I recently served as an international monitor for the high-profile Parliamentary elections in the Republic of Georgia as a member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE -- also known as the Helsinki Commission). I was appointed to the Helsinki Commission by House Speaker John Boehner in early 2011. It was an honor to serve as a monitor for the Helsinki Commission. The Georgian government worked hard to hold free and transparent elections and this was its first litmus test for democracy. The Helsinki Commission and the world were watching this election closely because Georgia's future and international reputation is at stake. These elections were an important test for Georgia's democracy. I have long been an advocate for protecting the right to vote in America and overseas and will continue to fight for the right to vote.
The election I witnessed was free and fair, with checks and balances in place that assured that people were registered voters and only voted once. There were some activities leading up to election day, weighted by the government to their advantage, that made it more difficult for Georgia Dream Party leader Bidzina Ivanishvili to get his message out. Nevertheless, it appears the people's will prevailed and, for the first time, a peaceful change in power via the election process has come about in a former Soviet satellite. I met Mr. Ivanishvili on Sunday morning and presented him with a U.S. House of Representatives coin as a token of goodwill. He accepted the coin with a broad and gracious smile. It was beautiful and inspirational to witness the ecstatic Georgian people participate in the Democratic process. Hundreds of thousands of citizens participated in a rally in Tbilisi after the election results were announced. The OSCE helped contribute to this birth, growth and fulfillment of democracy and I'm happy to say that Democracy is alive and well in Georgia, which is important to the U.S.A. because the country serves as a friend and buffer on the Russian border and is a pipeline for oil and gas to Europe from Azerbaijan.