Russia’s planned military exercises this fall was timed deliberately to coincide with Georgia’s parliamentary elections, scheduled for October, President Saakashvili said on March 31.
“It is not a coincidence that our neighbor scheduled its large-scale military exercises for second half of September, just several days before elections [in Georgia]. This timing is really not a coincidence,” Saakashvili said, apparently referring to Kavkaz-2012 military drills.
“All the efforts will be undertaken to discredit these elections – on the one hand to intimidate Georgians through use of force and on the other hand to bribe Georgian voters with money from that very same country [Russia],” Saakashvili said while meeting a group of EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly members in his residence in Tbilisi.
“But 2008 [August war] has demonstrated very well, that it is impossible to alter Georgia’s will through intimidation and bribes,” Saakashvili continued. “The Georgian people know very well in which direction they go; Georgia’s multi-ethnic society knows what its interest is and it is not afraid, because it is building free future for its children.”
In his remarks on upcoming elections, Saakashvili also alluded to a recent controversy over leaked poll results in which the ruling National Movement party is in big lead with Georgian Dream, an opposition coalition led by billionaire politician Bidzina Ivanishvili, far behind. After the results of political ratings, which were part of a broader public opinion survey commissioned by the U.S. National Democratic Institute (NDI), were reported the Georgian Dream questioned the poll’s credibility and called for suspending carrying out such polls prior to the parliamentary elections (Georgian Dream’s open letter to the U.S. ambassador on this matter is available in pdf file on this link in English as provided by Ivanishvili’s press office). The U.S. embassy in Tbilisi responded: “We are confident that NDI’s polls… are conducted professionally and based on legitimate methodology.”
“We want international organizations to carry out many public opinion surveys in order not to let various elements, hired with foreign money, to manipulate with public opinion survey carried out on the election day,” Saakashvili said. “So large international organizations in Georgia should be carrying out polls weekly or monthly, if possible, in order not to allow those, who are willing to discredit electoral process, to discredit it and [not to allow] them to then stir up some mess.”
“I am sure they won’t be able to do that,” Saakashvili continued, “because we have much more developed democracy, much firmer state institutions and the society which is much more self-confident.”
“That’s why we need from you more observation and public opinion surveys, as well as monitoring of media and of the entire electoral process in general. Control of funding of political parties through international instruments is also important,” he said.
“Like never before, we need many foreign observers and we need them not only on the election day, but today, tomorrow and day after tomorrow. The sooner observers from the European Parliament, the European Union, OSCE and other international organizations arrive, the better. That’s very important for us,” Saakashvili said.
Earlier in March a coalition of election watchdog and legal advocacy groups called on the Georgian authorities to invite long-term observation mission from OSCE’s democracy and rights arm ODIHR to monitor pre-election situation in the “in the shortest period of time.” OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) deploys its observation mission upon the invitation from the government of a host country.