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Ambassador Degnan’s Remarks to Media at Wendy’s Grand Opening
August 24, 2022

Question about Kobakhidze’s comments on ISFED

Ambassador Degnan: The United States has full confidence in ISFED.  It’s a highly respected and experienced election monitoring organization. ISFED participated in last summer’s electoral reform working group that was chaired by the current Speaker and that produced some important, very useful electoral reform legislation that was subsequently adopted by the Parliament. I think it’s also important to remember, and perhaps review, the assessments that were made by ODIHR, OSCE, and the international and domestic election monitors for the 2020 and 2021 elections. All of them pointed to serious violations: voter intimidation, vote buying, carousel voting, abuse of administrative resources, and other violations that occurred in the weeks leading up to the election as well as on election day. None of the reports assessed these elections as being fair. ISFED was not responsible for those violations.  I think it’s clear that they did not play a role in those violations that were the cause for the public losing confidence in the outcome of the election results.  In fact, as soon as ISFED confirmed that there had been a PVT miscalculation, which was determined to be an insignificant statistical measure, ISFED informed the public immediately and released the information fully. That is why we have full confidence in ISFED as a professional election monitoring organization. They were transparent about a mistake that happened as soon as they were able to confirm it.  And that is why it is so important that ISFED and other civil society organizations—that have expertise in election monitoring and conducting elections—are able to participate in Georgia’s electoral reform working groups. That’s what the European Commission encouraged: an inclusive process that ensured that all stakeholders had a chance to contribute to improving Georgia’s electoral system.

Follow-up on the PVT miscalculation

Ambassador Degnan:  Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I don’t see any fact or evidence to substantiate that opinion. The fact is that as soon as that mistake was confirmed and identified, the public was informed. It was disclosed to the public so that people could understand that it was a statistically insignificant factor, and that was made clear as well. So, I think it’s a complete misrepresentation of reality to say that this was deliberate, that this was some part of a revolutionary scam. Of all people, those who were involved in the negotiations following that election should know very well, that the whole emphasis and effort there was designed to deescalate a very tense situation. The United States’ goal was to help get all of the political parties that were elected in that Parliamentary election into Parliament and working on the issues that matter to Georgians. That was our sole purpose. That’s what we did for six months, and those who were involved in the negotiations know that very well.

Question on the GNCC fine on Mtavari and warnings to Pirveli and Formula

Ambassador Degnan:  This is a really unfortunate development. It’s really a matter of freedom of speech and the freedom to express dissenting views, including views that criticize the government.  Freedom to criticize the government is a core principle of a healthy democracy.  Today of all days, on the 27th anniversary of Georgia’s constitution. I think it’s worth noting that it is a right that is also protected in Georgia’s constitution.