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‘West Discrediting itself in Georgia by Endorsing Polls’ – Gamkrelidze

Davit Gamkrelidze, the opposition New Rights Party leader who ran for the presidency, said international observer and United States acceptance of the presidential election as democratic was “cynical.”

“I was very critical of a statement by the U.S. Department of State and I still am. The United States says that the election in Georgia was held in compliance with democratic standards,” Gamkrelidze said on Rustavi 2 TV’s Primetime political talk show. “This is cynical when you are telling the Georgian people that the January 5 election was held in accordance with democratic standards. By doing so the United States has undermined its reputation and altered [the Georgian public’s] attitude towards the United States. I really do not want the Georgian people to change its pro-western stance and its attitude towards the west and towards democracy in general.”

In previous remarks on the same issue made on January 8, Gamkrelidze, who according to preliminary official results won slightly over 4% of the vote, accused international observers – who on the whole have approved of the election – of adopting “an ostrich-like approach.”

Speaking on January 10, Gamkrelidze also highlighted what he called “a negative trend” that has been demonstrated in the plebiscite results on Georgia’s NATO-membership. Although no official information is still available on how voters voted on NATO-membership, exit poll results said it was about 61%.

“No one is analyzing what happened with the plebiscite on NATO-membership,” he said. “Everyone knows that several months ago, or a year ago, public opinion polls were saying that Georgia’s NATO-membership enjoyed 82% public support. Today the plebiscite showed only 62% supported it – and here we should take into account that in Marneuli and Akhalkalaki [predominately populated by ethnic Azerbaijani and Armenian minorities, respectively] everyone marked Yes to NATO, almost 100%, and in these regions the level of awareness about NATO is almost zero – and despite this, we still have only 62%. So in several months support for NATO-membership has declined by 20% and do you know why? Because it is directly linked with Saakashvili, it is directly linked with the current regime and injustice imposed by this regime and people think: does NATO mean having injustice here?”

He then said the same logic applied to the United States. “If the people see that regardless of whether Saakashvili wins or not, he will still remain President and it will be endorsed by the United States, of course, that would mean discrediting American values, western values; this is alarming,” Gamkrelidze added.

He then recalled a statement made by Mathew Bryza, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, who said on Georgian TV, at least according to the translation, that the election was democratic.

“It is  not serious when my friend Matt Bryza tells the opposition just a day or so after the election that it is not right to act in this way [apparently referring to Bryza’s calls to respect the election results] and I will definitely let him know of my complaint when I meet him. They should not think that the Georgian people will listen to everything the Americans tell us; they should not play with fire. I really do not want the Georgian people to change their attitude towards America; unfortunately such a trend already exists,” Gamkrelidze, himself a strong pro-western politician, said. “It is becoming more and more difficult for me to defend the pro-U.S. position with my voters; it is becoming more and more difficult for me to explain that the U.S. position is not supporting Saakashvili and that its position is supporting the Georgian people; but people do not see it that way.”

He pointed out that U.S. Ambassador John Tefft, unlike many other U.S. officials, had not actually commented on the election. “For that I am grateful to him,” he said. 


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