WASHINGTON – Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) will lead the international election observation mission for the presidential elections to be held in the Republic of Georgia on January 5. Chairman Hastings was jointly appointed to the position on behalf of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) by Foreign Ministers Miguel Angel Moratinos of Spain and Ilkka Kanerva of Finland. Foreign Minister Moratinos is the outgoing Chairman-in-Office (CiO) of the OSCE and Foreign Minister Kanerva will assume the chairmanship on January 1, 2008.
The observation mission will bring together parliamentarians from throughout the OSCE region. Also accompanying Chairman Hastings will be Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), a former Justice of the Texas Supreme Court and a strong advocate of transparency. Congressman Doggett has served as an election monitor in the past. Chairman Hastings, who is President Emeritus of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, has led similar observation missions in Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Ukraine.
On January 6, Chairman Hastings will hold a press conference to announce conclusions of the election observation mission – DETAILS TO FOLLOW.
“A fundamental function of any democracy is ensuring that citizens are able to vote and know that their vote will be counted. While I deeply regret the political turmoil and violence that unfolded in Georgia, I am pleased that early presidential elections were called and that hundreds, if not thousands, of election observers have been invited. The world will be watching Georgia, and it is my sincere hope that these elections are conducted in the most free, fair, and transparent manner. I wish the people of Georgia much success and look forward to heading the observation mission for the OSCE,” said Chairman Hastings.
The call for early presidential elections followed large street protests and turmoil in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, in early November. A temporary state of emergency imposed to quell the demonstrations ended on November 16. Sanctions against selected media outlets were also instituted, but have since been lifted. In the interim, Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze, a longtime member of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, has assumed the role of acting President.