The race is on for the office of President of Georgia after the governing Georgian Dream coalition led by Bidhzina Ivanishvili announced that it will nominate Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Giorgi Margvelashvili to the post. Given the massive victory that Georgian Dream registered in last October’s parliamentary elections and its continued popularity in recent opinion polls, Margvelashvili starts the race as the favourite to win.
The office of President of Georgia will be divested from most of its powers after the October elections following constitutional amendments that the previous government of Mikhail Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM) pushed through before its election defeat. Executive power will now be vested in the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. The UNM still has to nominate its candidate for the elections, and has announced that it will do primaries to select its candidate. A number of other Georgian personalities are considering contesting as independent candidates.
Georgians have traditionally looked for “a man on the white horse” to lead them. Georgian history is full of imagery of Georgian leaders, usually men, and on one or two occasions also women, riding into battle on horseback, often slaying a dragon. This time round the situation is rather confusing since the first person in the country will not be the one with the effective power. More…
The case of Azerbaijani political activist Ilgar Mammedov is fast becoming a test-case of the resilience and integrity of those European institutions that are meant to be the guardians of human rights on the continent. Mammedov was arrested earlier this year after visiting the town of Ismaili at a time when rioting was taking place. Mammedov is accused of inciting the riot.
Unrests in Ismailli district began on the evening of January 23, after an accident involving the nephew of the head of the local administration Nizami Alekperov, and the son of the Minister of Labor Fizuli Alekperov - Vugar Alekperov, triggering a riot. The participants set fire to a number of commercial entities belonging to officials. Special Forces and internal troops entered the district using rubber bullets and tear gas There were dozens of arrests and many injured as a result of clashes. Mammedov, who is also Director of the Council of Europe Schgool for Political Studies in Baku and co-Chair of the social movement “Real”, went to Ismaili to investigate the incident and was subsequently arrested and accused of inciting the riot.
His case was raised this week by the Council of Europe, an institution that has traditionally been the beacon of human rights on the continent. Azerbaijan is a member of the Council and will take over its rotating chairmanship in 2014. There is great unease in European circles about the message this will send, and frustration at a deteriorating human rights situation in Azerbaijan at this juncture. More…
The Carousel of elections that have followed one after the other in Armenia came to an end on Sunday, 5 May with the holding of municipal elections to elect the City Council of the Armenian Capital, Yerevan. The election came closely on the heels of Parliamentary elections a year ago and Presidential elections in February. Observers noted that Sunday’s elections were unusually tense for local elections which often attract much less interest and are less hardly fought than the national elections. This time round, a number of opposition forces determined to break the monopoly of power of the ruling party put considerable effort in trying to obtain a majority on the city council.
The governing Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) of President Serzh Sargsyan however put up a spirited defence and gained a large absolute majority on the city council. Of the six parties represented in the Armenian Parliament only three managed to pass the 6% threshold and gain seats on the City Council: the RPA, as well as Prosperous Armenia and the Barev Bloc led by Raffi Hovannesian.
According to Dennis Sammut, Director of LINKS Analysis, “the victory of his party in the Yerevan election is an important psychological moment for the Armenian President.” More…
The ruling Republican Party of Armenia has registered an overwhelming victory in elections for Yerevan City Council amidst allegations of widespread irregularities in a hardly fought contest.
Three parties passed the 6% threshhold and will be represented on the City Council of the Armenian Capital – the Republican Party of Armenia, the Prosperous Armenia Party and the Barev Bloc led by Heritage leader, Raffi Hovannesian. More…
Giorgi Baramidze, the Vice Speaker of the Georgian Parliament and close associate of the current Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili told participants at a NATO Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Tbilisi on 30 April that he will participate in American style primary elections that will select the candidate of the United National Movement for the forthcoming Presidential elections scheduled to be held in Georgia in October.
Baramidze thus became the first prominent politician to announce that he will participate in the election process.
The ruling Georgian Dream Coalition is expected to announce its candidate for the election in May.
The US Department of State last week released its annual publication “Country reports on human rights practices” which reviews the global human rights situation throughout the world.. The report highlights serious problems in the field of human rights in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia and a systematic democratic deficit in the governance of the three countries. Many of the issues raised in the report have been reported on by Caucasus Elections Watch throughout last year, including the situation in prisons, problems with the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, harassment of opposition activists and problems with the electoral process.
“It is in our interest to promote the universal rights of all persons. Governments that respect human rights are more peaceful and more prosperous. They are better neighbours, stronger allies, and better economic partners. Governments that enforce safe workplaces, prohibit exploitative child and forced labour, and educate their citizens create a more level playing field and broader customer base for the global marketplace. Conversely, governments that threaten regional and global peace, from Iran to North Korea, are also egregious human rights abusers, with citizens trapped in the grip of domestic repression, economic deprivation, and international isolation.”
US Secretary of State, John Kerry
We reproduce here the Executive Summaries of the report with regards to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The full report can be accessed at http://www.state.gov. More…
The President of the European Council Herman Van
Rompuy (r) greets OSCE Secretary General Lamberto
Zannier during the latter’s official visit to the EU,
Brussels, 10 April 2013.
Picture courtesy of the European Union
The current challenging political and economic environment calls for focused international response, said OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier and President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy during their meeting on 10 April 2013.
According to the web portal osce.org they discussed a wide range of issues related to the European security dialogue, including the role the OSCE can play as a forum to build bridges between different countries to create a Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community. They also exchanged views on regional issues on the OSCE agenda including recent developments related to the protracted conflicts. In Brussels the Secretary General also met with Commissioner Štefan Füle responsible for enlargement and European neighbourhood policy and senior officials from the European External Action Service.
Whilst the EU and the OSCE are two organisations that are very different in nature they face many common challenges and the overlap of membership of the 27 EU member states who form nearly half the membership of the OSCE calls for a more harmonised and more focused relationship. Nowhere is this more the case than in the South Caucasus where the two organisations are involved in multiple ways on wide spectrum of issues involving Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, from conflict resolution to democracy and human rights issues. More…
Davit Narmania, Georgia’s Minister
for Regional Development and
The Georgian government has announced that it will conduct a population census from 5-19 November 2014, and preparations will commence from this year. The Minister for Regional Development and Infrastructure Davit Narmania and the Head of the National Statistics Department Zaza Chelidze told a press conference in Tbilisi last week that special groups of people will go door-to-door to provide preliminary information about the number of persons living in houses. At the first stage, about 4 000 persons will be employed. From November 5-19, the plan will enter the second stage with a complete census of the population. 15 000 persons are being selected to conduct the interviews based on a special questionnaire.
Narmania noted that the government made a decision to conduct an agricultural census along with the population census, which means that along with social and demographic data, information will be gathered about agricultural and industrial activities. The results of the census will be published step by step, and the first results will be made public after six months, Zaza Chelidze said. About USD 10 million will be spent on the census. The last census was conducted in 1989 and found that 5 443 000 people were living in the country, including the population of the breakaway areas Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
According to the population data from 2002, which were published without a census, 4 601 500 people were living in Georgia at the time. Official figures from 2012 show that the population in territories controlled by the Georgian government was about 4.5 million, while in 2011 it was estimated to be about 4,479 000. However a number of NGOs claim that these figures are inflated and that the population of Georgia may be a million less than is claimed.
Georgia has not had a population census for a long time and the census is both a necessary and a sensitive exercise. Results of the census are likely to help build a picture of the accuracy of Georgia’s voting list, which in the past had proved to be a problematic issue during elections. The census will be an important tool in highlighting sensitive issues in Georgian society, including the issue of an aging population and birth rates amongst different ethnic groups, as well as the actual size of ethnic communities. It is therefore essential that the census be conducted with as much accuracy and professionalism as possible and that the data will be released transparently and in a timely fashion.
Source: CEW Staff report with dfwatch.org
The Armenian opposition activists that rallied around defeated presidential candidate Raffi Hovannesian in the aftermath of the 18 February Presidential elections have been faced with a common dilemma – their protests are large, but not as yet large enough to force the government’s hand. In political events in the South Caucasus this has proved a critical factor before. More…
Serzh Sargsyan was sworn in as President of Armenia for his second term at a ceremony held on the 9th April, despite protests by opposition activists who claim that the 18 February elections were flawed and that there should have been a run-off between him and the runner-up.
As opposition supporters clashed with police outside the Presidential Palace in Yerevan the President was telling an audience of 2000 VIP guests at the City’s Sport and Concert complex of how he proposed to deal with Armenia’s challenging problems in the next five years.
Without making a direct reference to the elections controversy Sargsyan said that ‘Elections do not mark a destination; they signify a new phase. This is the phase for unrelenting and persistent work. The time has come to move from words to work, to reinforce words with work.” The President highlighted three main areas of priorities in domestic politics, namely economic development, rule of law and what he called “the deepening of democracy”.
Observers consider that Sargsyan will need to impliment serious changes, particularly in personnel, in order to be able to cope with the serious political and economic problems that his country faces. However he is a conservative person by nature and will not find this easy.
source: CEW with agencies
photo: President Sargsyan arriving for his swearing-in as President of Armenia at a ceremony held on 9 April in Yerevan. (picture courtesy of the press office of the President of Armenia.)
Armenian politician Raffi Hovannesian has ended his hunger strike which he had started on 9 March to bring to attention his rejection of the results of the 18 February Presidential election in which he was declared the runner-up
On Easter Sunday morning the leader of the Heritage party, went out of his tent, which he had set up in Liberty Square in the center of Yerevan, and said he was grateful to all those who supported him in his protest. “I want to thank my family members who supported me during these days. I’m also grateful to all policemen who, with the exception of some minor incidents, performed their duty well,” Hovannesian said, adding he would continue his political struggle the next day.
Observers consider that the end of the hunger strike might indicate that Hovannesian will now enter into negotiations with the incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan over some kind of power sharing. Hovannesian has repeatedly stated that any negotiations will have to be conducted transparently and that he himself was not seeking any post in any power-sharing arrangement.
Over the last weeks Hovannesian has also called for either new Presidential or new Parliamentary elections. Whilst this demand is unlikely to be satisified Armenia is likely to embark on the search for a new constitution which may bring an end the current impasse in Armenian politics.
source: CEW staff with RIA Novosti and other agency reports.
“Megaphone” horse-trading on Yerevan’s Liberty Square.
Political horse-trading before, after and in between elections is a common feature of politics in many countries, but none more so than in the South Caucasus were deals are cut behind the scenes, usually by leaders of parties or groups, without any reference to their political supporters, let alone the voters. It is one of the features that has helped discredit politics in the region. Often political support is traded for government positions, on some occasions in the past it is alleged that also big sums of money were involved. Despite their totalitarian streaks governments in the region have in the past found it useful to engage in such practices as a means of widening their support, and sometimes to isolate political opponents who refused to be bought and had become difficult.
Armenia has been particularly vulnerable to this sort of murky politics and most political forces had been engaged with it one way or the other. Events of the last few weeks, in the immediate aftermath of the 18 February Presidential election, have therefore come as a welcome change. Following that election the runner-up, Raffi Hovannesian has contested the result, even though it seems it has been endorsed by the international community and has survived a legal challenge. Hovannesian has taken his protest to the streets. He has held one meeting with the current Presidential incumbent, who was declared the winner on this occasion too, but nothing much seems to have come out of that. After a brief tour of Armenia’s regions he has for the last days camped on Armenia’s main square, Liberty Square, has gone on hunger strike, and has by and large conducted negotiations with the government on the issue “by megaphone”. More…
The Constitutional Court of Armenia
The Armenian Constitutional Court on 13 March rejected a request by Raffi Hovannesian, one of the candidates in last month’s presidential election, to annul the vote and call for new elections. The decision, although hardly surprising, added to an already tense situation in the Armenian capital Yerevan as Hovannesian continued his hunger strike, which he promises will only end on 9 April. Various political personalities from both government and opposition have visited Hovannesian in the last days, and there has been a call on Hovannesian to end the hunger strike from Armenia’s spiritual centre Echmiazin. Hovhannesian however continues to call on President Serzh Sargsyan to visit him on Liberty Square where he has been camping out and negotiate with him directly for a way out of the impasse.
Sargsyan himself was last week in Moscow and Brussels where he received the endorsements of the Russian President Vladimir Putin,. and of the President of the European People’s Party, Martens. Political observers say that the situation remains fragile because a number of important political forces, although not necessarily sympathetic to Havhannesian, might use the current impasse to weaken President Sargsyan. There are also concerns about Hovhannesian’s health.
source CEW staff team
Raffi Hovannisian on hunger strike in Yerevan’s main square on 11 March 2013.
Raffi Hovannisian who claims that he has won the Presidential Elections held in Armenia on 18 February, on Sunday 10 March started a hunger strike in the main square of the Armenian Capital Yerevan.
Hovannisian has called for the incumbent President, Serzh Sargsyan, who intends to be sworn in for a second term as president on April 9th to step down. “As long as Mr. Sargsyan has not stepped down, I will stay at Liberty Square and will not eat food,” he noted.
Meanwhile the next rally of Hovannisian’s supporters will be held on March 15 at 5pm. “On that day we will discuss the future courses of action, the Constitutional Court’s ruling [on whether or not the presidential should be declared null and void], and together we will start the matter of [taking] actions, [making] decisions, and consolidate the triumph,” stated the Presidential contender. More…
The Armenian Constitutional Court in session. (picture courtesy of news.am).
The Armenian Constitutional Court has started considering an appeal by Raffi Hovannisian and other contestants in last months’ presidential election to annul the result because of election fraud.
The Constitutional Court
is expected to give its judgment to the challenge to the election results by Thursday, 15 March when Hovannisian plans to hold another rally in Yerevan’s Liberty Square.
Raffi Hovhannessian was the only mainstream Armenian opposition politician who at the end of last year decided to throw his hat into the election ring. He conducted a campaign that verged on the surreal – avoiding controversy, shaking hands, talking of serenity and unity. Some said that fools rush in where angels fear to tread; others accused him of legitimising with his candidature a flawed process; others dismissed him as irrelevant. He could have been any of these three things, or even all of them, but in any case it now does not matter. Whether the 539,691 Armenians who voted for him did so because they liked him or his programme, or because they were voting against the incumbent, we will never quite know. The issue now is not the election (if it ever was) but the political process, and Hovhanessian has emerged much stronger than any of the other opposition political leaders to play the leading role. After the election results were announced he was smart enough to understand that this was Raffi’s moment and he grabbed it with both hands, leaving both the government and the other opposition leaders confused and disorientated. More…
Unofficial results in the Armenian Elections show a victory for the incumbent Serzh Sargsyan, with around 59% of the votes cast. Raffi Hovhanessian is runner up with around 37%
The 6th presidential Election of independent Armenia was held on Monday 18th February 2013. There was never any doubt who was going to win this election, but candidates, voters, election officials, journalists and observers – local and international, went through the necessary motions to conduct what technically was a good election ritual. A few of the seven candidates did not play the game according to the established rules and there was, a still unexplained, attempt on the life of another. One of the original eight candidates registered pulled out completely. The process was calm, peaceful, efficient and largely transparent. But while we always knew who the winner of this election was going to be, the question of who were going to be the losers was not always that clear. More…
Soviet Leader Leonid Brezhnev signing the Helsinki Final Act in August 1975. The Act made the subject of human rights a matter of legitimate concern to all.
Over the last few weeks it has become common to hear officials in Azerbaijan, and to a lesser extent in Armenia, complaining that the European Union is interfering in the internal affairs of their countries. This happens whenever EU officials or diplomats raise issues connected with human rights, rule of law and free elections. The chorus started first with some pro government journalists and commentators, but by last week senior officials in the two countries had joined the fray.
These officials clearly do not understand the processes that have been going on in Europe in the last forty years. The historic Helsinki Final Act adopted by all the European states (with the exception of Albania) in 1975 laid the foundation of a new European order which recognised the indivisibility of security and that human rights on the continent were not simply an internal matter but a matter of legitimate concern for all. More…