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Clinton urges Ivanishvili to respect the rule of law

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Georgia’s new power broker Bidzina Ivanishvili directly that the United States is watching to make sure he plays by the rules as his Georgian Dream coalition assumes power following their surprise victory in this week’s elections, the State Department said Thursday. International observers praised the Oct. 1 parliamentary elections ...

VANO SHLAMOV/AFP/GettyImages
VANO SHLAMOV/AFP/GettyImages
VANO SHLAMOV/AFP/GettyImages

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Georgia's new power broker Bidzina Ivanishvili directly that the United States is watching to make sure he plays by the rules as his Georgian Dream coalition assumes power following their surprise victory in this week's elections, the State Department said Thursday.

International observers praised the Oct. 1 parliamentary elections in Georgia that unseated President Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement (UNM) party for the first time since the 2003 Rose Revolution brought a measure of Western-style democracy to the former Soviet bloc state.

Ivanishvili, the eccentric billionaire who led the opposition Georgian Dream coalition to victory while accusing the ruling party of fraud and abuse of the system, is now struggling to figure out whether to work with the UNM -- or continue to rail against it. Ivanishvili's party will take over parliament, but his bitter rival Saakashvili will remain president for one more year.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Georgia’s new power broker Bidzina Ivanishvili directly that the United States is watching to make sure he plays by the rules as his Georgian Dream coalition assumes power following their surprise victory in this week’s elections, the State Department said Thursday.

International observers praised the Oct. 1 parliamentary elections in Georgia that unseated President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM) party for the first time since the 2003 Rose Revolution brought a measure of Western-style democracy to the former Soviet bloc state.

Ivanishvili, the eccentric billionaire who led the opposition Georgian Dream coalition to victory while accusing the ruling party of fraud and abuse of the system, is now struggling to figure out whether to work with the UNM — or continue to rail against it. Ivanishvili’s party will take over parliament, but his bitter rival Saakashvili will remain president for one more year.

In a long, rambling press conference after the vote, Ivanishvili called for Saakashvili to resign immediately. He later sounded more conciliatory notes, rescinding that call, pledging to work constructively with the president, and promising to make Washington, not Moscow, his first trip abroad.

But on Thursday, the Georgian Dream coalition alleged voting improprieties in 12 provincial polls and called for a series of recounts. Ivanishvili also called for an end to street protests and said that disputes should be handled through legal channels.

Clinton spoke separately with both Saakashvili and Ivanishvili on Thursday. She praised Saakashvili for presiding over open and competitive elections and for his "statesman-like" response to the results, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

"You know well that the views of this coalition were and still are fundamentally unacceptable for me. There are very deep differences between us and we believe that their views are extremely wrong, but democracy works in a way that Georgian people makes decisions by majority. That’s what we of course respect very much," Saakashvili said in his concession speech Oct. 2.

To Ivanishvili, Clinton conveyed congratulations for his coalition’s victory and for participating in what was largely a peaceful election. But she had another message for him as well.

"The secretary also thanked Ivanishvili for his pledge to work with his political opponents and underscored the importance of continued respect for the rule of law and democratic norms," Nuland said.

Earlier this week, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), issued a joint statement expressing similar sentiments.

"We urge Georgia’s newly-elected leaders to be as magnanimous in victory as their opponents have been in defeat. They must abide by the rule of law, not use the instruments of the state for political retribution," they said, adding that they were "disappointed and troubled" by some of Ivanishvili’s initial remarks and by the statements of Georgian Dream leaders, some of whom have called for trials of current government ministers.

Irakli Alasania, Georgian Dream’s lead negotiator in forming a new government, responded to reports that Justice Minister Zurab Adeishvili and Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili have left the country by saying, "We will dig all criminals out, whenever they go, and bring them to justice."

His negotiating counterpart, National Security Advisor Giga Bokeria, called Friday for an end to the inflammatory rhetoric.

"We have received a great deal of information about violence and threats of violence. We consider these to be major problems on the path to peacefully concluding the electoral process within the constitutional framework," he said.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

Tag: Law

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