Keti Tsikhelashvili from Liberal Academy-Tbilisi says the government is responding to a demand from more than fifty local groups. (Photo: Mari Nikuradze.)

TBILISI, DFWatch – Georgia’s Foreign Ministry today invited international organizations to send a long-term observation mission ‘immediately’ ahead of the parliamentary elections in October.

Normally, long-term observers would arrive about six weeks before the election, but observers are asked to come right away and start monitoring events.

On orders of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, the ministry sent invitations to the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), NATO Parliamentary Assembly, European Parliament and EU bodies.

“Even though there is a certain period before the direct start of the election campaign, the Georgian government wants to immediately invite international observers for long-term monitoring of the election process,’ the President’s spokesperson Manana Manjgaladze said today.

‘Our goal is to conduct elections in a maximally transparent, democratic, free and fair environment,” she said, adding that the government is sure the October elections will fully comply with internationally recognized standards.

Keti Tsikhelashvili, the founder and director of a Tbilisi-based non-governmental organization (NGO) called Liberal Academy-Tbilisi, says that this step of the government is a response to a request recently put forth by groups locally.

A month ago, 51 local organizations sent a letter to EU’s commissioner for enlargement Štefan Füle, asking for support for an initiative to call on the Georgian government to invite a OSCE/ODIHR long-term mission of observers to come to Georgia sooner than planned.

Keti Tsikhelashvili explains that long term observation mission is important, because often monitoring is limited only to Election Day and a few days before.

“But many things are dependent on the period before the elections, and this process has already started in Georgia. So that’s why it’s important to start observation of this process as soon as possible,” she tells DF Watch, adding that not only the party financing system needs observing, but there are many other components, like media monitoring.

Presenting an objective picture of the whole process will support creating a competitive environment, better than it could have been without observation.

There was no immediate response from the government when the civil sector asked to invite international observers; however officials recently made statements appealing to the international community to send long-term observation mission to Georgia.

During a joint press-conference with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in NATO headquarters in Brussels, the Georgian president called on the international community, the European Parliament, OSCE and all partner countries to send long-term observers to Georgia not only for the election campaign but for the whole election year.

“To do polling of public opinion for all this period, to monitor Georgian media coverage, to monitor the party financing mechanism in Georgia, order to ensure that not just the day of elections, but the whole process is transparent, predictable from points of view of observing standards and we exclude any kinds of surprises or any kind of biased and not such well-wishing pressure on the whole process from outside or from this active elements from any side.”

Keti Tsikhelashvili sees the government’s step as positive.

“We hope this mission will really get busy with real functions,” she says, adding that the international community really seems to be interested in getting involved in this process.