TBILISI, DFWatch – The confirmation hearing for the next U.S. Ambassador to Georgia has made waves in the country of his assignment.
One senator asked Richard B. Norland to supervise the democratic processes in the country.
In Georgia, the hearing has been interpreted differently by the opposition and the ruling party.
Tina Khidasheli, one of the front people within the opposition bloc Georgian Dream said March 22 that U.S. officials by this kind of statements indicate that the U.S. does not support the person Mikheil Saakashvili, but generally Georgia’s democratic development.
It was at a hearing of USA’s Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee March 21 that Senator Cardin asked Norland, who is taking over for John R. Bass later this year, what steps he is going to take so that Georgia will keep moving forward with free and open elections.
“Georgia has problems. They’re strategically important to us, they’re moving forward in transition. I had a chance to talk to president Saakashvili when he was here about what he is doing as far as open and free elections for both parliament and for the presidency. We know that their efforts to limit those who are eligible to run for president and there has been statements made by the opposition that they’ve been denied the opportunities to fairly compete in the national elections. So the question to you is (and you can answer this for the record I’ll be fine) what steps you would take as ambassador to make sure that Georgia continues its transition to free and open elections allowing fair opportunities for opposition candidates to compete in the elections,” Senator Cardin said.
As seen on a video posted on the official senate website, Ambassador Norland answered:
“There are very real concerns, while there’s real progress there are real concerns about what you might call a level playing field and there are reports about harassment of opposition candidates, they trouble us deeply, the role of this so called chamber of control and party financing is drawing a lot of concern in Georgia and in the international community. I can tell you already our mission is raising these concerns publicly and privately with the Georgian government and if confirmed, it will by my role to continue to monitor very carefully Georgia’s observance of the principles of what we hold here. This would be the central priority for my mission. The USA already spends millions of dollars in assistance to promote civil society, rule of law and democracy in Georgia and we need to be careful stores/stewards? (I can’t hear what he saying 66:50) of those funds to make sure we’re getting the results that we are looking for. Finally I would just point out given Georgia’s interests Georgia’s aspirations to NATO membership and our support for this aspirations; how these elections are conducted is very important witness test and it will be watching carefully to make sure that the way these elections are hold are in keeping with NATO standards,” the next ambassador to Georgia answered.
Khidasheli says Senator Cardin underlined the issue of opposition candidates having the opportunity to participate in elections.
But the government struck back at Khidasheli’s interpretation. Head of parliament’s judiciary committee explains the analysis made at the Foreign Affairs Committee with incorrect and tendentious information provided to the senators by unsuccessful political forces in the Georgia.
Pavle Kublashvili said Thursday that certain political forces in Georgia which are unsuccessful may have given this kind of information to them and this way they may want to blame their failure on somebody, even on the electoral environment.
He says that statement of Senator Cardin also makes it clear that Georgia is developing, which was also underlined during President Barack Obama’s and Mikheil Saakashvili’s meeting in late January.
He says the political space is open to any Georgian politician in the country and all have equal rights; equal rights to participate in the political process.
“I cannot say what idea they have about their own political future or who may consider that their failure is result of the fact that good conditions and a level playing field wasn’t created for them, but the fact that Republicans and Irakli Alasania do not have necessary societal support, the reason to this is not unequal electoral and political environment, but isolated from the society of their political views,” Kublashvili said.
Watch the senate hearing: