Question about election observations
Ambassador Degnan: Let me start by saying I just had some very sad news, which is today Georgia has reached ten thousand deaths from COVID. This is just tragic, tragic news for every Georgian who’s lost a loved one to this very dangerous disease and I think for the country as a whole it’s a big setback. And I do hope that after these elections Georgia will be able to focus more on controlling this pandemic and bring those just heartbreaking numbers – ten thousand Georgians lost to COVID is just a tragedy.
On your question about the elections, as I am very privileged to have been able to observe elections in Rustavi and now here in Krtsanisi. This is a very important process and a big day and so I’m happy to see voters coming out and casting their votes. It’s a process that is so fundamental to building a democracy and a healthy democracy. I really want to thank all of the workers who are working at the precinct and the district level, all the people, the police who are trying to support a calm environment, a well-organized environment. I’m happy to say that the places I’ve gone, the environment has been calm. The precincts have been well organized and well administered.
But we have 26 Embassy teams, almost 70 people, all over Georgia, and they are seeing very different things in some parts of the country. They have reported attacks on the media, on your colleagues, on election observers who have been blocked from being able to go into the precincts which is their job. There’s obviously been some physical fights of parties against each other. I just urge, please, a calm atmosphere for the remainder of this day so that voters can come out safely and cast their votes. Obviously, we already are battling with COVID, that’s enough of a challenge, but then to be worried about the safety and security of the voters and people working at the precincts, that’s just not right. We want there to be a high turnout, so that the leaders of Georgia can hear from the public, hear what’s important to the public. That’s how democracy works best. So, I do hope that people will come out. Wear your mask but do come out and vote.
These elections are also an opportunity to see whether the election reforms that were adopted last summer are working, and I think Krtsanisi is a good example of that, where you have the electronic voting and it seemed to work pretty well last time. So there have been some improvements, some important improvements. The recounts have been extremely important to building confidence in the outcome of the elections, which is the ultimate goal, so that voters will have confidence in the results of these elections and the country can move forward.
The election reforms were negotiated by Georgia’s political leaders. It was a very successful example of leaders from very different parties, sometimes quite adversarial parties, coming together and making the law better for Georgia’s electoral process. And I would say that the new parties, the smaller parties, played an extremely important role in improving the electoral process here. Many of the improvements that are working well this time are the result of input from leaders of some of the smaller parties, and I think that shows what an important role this variety of parties can play in strengthening Georgia’s electoral process. So each election is the opportunity for a little step forward, and I hope that is what we’re going to see at the end of today and tomorrow. Thank you very much.