Thu, 20 Feb 2020

TBILISI -- Georgia's government has released a letter written by four U.S. Congressmen expressing concerns over the government's failure to deliver on promises of democratic reforms and a police crackdown on protesters over the issue.

Congressmen Adam Kinzinger, Gerald Connoly, Eliot Engel, and Michael McCaul, also wrote in the letter dated January 21 and made public the next day that they are 'alarmed by politicization of the Anaklia Deep Sea Port project.'

The U.S. congressmen said it was 'unacceptable' that with parliamentary elections approaching later this year, the ruling Georgian Dream party had funded 'an extensive networks of accounts' on Facebook 'apparently spreading anti-democratic, anti-Western sentiments.'

'Additionally, we are troubled by reports that prosecutors appointed by Georgian Dream are reopening old legal cases against the party's opponents. While some of these cases may have merits, others are perceived as targeting leading opposition political figures, news operators, international corporations, and civil society members. Respect for the rule of law and an impartial justice system are key to a healthy democracy and to ensuring free and fair elections, which are guaranteed by your party,' the letter, addressed to Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, says.

The congressmen also expressed concerns over 'a sharp decline in foreign direct investments in Georgia as American and European companies have suffered harassment, causing many to reconsider their business ventures.'

The letter also criticizes the Georgian Dream party for 'perceived political targeting of the U.S.-backed Anaklia Development Consortium' that is in charge of Georgia's massive transcontinental port project on the Black Sea, which 'deterred or prevented investment from American companies,' adding that the situation 'could deter future U.S. investment in Georgia.'

'Decreased foreign investment not only hurts the Georgian people and their hopes for deeper integration with Western institutions, but it also strengthens [Russian President] Vladimir Putin's hand in the region,' the letter says.

The congressmen also expressed hopes that Georgia's government will work with the United States, the European Union, and NGOs 'to strengthen democratic institutions and enhance economic prosperity for the Georgian people so that Georgia can continue to be a strategic partner of the United States for many years to come.'

Over the summer, several mass protests held in Tbilisi were violently dispersed by police.

Opposition parties have complained that Georgia's electoral system unfairly favors the ruling Georgian Dream party.

Changing it to a proportional one from 2020 was one of the demands of the thousands of demonstrators who rallied for weeks in Tbilisi in June and July.

The Georgian Dream party, including its billionaire founder and leader Bidzina Ivanishvili, backed the reforms but the constitutional amendments still failed to pass in parliament in mid-November.

The United States and the European Union have called on the Georgian government, political parties, and civil society to engage in a 'calm and respectful dialogue.'

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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