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John Bass about Democracy, Ivanishvili and Up-Coming Elections

09.11.2011

Nato Gogelia, Guria News

On November 4, the US Ambassador to Georgia John Bass visited Ozurgeti district where he inaugurated the USAID funded “Civic Engagement Center”.

“I wish better democracy and more working places [in the country],” the US Ambassador stated [during inauguration] and then answered few questions of the Guria News.

-Honorable Ambassador, several USAID funded centers have been closed one and half year or two years after their opening in Georgia. For example, the USAID funded Center for Farmers’ Service in Chokhatauri district but nowadays it is not functioning. We can name some other centers too. Will you monitor activities of the new center in order to avoid similar problems in future?

-Indeed we will do. I assure you, we will monitor the progress of this center and implementation of the project. Afterwards, we hope local partners will actively participate in the project implementation as well as other donors. As for long-term perspective, the citizens shall guarantee its sustainability if they believe that the center is useful and necessary for them. We try to assist Georgia to get maximum benefit from our aid. I wish to have more information about the cases you have mentioned.

-We will send you our journalistic investigation about this issue.

-Thank you.

-Honorable Ambassador, increased number of society from Tbilisi and regions request restoration of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s citizenship. Ivanishvili’s lawyer and his Council of Advisors state international missions and representatives of diplomatic corps will be engaged in the process. Will your embassy also engage in the process and how?

-We think it is within the competence of Georgia and Georgian judiciary to settle the problem related with Mr. Ivanishvili’s Georgian citizenship. We will observe court proceedings and wish the judgment will be passed in accordance to the Georgian jurisprudence; and other procedures will also be implemented in compliance with the Georgian law.

-How will you evaluate the first press-conference with Bidzina Ivanishvili? Do you think the situation was provocative?

-As for the press-conference, I was surprised with the approaches of some of your colleagues to the press-conference. I wished journalists asked more questions and made fewer statements. It is also noteworthy that some journalists spoke allegorically with hidden connotations and did not ask direct questions.

It is a pity that Georgian society could not receive answers to several interesting questions: who is Mr. Bidzina Ivanishvili, what he believes and how he intends to overcome current challenges of the country.

I hope journalists, you and your colleagues, will have opportunity to get answers from leading politicians, including Ivanishvili if he becomes politician; besides, I would like journalists to be more aware about the visions of political parties particularly before the upcoming parliamentary elections of 2012.

-Honorable Ambassador, ex-president Bush’s administration congratulated Saakashvili with the victory [in the presidential elections of 2009] before the Central Election Commission of Georgia published final results of the snap presidential elections. Now, how will the USA monitor the upcoming elections? How will you respond to the facts when you already observe serious oppressions on concrete political parties? For example, Cartu Bank: several supporters of Ivanishvili have been detained; two years ago a car accident happened with Bidzina Ivanishvili’s nephew; fortunately, the incident did not end with casualty; and no criminal case was launched on the incident. After Mr. Bidzina Ivanishvili announced his intentions to join politics, police launched criminal case on the car-accident; people were brought to the police station under force and were compelled to admit that former chief police officer was bribed not to start investigation on the case. They even imposed criminal liability over the chief police officer and later he was released under bail. Similar facts show that upcoming election will be held in a very tense situation and relatively we are interested in your opinion. What will your role be in regulation of these processes?

-First of all I would like to underline that I do not accept your stories as real and verified facts but I recognize your right to speak about it as a fact.

Although I was not in Georgia in 2008, I do not think the time, which you are speaking about, was mistakenly chosen. I would like to note again that the USA does not support any concrete person or concrete political party; the USA is interested in the reinforcement of democratic institutions, democratic culture and legitimacy of existing institutions in Georgia. As for the parliamentary and then presidential pre-election campaigns, we will be very active and will actively monitor the campaign in order to ensure competitive, fair and transparent environment for every candidate and citizen of Georgia. On the one hand, we try to achieve it by trainings and assisting the election administration. I mean ongoing trainings for political parties. We have been implementing this program for several years already and we will continue it in future too.

Meanwhile, we will observe how political parties will cooperate; particularly how the governmental officials will use their administrative resources. We will pay particular attention to the information about their activities aiming at the change of competitive balance between parties. We will inform corresponding organizations and people about those facts. Sometimes, we will make public statements about it; but sometimes we will not publicly announce our position. However, we will definitely inform concrete people about the shortcomings in private talks as we usually do. In any case, we will try to improve current situation or to prevent similar facts in future.

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Name: US Taxpayer
2011-11-09 21:07
Ambassador Bass,

I have two questions:

1) Would you be interested in seeing video footage which proves the fact that following last elections hundreds of ballots were tossed into dumpsters in the rural Georgia?

2) Will Ghia Nodia be involved in administering the upcoming elections?

Thank you,
US Taxpayer
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