U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan responded to ruling Georgian Dream party chairperson Irakli Kobakhidze’s assessment that U.S. support for the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) was “shocking,” by reiterating that the U.S. “has full confidence in ISFED.”
MP Kobakhidze’s statement, made in response to U.S. support for ISFED amidst the ruling party’s decision to exclude it from the electoral reforms working group, had also argued that in the 2020 elections ISFED’s parallel vote tallying, which contained a mistake, was a direct attempt at fomenting revolution in the country.
“It’s a highly respected and experienced election monitoring organization,” the Ambassador emphasized, adding that ISFED took part in an electoral reform working group last summer led by Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili, which “produced some important, very useful electoral reform legislation that was subsequently adopted by the Parliament.”
Regarding past elections, Ambassador Degnan pointed to assessments made by OSCE/ODIHR, as well as other election monitors regarding the 2020 and 2021 elections which found violations regarding their fairness and underscored that “ISFED was not responsible for those violations.”
“I think it’s clear that they did not play a role in those violations that were the cause for the public losing confidence in the outcome of the election results,” the Ambassador added.
In that context, she referenced ISFED’s miscalculation during the 2020 parallel vote tally and emphasized that as soon as the CSO was aware of the mistake, “which was determined to be an insignificant miscalculation, ISFED informed the public immediately and released the information fully.”
“That is why we have full confidence in ISFED… they were transparent about a mistake that happened as soon as they were able to confirm it,” she explained.
Along that line, the Ambassador reiterated the need to involve ISFED and other CSOs with electoral expertise in the electoral reforms working group in line with the European Commission’s recommendations.
Asked by a journalist about how the ruling party has represented the 2020 parallel vote tally, she underscored, “… everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I don’t see any fact or evidence to substantiate that opinion.”
Repeating that ISFED disclosed the mistake to the public so it could see that it was “statistically insignificant”, Amb. Degnan added, “I think it’s a complete misrepresentation of reality to say that this was deliberate, that this was some part of a revolutionary scam.”
Regarding GNCC’s Decision to Fine, Warn, Opposition Channels
Asked by journalist about the Georgian National Communications Commission’s (GNCC) decision to fine Mtavari Arkhi TV and warn Formula and TV Pirveli for airing a clip of “Going Home to Europe,” Amb. Degnan stated, “This is a really unfortunate development.”
“It’s really a matter of freedom of speech and the freedom to express dissenting views, including views that criticize the government,” she emphasized. “Freedom to criticize the government is a core principle of a healthy democracy.”
Pointing out that today Georgia celebrates the 27th anniversary of its Constitution, she concluded, “… it’s worth noting that it is a right that is also protected in Georgia’s Constitution.”