QUESTION: Secretary Gordon, first of all, thank you very much for your time.
How would you comment on parliamentary elections in Georgia? Central Election Commission is still releasing results, but we can say that President Saakashvili’s ruling party lost majority in parliament.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: First let me just congratulate the people of Georgia on this election. It was closely fought, it was competitive, and the results are being respected, and that’s what a democratic election should be -- so in that sense I think it’s a historic election for Georgia and really for the region, and if parties continue to act as they have in respect of rule of law and institutions, it will be a model for the world.
QUESTION: U.S. representatives along with European observers monitored elections. Can you say today that elections were free and fair?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think so -- this was one of the most closely monitored elections anywhere ever, and we, the United States, played a big part in that because we’ve been saying for months that the most important thing for Georgia in this election is not so much who wins -- and of course we don’t choose sides -- but that the election be a democratic model, and ODIHR, the OSCE’s office that monitors elections, supplemented by many other groups, judged that it was a competitive environment and I think you can say that this was a free and fair election. Was it perfect? No election ever is, and there were some irregularities, and I think ODIHR has made recommendations for how Georgia can continue to strengthen its electoral laws, but bottom line, it was an open, competitive election and really positive for Georgian democracy.
QUESTION: The leader for Georgian Dream, Mr. Ivanishvili, [inaudible] do you believe that both parties will be able to work together or we just expecting some changes in Georgia?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: It’s certainly in their interest to work together, and that’s what we would like to see. Mature democracies, including our own in the United States by the way, sometimes have to go through periods of so-called cohabitation, where a leader from one party works with the leaders of the opposition party, and what is important is that both sides respect the rules. They have some differences -- those differences came out during the campaign, and nobody expects them to go away -- but if everybody is committed to the process and to rule of law, then the country as a whole will be stronger and that’s what we expect from both sides.
QUESTION: Do you plan any meetings with the new majority leaders sometime in the near future? Here in Washington or in Tbilisi? On official level.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Sure. First we need to give this process time. As you said, all of the votes haven’t even been counted yet -- we need them to be certified; and then the new parliament will sit; and then at that point, the new parliament will approve a new government, and it’s only at that point that we in our government will have counterparts, but of course we would expect to meet with them early on.
Georgia is a close, important partner of the United States, regardless of who is in the government at any given time, and we’ll very much look forward to working with the current President and with the new parliament on so many areas of common interest.
QUESTION: Again, thank you so much for your time.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Thank you.