Thursday, 30 August 2012

Georgia deserves free and fair elections

Georgia deserves free and fair elections
On 1 October 2012, Georgia will go to the polls to elect new Members of Parliament. Currently, Georgia is a virtual one party state in parliament with the United National Movement holding 119 seats out of 150.
When will Georgian Dream be allowed to campaign freely?
However, with the entry of the Georgian Dream Coalition there is a counter weight to the UNM. That has provoked a fearful backlash against the Georgian Dream and anyone who dares to report the truth. As a 'new' democracy, Georgians have relished the freedom to choose its leaders after decades of servitude to the Soviet Union. However, our democracy has been poisoned by President Saakashvili's refusal to tolerate opposition. We have to listen to terrible stories of intimidation of journalists who are searching for the truth. 

The respected and trusted Amnesty International reported last month on "politically targeted violence" by the Government and its supporters against Georgian Dream activists and media not deemed to be slavishly supportive of the President and his party; United National Movement.
File:UNMGE logo en.jpg
The report stated:-

"On 12 July a group of Georgian Dream activists travelled to Karaleti, central Georgia, to visit a settlement for people displaced as a result of the 2008 Russia-Georgia war. According to eyewitness and media reports, several local residents of the Karaleti settlement started verbally insulting the activists and demanding that they leave the place. Clashes ensued as verbal altercations turned physical.
Several video recordings of the meeting show residents throwing stones at representatives of the coalition and the media, while one of the men accompanying a coalition leader is seen wielding a gun as he covers the retreat of opposition activists from the scene.
13 people, ten of them journalists, were injured and were subsequently treated in Gori hospital. Saba Tsitsikashvili, one of the injured journalists, has stated that he recognized local municipality employees among those who beat him."
A mature democracy comfortable in tolerating different views and opinions does not undertake violence, threats and intimidation. The events show that President Saakashvili is scared of opposition and fearful that his party will lose control of the parliament.
President Saakashvili is afraid of the Opposition

The 12 July incident is not an isolated occurrence:-
"On 26 June a similar incident took place in Mereti, Shida Kartli region, central Georgia. As opposition activists attempted to hold a meeting, a fistfight broke out, preventing the ‘Georgian Dream’ coalition meeting with locals. As a result of the confrontation, several people, including a number of journalists, reportedly sustained injuries and two coalition supporters were taken to hospital for treatment. Local media outlets then aired a video which allegedly showed several public employees involved in the incident." 
Recently the Presidential Candidate for Georgian Dream, Bidzina Ivanishvili has appealed to the international community to support free elections and pressurise President Saakashvili to relinquish the dirty tricks and allow the Opposition to campaign freely.
Bidzina Ivanishvili - Presidential Candidate, Georgian Dream
Mr Ivanishvili says in his letter:
"The Saakashvili regime has damaged my homeland  in a multitude of ways in the past years, exerting unprecedented violence on business and subjugating it almost entirely, turning rally crackdowns into a normal phenomenon, violating human rights, unbelievably simplifying the processes of imprisonment and plea-bargaining; people have been impoverished, intimidated, and abused; free speech has been limited, while state-controlled media have turned 
into propaganda tools; pseudo-opposition politicians, parties, and media outlets have joined the 
web of lies and created an environment in which people developed distrust of politics and elections."

of Opposition bank accounts being 'frozen' does nothing to give confidence to these elections. I sincerely hope that Presidential Saakashvili will listen to the international community and listen to the people of Georgia. They deserve to be respected and for their representatives to be chosen without fear of violence and harassment.

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