WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, today released the following statements in response to an agreement signed this weekend in Tbilisi that is designed to calm political tensions in Georgia:
“I am very glad to see an agreement reached by all sides of the Georgian political spectrum this weekend, and expect to see its full implementation in the coming weeks and months,” said Risch. “Earlier this year, my colleague Senator Shaheen and I wrote to Prime Minister Gakharia to express our concern with recent events in Georgia and advise that the Georgian government put an end to democratic backsliding. I am pleased to say that this agreement is a critical step towards restoring democracy and good governance in Georgia. As Georgia prepares for parliamentary elections later this year, it is imperative that the agreed upon changes be put into place quickly and honored by all sides.
“The United States looks forward to seeing fully free and fair elections in Georgia this fall, and I commend all parties for making the difficult compromises needed to move Georgian democracy forward,” Risch continued. “Additionally, I applaud the promise made in the joint statement on Sunday to address “actions that could be perceived as inappropriate politicization of Georgia’s judicial and electoral processes,” and expect to see the release of politically-motivated detainees imminently.”
“I’m encouraged to see the Georgian government take the first step in making good on its promise of electoral reforms. This is crucial for their nation’s democracy,” said Shaheen. “Since 2012, we’ve seen Georgia work diligently to make this democratic transition and they’ve made important progress toward that goal over the last eight years. I also appreciate Georgia heeding mine and Senator Risch’s concerns about respecting civil engagement and the voices of the Georgian people, which is a core tenet of a democratic society. I’m hopeful that Georgia will continue down this path and remain committed to strengthening their democratic institutions.”
Background: The agreement signed on Sunday changes Georgia’s electoral system so that 120 members of parliament will be elected proportionally, and 30 by majoritarian rules. Further, no party may be considered to have a majority in Georgia’s unicameral system unless it has received at least 40 percent of the total vote, and electoral districts will be redrawn to be more equal in size.