Ambassador Kelly’s comments to media at a Roundtable with NDI’s Election Day Observation Mission and Ambassadors (October 20)
Q-n about the upcoming election and incident in Marneuli
Ambassador Kelly: Well we rely very much on the international observers who come to Georgia. The Georgian government has always been very receptive to many international observers; this election will be no exception to that. There will be hundreds of observers from the OSCE, from IRI and NDI—of course we’re about to get a briefing from the NDI team. I am just hearing reports of what happened, it sounds from the initial reports to be a terrible, terrible incident. Of course violence has no place in any democracy but especially during election time. So we will be monitoring this very closely, and will look forward to getting a report from NDI. They have people down in Marneuli who are gathering information. Of course we will be also in touch with the Ministry of the Interior. Again, this is very disturbing.
Q-n about the pre-election environment
Ambassador Kelly: I think that overall the atmosphere has been good. And I know yesterday the Prime Minister called on everyone in government to refrain from any use of government resources to affect the election. I think that’s exactly the message that has to be sent. It’s in every Georgian’s interest that these elections be seen as completely free and fair, and therefore legitimate, and expressive of the will of the Georgian people. That’s really what this is all about. Unfortunately violence is a very intimidating factor.
Q-n about the attack in Marneuli
Ambassador Kelly: First of all, we are very disturbed by the reports of an attack in the south of the country. We’re most immediately concerned that there were people who were injured in this attack, and I think a couple of them seriously injured, so that’s clearly our main concern. I think our more medium term concern is that law enforcement here does everything it can to identify the perpetrators of this terrible, terrible violence–totally unacceptable violence, in any kind of democracy, particularly on the eve of elections. We are of course concerned that this kind of violence may have some effect on the willingness of people to get out and vote in that region, and of course that is of paramount importance. In terms of this meeting here, NDI of course has a great team here of a former Assistant Secretary of State, a former EU Ambassador, and we at the Embassy rely very much on the teams of NDI and IRI, and especially the OSCE, as they have the largest team here. We will be talking to all these groups, and we of course hope and pray for their safety and for the safety of all Georgians tomorrow which is a very important day in Georgian Democracy.
Q-n about the Embassy’s role in elections tomorrow
Ambassador Kelly: Yes as a matter of fact I intend to go with a couple of my colleagues to see polling stations in the Tbilisi area. We will have a coordination center for Embassy employees who are going out around the country to observe elections so yes, we will be participating.