deprivation of funding for opposition parties:
I do not agree with any law that limits the development of the opposition. It also limits the opposition’s access to the media to provide full information to voters. I hope this law will be revised before it is passed
US Ambassador Kelly Degnan’s interview with Formula TV director Giorgi Targamadze