Georgians recently went to the polls to elect a president. Incumbent Mikhail Saakashvili won with fifty-two percent of the vote. His main opponent, Levan Gachechiladze, received about twenty-six percent of the vote.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the election was "consistent with most international standards for democratic elections." Nevertheless, the O-S-C-E also noted that "significant challenges were revealed which need to be addressed urgently." O-S-C-E Coordinator and U.S. Congressman Alcee Hastings commented shortly after the election:
"Democracy took a triumphant step because of the demonstrative competitiveness of this campaign. I perceive this election as a viable expression of free choice of the Georgian people, but the future holds immense challenges."
O-S-C-E election observers cited allegations of intimidation against public-sector employees, diversion of state resources and media coverage in favor of the incumbent, and other violations. The observer delegation called on both sides to respect the legitimacy of the election and on the government to enact immediate electoral reforms in advance of upcoming parliamentary elections. Mr. Hastings called upon all parties in Georgia “to ensure that the peaceful atmosphere in Georgia continues in the coming days and weeks."
The United States has urged the government of Georgia to investigate all allegations of irregularities and to press ahead with democratic reform to achieve its Euro-Atlantic aspirations. "In democracies, the winner should not take all," said Daniel Fried, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. "The legitimate result of a free election is to deliver the best services to the public with greatest transparency and integrity. . . .It is up to the winner -- and the opposition -- to do their part to build that society brick-by-brick through Georgia’s democratic institutions."