POLITICS
“No One Is Anointed for Life to Govern”!
20 September, 2012

Exclusive interview with the Ambassador of Italy Ms. Federica Favi

We are back again with our most respected Ambassadors accredited in Georgia. As expected, this time we will put burning questions connected directly with inner politics of Georgia, considering the high political temperature in the country and Parliamentary elections that are getting closer and closer. This is actually another round, in which the Italian Representative, Ms. Federica Favi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Italy to Georgia, turned out to be the most

brave and easy to persuade.

I was actually the great admirer of her native country and now, I feel increasing affection and gratitude for the opportunity to offer the first interview with Her Excellency Ms. Federica Favi during the election campaign in Georgia.

G.J: How does the Embassy see its participation in the upcoming Parliamentary Elections in Georgia?

F.F: The Italian Embassy will not participate or involve itself in the upcoming elections of Georgian Parliament. Participation in elections is one of the truly fundamental rights reserved only for the citizens of democratic countries.

In conformity to international law, practice and tradition, the Embassy will observe how the elections are being prepared and carried out, as well as their outcome. It will report back to Rome its impressions and analysis.

Of course, our doors are open and we are available to offer our advice and experience on elections in Italy and standards required in my country.

A number of Italian Members of Parliament will arrive in Tbilisi in the next few days as observers representing the main international organizations involved in the electoral monitoring. The Embassy will also be in contact with them.

G.J: In your opinion, do the central authorities use the administrative/budgetary resources for conducting the election campaign?

F.F: Our comments on this aspect can only derive from personal observation, as we do not have access to the records of the daily decisions by Georgian authorities, nor do we have any right to demand access. I know that this is a sensitive matter recently raised by the opposition and by NGOs. I think that the authorities are aware of this and have the maximum interest in clarifying and ensuring transparency in this respect.

G.J: An American Diplomat Purse noted that if the international community is not properly involved in the political processes of Georgia at present, we might receive the picture of Iraq or Syria here. Do you agree that the situation is that serious?

F.F: Frankly, I don’t see any similarities, potential or otherwise, between the situation in Georgia and that in Syria or Iraq.

G.J: In your opinion, which is the biggest problem that you see in the campaign?

F.F: I think that for democracies to work and for elections to be carried out in a civilized, fair and peaceful manner, two important conditions must be met: all citizens must abide by the same set of established rules without benefiting from special privileges or questioning the legitimacy of these rules; and all sides of the political contest must not refute legitimacy of their political adversaries, no matter how deep their differences are. Georgian democracy has matured and I am confident that it won’t fail in these aspects.

G.J: The opposition leaders claim that the process of deception has already started, implying the “biased and unequal grounds” for the parties to conduct campaigns, meeting with the population or having the ads on TV. There is a real information war that is evident to everybody, as if the media sources are the main contesters. All parties assess the public as being very polarized. How likely is it that the authorities will do their best to ensure the normal, peaceful and fair elections?

F.F: Georgian society currently appears very polarized and the electoral campaigns are not always based on political debates. But that is a risk that can occur in all democracies. The media environment has improved over the last few months and this is of utmost importance for the fair competition. Freedom of the media is one of the fundamental values of democracy. I believe that a pluralistic and competitive access to media is much more relevant than the polarization per se. Full and impartial access of all parties to the media is an essential condition for democratic elections. I particularly appreciate the introduction of the “Must carry” rule and the recent decision on the broadcasters’ distribution.

G.J: Let's say, the government has insured fair elections, for which we hope so much and which is the main request of international society. But there is a tendency in Georgia that whichever party loses, it always says that the elections were not conducted fairly. The role of the international observers and embassies has increased and it is more important mow than ever. Do you believe that in this case of misunderstandings and personal antagonism that is still characteristic of Georgian society, the international community will manage to regulate the things and play a role of a decent mediator and peacemaker?

F.F: Georgia and its citizens should not strive to have fair elections to please the embassies and the international community. Georgians should make every effort to have good elections for their own benefit. Democracy is a difficult form of rule to achieve but it is the best there is, as Winston Churchill said over 80 years ago.

One characteristic of elections is that someone will always win and someone else will lose. But at the next round the tables will likely be turned. No one is anointed for life to rule in a democracy and no one is sentenced to eternal opposition either. All are equally legitimate.

No doubt, the international community, if called upon by all sides, can act as mediator, but, I repeat, maintaining a working democracy is above all for the benefit of Georgian people themselves. Their national characteristics, in many ways are similar to ours in Italy, and they are not an obstacle in achieving the goal.

G.J: You say that nothing is eternal; moreover, in politics. We have a good example, when President Sarkozy who lost by 3% quite unexpectedly and who used to enjoy tremendous popularity, surrendered very easily to the people’s will. Do you think that the Georgian society and politicians have such a high political culture or are there any dangers of confrontation?

F.F: I hope that everybody will feel really responsible and mature enough to deal with normal elections and their results. The monitoring missions of all international organizations will help them in this. I hope to see a sense of responsibility and I trust all Georgian political parties. But at the same time, the people have the responsibility not only to vote and to choose FREELY, but they have to be mature enough to accept the results of the elections. Monitoring can only be the instrument.  Of course, we would like to see democratic, modern and free Georgia. We have been supporting its modernization and democratization program until now. But Georgia has to do it on its own. As you know, we fully support your path towards the European Union in terms of politics, economy, institution-building, cooperation, etc. So far, you have carried out your modernization process very well. Therefore, I am confident that this is the path that will be permanent and that we’ll be friends and cooperate with each other in the future. The election takes only one day, but it is a whole process – your links with NATO and EU and your aspiration.

G.J: Our latest history of 2003 reminds us that even during the presidential elections just before the Rose Revolution, where there was a total fraud and it triggered the massive public protest waves, the conclusion of the international organizations was still mild, saying: “There were some violations, but in the whole, the elections were still held fairly”. Don’t you think that such rhetoric should be changed?

F.F: Rhetoric is always present in democracies, especially during elections. However, I don’t think the situation in 2003 is comparable to today’s state of affairs.

G.J: Door-to-door verification of voter lists is considered to be one of the main achievements within the election system of Georgia. Have you ever heard about its analogue abroad?

F.F: Door-to-door verification of voter lists is a promising concept to ensure fairness and prevent electoral fraud. We had it in Italy many years ago, when the electoral lists were first elaborated.

G.J: October 1, is Monday. It was declared by the authorities as a holiday. However, the leader of the “Georgian Dream” claims that this might arouse inconveniences for the Georgian citizens living abroad, as it is the normal weekday there and they will find it quite difficult to vote. Don’t’ you think it was possible and better to hold elections on Sunday, as usual?

F.F: In Italy we hold elections on Sundays and Mondays. In some countries they are held on Tuesdays. In others - on Thursdays, if  I’m not mistaken. Personally, I don’t think it makes any difference on which days you hold them. The important thing is HOW they are held. Besides, polling stations in Italy are open from early morning - 7.30 a.m. to 10.30 in the evening. It may help to allow every person to go to the polling station (Smiles optimistically). And it only takes half an hour.

G.J: You mentioned in the previous interview that Georgian politics is led by passions. Do you see the similarities with Italian politics in this respect, as our temperament is quite similar; and if so, how were these passions overcome and balanced in your country?

F.F: Passions are present in Georgia, Italy and in other countries to some extent too and it is normal. It is also good, as it means that people really care for what they are doing. The difference that I can see is that democracy in Italy is more mature. It is difficult to make a comparison, because we have a lot of political parties. In my country political parties going from government to opposition and back to government is a normal political occurrence and not a cause for tensions. Of course, the personal charisma of political leaders influences the electoral processes in all countries.

Georgian Journal once again thanks cordially the Ambassadress of Italy for this interesting interview. Let this wonderful lady and her beautiful country become good examples of cooperation even in this hot political period.

 

 

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