James Appathurai, NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, met on April 7 in Tbilisi with politicians from those eight opposition parties, which have agreed to speak with one voice with the ruling party in currently suspended talks over electoral system reform.
Opposition politicians said the meeting itself was a demonstration that electoral reform process and next year’s parliamentary elections were important issues which NATO would keep an eye on.
“The NATO representative told us, that the issue of electoral reform and the issue of democratic elections are defining in NATO-Georgian relations,” Irakli Alasania, leader of Our Georgia-Free Democrats told reporters after the meeting. “Security, political stability is an essential element for joining NATO and creating fair electoral environment will be a fundamental in this regard.”
“Naturally NATO is interested what is the future of democratic institutions in this country… and the number one issue, as Mr. Appathurai told us, is electoral code and democratic elections,” MP Levan Vepkhvadze of Christian-Democratic Movement said. “No one will start counting our tanks and artillery; everyone is looking at creation of democratic system in Georgia.”
Davit Usupashvili, the leader of Republican Party, said that the Georgia’s western partners should be informed that it’s the ruling party, which “has led the negotiating process to the deadlock” and “is shunning away from talks”. The ruling party accuses opposition of bringing talks to the verge of collapse by using “a language of ultimatums” and by not appearing at a meeting on March 30.
“NATO and the west will only be able to provide us meaningful assistance if the democratic standards are established in the country,” Usupashvili said after the meeting.
“The fact that there is a huge international interest towards this process [of electoral system reform] means that the opposition is on the right path,” Kakha Shartava, the leader of National Forum, said.
“I want to say for skeptics, that there is a huge international interest towards the process in which the eight opposition parties are engaged and it gives us a hope, that the electoral environment and the electoral code will be substantially changed,” Zviad Dzidziguri, the leader of Conservative party, said.
Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of New Rights Party, said that “delay in approval” of legislative amendments regarding media ownership transparency, as well as situation in the judiciary system was also raised at the meeting with the NATO’s special representative.
During his visit the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative met with President Saakashvili, as well as Parliamentary Chairman; Foreign Minister; Defense Minister; State Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration Issues and Secretary of National Security Council.