Q-n about the event
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: I am really delighted to be here today for the launch of Election Compass. This is a very important and useful tool to help voters understand the political platforms of different parties. There are 17 parties who have put up the information on where they stand on the issues that are priorities for Georgian voters on to this app. Voters can go onto this app and see what matches up with their views and their priorities. So, I think it’s going to be a very useful application. It’s funded by USAID in collaboration with Germany and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Netherlands is already using this app for good success. The idea behind this and behind most of the U.S. government assistance is to help develop a more citizen-focused democracy, so that voters, the public, are more connected to the choices of who represents them and how they represent them in government. Thank you!
Q-n about the pre-election environment and whether the US is concerned with the level of polarization
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: It’s normal in an election process for things to start getting more and more intense the closer you get to the voting day. What I thought was very encouraging here was that many parties signed on to the political party code of conduct. Not only did they sign on to it, but they developed it together, and to me, that was a really encouraging sign of Georgia’s political leaders working together to come up with something that I think is very important in terms of establishing ethical guidelines and a structure, basically, for parties to follow. Of course, it’s going to be very disappointing if we hear cases of voter intimidation, abuse of resources, or vote-buying. I think ISFED and some of the other civil society organizations have already had reports of this and we are really hoping that this election is going to be clean, free, and fair. It would be so impressive and so important for Georgia for that to happen.
Q-n about the article published in National Interest by the former Ambassadors to Georgia according to which Russia will meddle in Georgia’s elections. Do you think the Georgian government shares this opinion?
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: I think first and foremost, it shows that my predecessors remain deeply interested and deeply concerned about Georgia’s success and Georgia’s future. And it confirms, what I think many people already know, which is that there is great interest and attention on these elections in Georgia, but also on Georgia’s progress in general, both democratic and economic. These are closely watched and I think its because people have very high expectations for Georgia’s success. On disinformation, we’ve seen disinformation from Russian and other malign actors in many different elections in Europe and in the United States, so I think its fair to assume that it going to be happening here too. I do think that the government is taking it seriously, and most importantly I think the Georgian public is taking it seriously and is becoming more alert to the fake news and to those efforts trying to create confusion, create instability and push Georgia off its path to success.
Q-n about the phone conversation between the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Gakharia, and the US National Security Advisor, Robert O’Brien
Ambassador Kelly Degnan: These are very important communications and I think that direct channel between the Georgian government and the U.S. government which has existed for years under different administrations and I hope always will because its a very important way for our governments to coordinate. We are the representatives here, so most of it comes through the Embassy, but of course, its always useful for Washington decision-makers to speak directly with the leader of a country on critical issues of importance like the occupied territories, like Russian aggression, like the economic recovery and COVID, and ways the United States can support Georgia’s economic recovery and its democratic progress. Of course, the elections were discussed, as I said, there is a great interest and attention on this, and a real expectation, I would say, that these elections are free, fair, and better than the last.