Kelly Degnan: Come out and vote, make your voice heard - a long-term monitoring mission is also important because things don't just go wrong on election day, they happen months before

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Come out and vote, make sure that your voice is heard and your choice is counted - I hope the 2024 elections will be better, US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan said in an interview with Radio Liberty.

As she noted, it is less important whether the USA has confidence in the result, but the voters and the people of Georgia should believe that the elections are really fair and reflect the will of the people of Georgia.

"I think my advice would be more for voters: come out and take part in the elections. Make sure your voice is heard and your choice is counted. The US Embassy will support a voter education campaign that will help people not only understand why their vote matters, but also help voters know how it works in this particular election, when 90% of precincts are switching to electronic voting. District staff should know how it works. Otherwise we will have more confusion both in constituencies and districts. As we saw in the local government elections, when 10% of the precincts had e-voting, there were some problems - more technical than anything else, but it can slow down the whole process when the whole country is voting electronically. We also saw in the US that the electronic system does not guarantee that everything will be clean and fair. It can also be manipulated if people are not trained to use the system and if voters do not understand how it works. So this will be an important election and an education campaign not only about why your vote matters, but also about the very technical side of voting.

A long-term monitoring mission is also important, because wrong things don't just happen on election day, in fact they happen months before: people are intimidated, votes are bribed, people are threatened with losing their jobs if they don't vote in a particular way. I repeat, these are tactics that have been used in Georgia for many, many years under different governments. It is very important to monitor the elections early in order to help Georgian voters to have confidence in the results later. It is less important whether the USA has confidence in the result, but the voters and the people of Georgia should believe that the elections are really fair and reflect the will of the people of Georgia. In 2020, it was impossible to have international oversight because of Covid, and I think that played a big part in making so many question why there were so many accusations and complaints - because you didn't have the help of external observers to help identify problems and confirm whether the process was fair or not. No one has stated that the 2020 elections were fair, and no one has stated that the 2021 municipal elections were fair either. It's sad and I hope the 2024 elections will be better," said Degnan.

*The quotes in the article have been double-translated from Georgian and wordings may be inaccurate. 

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