Tbilisi disputes over US Secretary of State's message

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The telephone conversation between US Secretary of State and Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia provoked contradictory assessments from representatives of the Georgian leadership and the opposition. The ruling force declares another manifestation of support from the country’s main strategic partner, while the opposition claims that the message in the Secretary of State’s message boils down to a call for fair elections in Georgia in October..
On July 27, the US Foreign Minister and the Georgian Prime Minister discussed the importance of the US-Georgia partnership and “close coordination” of states in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the State Department reports..
“Secretary Pompeo also stressed the importance of holding free, fair and transparent parliamentary elections in October this year, noting that a level playing field is an integral part of democratic elections. He praised the adoption of constitutional amendments establishing a partially proportional electoral system and stressed the importance of rigorous implementation of the recent electoral reforms, ”the US Department of State said in a statement..
At the same time, Mike Pompeo urged to continue efforts to strengthen the independence of the Georgian judicial system and warned against politicizing the judicial and electoral processes in Georgia. The Secretary of State reaffirmed the continued US support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and “agreed with Prime Minister Gakharia that Russia must end its destabilizing actions and fulfill its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement.”.
About the conversation with the Georgian Prime Minister, Pompeo tweeted the following: “I spoke today with Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia about the importance of holding free, fair and transparent elections in Georgia this October. We will always support Georgia’s sovereignty in the face of Russian occupation “.
In turn, Giorgi Gakharia tweeted the following: “It was a pleasure to talk with Secretary of State Pompeo about the strategic partnership between the United States and Georgia and cooperation in new areas. I thanked him for his support for our constitutional changes and underlined our commitment to independent justice and free and fair elections this fall. “.
Estimates in Tbilisi
Deputy Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani in his comment on July 28 noted that the telephone conversation between Gakharia and Pompeo is “another clear confirmation” of multilateral cooperation between Georgia and the United States, as well as the fact that “this partnership is deepening every day.”.
At the same time, opponents of the Georgian authorities claim that the statement of the State Department is “stern tone.” The United National Movement party of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili claims that the State Department considered it necessary to warn the Georgian authorities about the consequences if the ruling force tries to falsify the election results.
“In fact, Pompeo had a warning conversation with the prime minister of the country,” said UNM MP Salome Samadashvili in her comment.
The opposition “European Georgia” believes that the main topic of the conversation between Gakharia and Pompeo was the holding of democratic elections in Georgia, that is, it was about the unacceptability of falsification or violence during the electoral process..
“The United States attaches the greatest importance to the holding of democratic elections in Georgia,” said Sergi Kapanadze, an MP from European Georgia..

Tbilisi disputes over US Secretary of State's message

United States Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan, in her commentary on the conversation between Pompeo and Gakharia, said that the United States is showing great interest in what is happening in Georgia, and especially in the parliamentary elections. According to her, by holding democratic elections free from violence, intimidation or bribery of voters, Georgia will be able to reaffirm its adherence to democratic principles..
Expert opinion
Political scientist Alexander Mikiashvili believes that both government officials and the opposition are trying to interpret Pompeo’s messages in a way that is beneficial to themselves. Moreover, the expert notes that there are three months left before the elections and, accordingly, the political temperature is rapidly rising in the country. Nevertheless, Mikiashvili says, it is clear that the United States attaches great importance to the upcoming elections..
“Regardless of what the ruling party may say, the fact is that Tbilisi is reminded of the elections too often, that is, there seem to be certain circumstances that raise concerns about the holding of elections according to the highest standards. Let us recall that the assessments of the Georgian presidential elections, including those in the State Department, were not very high and they dealt with “numerous violations”. This time, the partners make it clear to the ruling force that the upcoming elections are decisive and that how they will be held will determine the future relationship between the United States and Georgian Dream, Mikiashvili said..
Let’s remind that the parliamentary elections in Georgia will be held on October 31. According to the constitutional amendments adopted by the Georgian parliament in early July, 120 out of 150 parliamentarians will be elected by proportional lists, 30 by majority. Also, in the elections, a 1% passing threshold and a 40% threshold for the formation of a parliamentary majority by the party were established. According to the US State Department, the adopted amendments will help ensure “greater stability and parliamentary pluralism.”.

US State Secretary Pompeo arrives in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi for official visit | AFP

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