Jeanne Shaheen, a ranking member of the Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is ‘surprised and disappointed’ that all parties in Georgia ‘have allowed the current crisis to last so long’.
Calling on all sides ‘to put aside short-term political interests’ Senator Shaheen calls them to instead ‘look to the strengthening and perseverance of Georgian democracy’.
Georgia’s commitment to democracy must be demonstrated through the actions of all Georgians whether they are in the government or the opposition. So it’s imperative that the government take steps to ensure an independent judiciary, and to work with all opposition parties to find a negotiated resolution to this crisis”, Shaheen said.
Shaheen, who chairs the hearing on bolstering democracy in Georgia also said in her introductory speech that the purpose of today’s hearing is to discuss the current political crisis in Georgia ‘to better understand how the United States can support its democratic resolution to the current political standoff’.
Noting that ‘a truly democratic country must be responsive to the will of the people but a successful democracy also needs to function and address the needs of its citizens’ she said ‘given the current impasse in Georgia the only party who is winning is Russia’.
Russia thrives from disorder and chaos and every day the members of opposition sit in jail is the victory for Russia; every day that the Georgian parliament seats are empty is a disservice to the people of Georgia and a victory for Russia”, she said.
Claiming that the last year's parlaimentary elections have been falsified in favour of the ruling party, Georgian opposition politicians who have won the seats refuse to take up their mandates and hold protest rallies. During the recent EU-mediated negotiations the opposing parties failed to make an agreement to end the political crisis. Photo: Nino Alavidze/Agenda.ge
She further noted that the US has long been a friend and ally of ‘free and democratic Georgia’ and it remains the case today, but ‘that important relationship is dependent on Georgia’s commitment to strengthening the institutions of democracy’.
Citing the final report of the OSCE/ODIHR that the 2020 elections in Georgia were competitive and administered efficiently despite challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Senator Shaheen said the report has also emphasised the need for election reform, which she urges the Georgian government ‘undertake with expediency’.
It’s not enough to hold an election that meets the threshold of legitimacy. Democratic elections must have robust mechanisms in place to resolve disagreements; mechanisms that are seen as fair by all participants of the democratic process", Shaheen said in her speech.
Having travelled to Georgia back in 2012 to observe Georgia’s parliamentary elections when the Georgian Dream took over as the ruling party, Senator Shaheen said Georgia’s democracy ‘has been tested but it's generally been strengthened and deepened’ since then.
She also said Georgia has come ‘a long way in a relatively short period of time’ and worked ‘to establish and strengthen its democratic institutions’. Although ‘the path hasn’t always been straight but the overall trajectory has been positive’.