“How can we avoid the threats that we face in the next two weeks? How can we protect democracy in our country?” As these questions were raised, neither the author, nor the speakers of the discussion and members of the public gathered at the Heinrich Boell Foundation could imagine that this question would become critical with the background of pre-election events.
Speakers at this discussion raised several key issues: the environment for the 2012 parliamentary elections in Georgia and the process of Euro-integration in the country, expectations of the society and election-related challenges, the role of civil society, and its evaluations of election environment. The speakers included Viola Von Cramon, Member of the Bundestag of the Federal Republic of Germany, Giorgi Kandelaki, representative of Union 90/Greens, and Tamar Chugoshvili, Chair of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association.
“From the standpoint of the European Union, we would be delighted to see Georgia as a stable partner and developed country. It does not matter which party is in power or who the leader is, as long as there are opportunities for long-term partnership. At the moment, 75% of parliament members are part of the ruling party. Saakashvili and his party have formal as well as informal power. We want to see multi-party, lively and dynamic politics in Georgia. We also want to see opposition in the parliament, who will control the government,” said Viola Von Cramon. She discussed some of the international community’s expectations of Georgia and how they envision Georgia’s development, in addition to the values of European society and measurements for Georgia’s steps toward European integration.
Giorgi Kandelaki, a Member of Parliament, expressed his own view of election challenges. He hopes that these elections will once again prove that “Georgia is on its way to the European Union.” He emphasized bringing money into politics and noted that this does not fit with any legislation. According to him, one of the challenges is that the Georgian Dream Coalition is “leading a huge campaign that they would not agree with the results, no matter what they are.” He also spoke of the Coalition’s anti-western rhetoric.
Tamar Chugoshvili specifically addressed some of the key challenges posing a threat to holding fair elections. These include unequal opportunities for political subjects, use of administrative resources, participation of public servants in pre-election campaigns, and a polarized media environment.