U.S. Calls for Georgia Opposition to Drop Boycott Threats

Senior U.S. officials called for Georgia’s opposition to work within the legal system to address their concerns over last month’s parliamentary elections, as Secretary of State Michael Pompeo visited in a show of support for the country’s efforts to orient itself toward the West and away from Russia.

The officials, who spoke to reporters on Wednesday on customary condition of anonymity, said the election results were generally accurate and not fatally flawed, though they said there were some concerns like vote-buying and intimidation. They said they’ll urge the opposition not to boycott parliament but to push for electoral reform within the law.

The comments came as Pompeo visited the country as part of a seven-nation swing through Europe and the Middle East. He met President Salome Zourabichvili in the morning and planned to meet civil society leaders later in the day, while his acting assistant secretary for Europe, Philip Reeker, planned to stay on and meet opposition leaders.

Opposition supporters in the capital, Tbilisi, have kept upprotests in the weeks since the ruling Georgia Dream party, founded by its richest man, Bidzina Ivanishvili, claimed victory in Oct. 31 parliamentary elections for the third straightelection. Opposition parties have said they’ll boycott run-off elections for 16 seats that are due to be held Nov. 21.

Activists planned to form a five-kilometer human chain in Tbilisi during Pompeo’s visit to protest the election results. The opposition has said the electionwas rigged and have called for a new vote and the resignation of electoral commission chief Tamar Zhvania.

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