An exclusive interview of the Leader of the party “Democratic Movement “United Georgia”.
1. Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia stand at different levels of their development and Euro-integration. How important are local elections in these countries today?
I wouldn’t like to focus on Ukraine and Belarus, as Ukraine holds very important elections at the moment. And in general for any normal country all elections are significant: local, parliamentary and presidential.
Although in Georgia due to the current situation local elections can’t be that important, not because local administration is not critical, but because in the country with almost authoritarian regime, local authorities and local administration remain only on paper and in reality they don’t decide a thing. Currently, it’s urgent to have early presidential elections in Georgia, as there is in the country a real problem of adequacy and responsibility of the Government, and naturally irresponsible and inadequate decisions of President can’t be balanced even with positive decisions of local authorities. That is why I think that the elections to be held this May won’t change anything, so much they won’t be free as there is no normal electoral environment. That is why the priority of our party is early elections, but not local elections.
2. What is the position of Your party in the oncoming elections in Georgia?
In principle, in the first question I have already answered the second question to some extent, but still I can add some words. The party thinks that for the elections to be held and to participate in the elections it is necessary for the country to have free press, unengaged police and to establish elementary conditions to hold a normal pre-election campaign.
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This is urgent due to two reasons: the country needs real changes, but not local ones. And secondly, there is no democratic environment in the country and anyway the elections will be fabricated. And because of these reasons we think that our party won’t participate within the elections and we will gradually struggle for the thing demanded by most Georgians, in particularly early presidential elections.
3. As a rule, international observers of OSCE and other structures don’t participate in local elections. Is that possible, that this time there will be exceptions made and observers will present?
I don’t think that OSCE or other international observers will monitor local elections in Georgia. First of all, I really hope that before May we will achieve the early presidential elections appointment and by this time presidential elections will be in process, but not local elections. But still if the elections will be held in May I don’t think that international observers will monitor these elections. But even if international observers will participate in local elections, we repeatedly faced the situation when it was pretty difficult for our western friends to understand the so-called know-how, which is used by Georgian government during elections. For example there are no such obvious counterfeits as a mass throw of ballot papers into the box, however there was such tactic during parliamentary elections. Ministry of Internal Affairs gave out the lists of all prisoners to specially trained people and the families of prisoners wishing for their relatives to get free on parole had to do the following: to bring the lists of 500 people, who wouldn’t go voting, to assure a low voter turnout and thus this would guarantee that mainly the voters will vote for the governmental party “National Movement”.
Frankly speaking, even for me, a person who has been many years in policy, it was difficult to imagine the kind of manipulations, and I was extremely surprised and shocked to learn about this news and especially when I saw real proofs of these facts. Moreover, our western friends and observers won’t be able to understand this phenomenon, as even now we have to explain that the kind of methods and know-how are used. So, unfortunately, we witnessed the situation when four months later after parliamentary elections OSCE published the document that included and underlined the numerous violations and falsifications, which didn’t illustrate the perfection of elections, but by that time the parliament already functioned and nothing could be changed. Naturally, the kind of problems exist.
4. How do You assess the situation and the role of Mass Media within oncoming elections?
The role and situation of Mass Media in Georgia is disastrous, all central, national channels are completely controlled by state bodies and Saakashvili personally. And only two channels with limited broadcasting give to oppositional politicians the possibility to address people. For example, whether you like our party and my person, or not anyway there are no doubts, that people are curious about comments and thoughts of Burjanadze about the current situation and political realities, but I haven’t appeared on public television, central channels, four main channels broadcasting throughout Georgia for almost two and a half months. Most opposition leaders can say the same.
5. How can the result of these elections influence the state and development of the new EU strategy of “Eastern Partnership?”
You know, frankly speaking, I expect more adequate reaction from our western friends. Naturally we are very grateful for the assistance they provide for Georgian state, for that they always underline the necessity to support territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia. We thank them for the financial aid they send us for our economy not to collapse. However, we hope that they will control more seriously where the money of western tax payers goes. As in reality it is used to strengthen the regime, but not on the intended purpose. And no one from our friends can give an example of at least one positive step into democratic direction for the last one and a half year, despite the waves of democracy promised by President Saakashvili. That is why I think that our western friends should look closer on the Georgian reality.
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Otherwise I’m afraid that some moment they will see that we and they our friends, we are all people struggling for democracy in Georgia and for the real prospect of western family membership, we’ll lose everything, and it’ll be late to complain, and we’ll need much forces and energy to recover the situation. And one more thing, being a responsible person that respects western values, without which the development of Georgia is impossible, I should say that Georgians are disappointed that they don’t hear loud voices of our western friends touching upon the issue of political prisoners, who were acknowledged by international organizations for the first time since 2001, political terror in Georgia, saying that Georgia has no independent justice and Saakashvili holds in hands total legal system, complaining that nothing has been made to improve the electoral environment and unfortunately yet we don’t hear adequate reaction, which should come from our friends. Of course there are also serious fears among us, among representatives of democratic opposition, and they force us to keep struggling for the appointment of early presidential elections. Unfortunately every day steps of President Saakashvili prove that political crisis is aggravating. The actions and rhetoric of Saakashvili resemble the pre-war situation, when his rhetoric was absolutely militant and this threats Georgia to be again involved into provocative war. At the same time Saakashvili strives to worsen relations with Russia, which are already bad, as well as with Azerbaijan, Armenia and Ukraine. The thing happened in Ukraine now, when Saakashvili almost openly tried to interfere with internal affairs of a sovereign state, when two thousand of Georgian observers were sent on the background of totally three thousand of international observers – the kind of facts give the ground to think seriously. For me it’s absolutely obvious that Saakashvili has delusion of grandeur and he thinks he should rule not only Georgia, but also influence the events in Belarus, Ukraine, Central Asia and even in Russia, but it creates very serious and dangerous precedents. The fact that Minister of Internal Affairs directly interferes into the issues of sending and accommodating of so-called observers (if the authenticity of videos spread in the Internet and on TV will be proven) – this will be an international scandal, which a civilized country can’t afford itself. We roughly criticize the kind of actions, and we think that this way Saakashvili will shoot in the eye of the people he wanted to help to. Considering that I know the ideas of Saakashvili and some other facts, I doubt that the thing he did in Ukraine was the wish to help one of the candidates, as it was rather a provocation. That is why I’m sure that Georgia has all reasons to stop Saakashvili before he ruins our relations with Ukraine and other neighbors, friends or enemies. We have to do this, otherwise our country won’t have positive prospect to become a normal, civilized, democratic and stable state.