U.S., European Journalists Visit Georgia Prior to Election
The delegation included:
- Jackson Diehl, Deputy Editorial Page Editor, The Washington Post, USA;
- Christopher Caldwell, Senior Editor at The Weekly Standard, Columnist for Financial Times, USA;
- Luke Harding, Senior International Correspondent, The Guardian, UK;
- Reinhard Veser, Editor Politics, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany;
- Tim Judah, Special Correspondent, The Economist, UK;
- Frank Nienhuysen, Foreign Correspondent, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany;
The visit began with a breakfast discussion on September 29th, with the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Richard Norland, EU Ambassador Philip Dimitrov, and UNDP Resident Representative Jamie McGoldrick. The diplomats shared their impressions about the current situation in the country and the upcoming elections.
The view of civil society on the pre-electoral environment was shared with the delegation during a meeting with the Young Lawyers Association (GYLA), Transparency International Georgia, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), who comprise the “This Affects You Too” campaign, launched several months before the parliamentary elections to advocate for a free and fair pre-electoral environment.
The current internal and external security threats as well as the way the electoral campaign has been developing were discussed by Giga Bokeria, Secretary of the National Security Council of Georgia and Head of the Interagency Task Force for Free and Fair Elections. The delegation was also received by the Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia, David Bakradze.
The second day of the study tour included meetings with a number of international organizations involved in election monitoring, including the International Republican Institute (IRI), IFES, and National Democratic Institute (NDI).
Along with meetings with government officials, the delegation also met with Bidzina Ivanishvili, the leader of the opposition coalition, the Georgian Dream. The delegation was received in his residence. He was joined by his coalition colleagues and made it clear that his focus would be on NATO and the West, while stressing the importance of re-establishing good relations with Russia. The discussion also focused on his relationship with President Mikheil Saakashvili and his plans for the future of Georgia if his party were to win the election.
On October 1, the Georgian Election Day, the delegation traveled south of Tbilisi to the Bolnisi region, an area with a predominantly Azerbaijani population, in order to observe how elections unfold and to talk to people about their expectations. After the polling stations closed that evening, the delegation visited the campaign headquarters of the Georgian Dream coalition where Bidzina Ivanishvili and his allies were celebrating victory.
Members of the delegation also had the opportunity to meet with representatives of the business community, local analysts and experts, as well as the senior advisor of president Saakashvili, Raphael Glucksman. Georgia’s relations with the breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia were touched upon during a discussion with Eka Tkeshelashvili, State Minister of Georgia for Reintegration.
As a result of this trip, the members of the delegation produced a number of articles based on their findings. The articles can be accessed below:
A landmark election in Georgia, by Jackson Diehl.
Georgia's president Saakashvili concedes election defeat, by Luke Harding.
Mikheil Saakashvili concedes defeat, by Tim Judah.
A deeply polarizing election in Georgia, by Jackson Diehl.
Georgia election on a knife edge as two visions collide, by Luke Harding.