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
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.)
“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.
Bidhzina Ivanishvili at the Congress of his Georgian Dream Party in Tbilisi on 16 February 2013.
Only days after Georgian politics plunged into pessimism with ugly scenes of intolerance in front of the National Library as President, Government and Parliament played a cat and mouse game which they insist on calling cohabitation, it was time for the roller coaster to turn on the up side. Reconciliation was in the air as the two sides pulled back from brinkmanship politics and focused instead on necessary compromise. The sight of two MPs, one from the government coalition and one from the opposition having a fist fight on live prime tv was not reassuring, but Georgians have got used to theatrics and are no longer much impressed by it.
Of more substance was the news that the Government and the opposition were edging closer to agreeing a constitutional settlement that would address the immediate concerns of the two sides. More…
The European Union has few tools at its disposal when responding to threats to freedom of speech in the South Caucasus, except for its moral authority. The institution and its member states are not perfect by far, but together they represent the best practise on issues related to human rights and democratic traditions. Governments and people in the South Caucasus recognise this even if they do not always admit it.
The events of the last few days in the three South Caucasus countries caused concern. None was serious enough to trigger a crisis but all were serious enough to raise alarm bells and to highlight the question as to what is the end game of the EU with regards to the region on this issue. The soul searching has started and it will continue, probably until November or thereabouts when the EU expects either to welcome Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia closer to it through Association Agreements, or relegate all or some of them to the status of trade partners. More…
One of the candidates in the Armenian presidential elections formally withdrew from the race on 8 February. The Central Elections Commission duly accepted his withdrawal and cancelled his candidature. Aram Harutyunyan call for the other six candidates challenging incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan to withdraw from the race has not so far been heeded.
However the situation is far from usual. One other Presidential contender Andreas Ghukasyan has been on hunger strike since the election campaign formally kicked off. Attempts to get him to stop the hunger strike have so far failed. Ghukasyan is protesting against the electoral process which he says is flawed and is asking the Central Elections Commission to bar Sargsyan from the poll.
A third presidential candidate, Pruyur Hayrikyan is in hospital recovering from an assissantation attempt on him a week ago. His medical situation was reported to have deteriorated in the last days and he has been asked by doctors not to leave the hospital bed despite successful surgery on him on Saturday. The Armenian Ministry of National Security has reported that it has arrested two suspects in connection with the assassination attempt. More…
“We need to put aside our narrow party and personal interests, consolidate and with a united agenda – and, why not, with a single candidate – contest the presidential election,” said Vartan Oskanian, former Foreign Minister and a leading Member of Parliament with the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), to a crowd of supporters that had gathered outside the Armenian parliamentary buildings on Wednesday 21 November. More…
Opposition legislators in Armenia have called for a special session of parliament to discuss possible amendments to the Electoral Code, the Criminal Code and the Law on the State Registration of the Population.
The amendments, hopes the opposition, will be “instrumental in preventing fraud” in the upcoming Presidential election in February 2013. Of particular salience is the proposed amendment to exclude Armenian citizens who have lived outside of Armenia for more than six month from the electoral lists. “We suggest that from now on only citizens who are in the territory of Armenia should be included in the electoral roll. All those who are absent from Armenia for more than six months must be excluded from this roll,” said Levon Zurabian, the leader of the Armenian National Congress (ANC) representatives in the National Assembly. More…
Head of UNM faction in the Georgian Parliament, David Bakradze.
All 59 of the United National Movement (UNM) Members of Parliament walked out of the Georgian Parliament on 8 November in protest of the arrest of three senior defence officials (see story in this issue) on allegations of abuse and what they deem an unnecessary tax audit of the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB).
David Bakradze, parliamentary leader of the UNM, told journalists on Thursday that his party would not work under the hostile conditions imposed by the Georgian Dream administration. After staging the walk out on Thursday, Bakradze stated that the UNM was suspending its work in parliament given the “current conditions” in which “the authorities are trying to establish control over the military and the televisions.” He did not specify under which circumstances the UNM parliamentarians would return. UNM lawmakers accuse the Ivanishvili administration of political motivations in these two developments, stating that the Georgian Dream fabricated the charges laid against the chief of staff of the military to put their own candidate in place. A charge which the government denies. More…
The Office of the President of Armenia in Yerevan.
Ahead of next year’s presidential elections in Armenia it is not yet clear who the contestants are going to be. But as Karina Gould reports for CEW the debate is shifting from personalities to process as radical new ideas for constitutional changes are proposed. The Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), the second largest faction in the Armenian National Assembly, while it has not confirmed whether it will be fielding a candidate in next year’s February Presidential election has indicated what kind of candidate it would support. Such a candidate, party spokesperson Naira Zohrabyan said, would be a “technical” president, willing to embark on the tough road of political reform seeking to implement a completely list-based proportional representation (PR) system for parliament, eradicating the single-mandate constituencies, and moving from a presidential to a parliamentary form of government in an effort to curtail the sweeping powers of the President in Armenia. More…
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan
addressing the Congress of the European
People’s Party in Bucharest on 17 October
2012. (Picture courtesy of the Press
Service of the President of Armenia.)
“The authorities of the Republic of Armenia are determined to transform registered progress into a firm trend and to hold free, fair, transparent and democratic presidential elections,” announced Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan at the European People’s Party (EPP) Conference held in Bucharest, Romania on 17 October.
Referring to the positive assessment of the May 2012 parliamentary elections, which were considered to be “the best since independence” by international observers, the President, expressed his plan that Armenia will build on the recommendations suggested by the international community. Sargsyan explained to his audience that in order to achieve free, fair, transparent and democratic presidential elections next February, the Armenian authorities are “conducting preliminary works stemming from the conclusions and proposals of the OSCE/ODIHR.” More…
The election of David Usupashvili as Chairman of the Georgian Parliament sends an important signal that the new Georgia embraces the rule of law.
In one of its first decisions after reconvening after the historic 1 October Parliamentary elections, the new Georgian Parliament elected David Usupashvili as its new Chairman. The election of Usupashvili sends a strong signal to Georgian citizens, and the international community at large that the new Georgian government will respect the rule of law and will submit itself to proper parliamentary scrutiny. More…
Georgia goes to the polls in a few days’ time. What happens on 1 October will determine the future of the country for a long time. It is for the Georgian people to decide who they want to govern them and what sort of future they want for their country. But Europe has a duty to observe this process carefully, and to give a true and fair assessment afterwards. Thousands of observers and journalists will be in Georgia these days to do just that.
On too many occasions Europe’s vision of Georgia has been clouded by considerations that are certainly not valid for the current circumstances. Georgia has a damaged society, partly a result of a style of government in recent years that has been confrontational in its approach. The prisons torture scandal over the last days has further exacerbated the problem. The European Union and the United States, Georgia’s two main friends in the world, should have done more in the past years to help raise concerns and address serious shortcomings in the field of democratic governance, human rights and the rule of law. More…
A stream of European and American officials have been visiting Georgia in the weeks running up to the 1 October parliamentary elections. They all seem to have the same message: the importance for Georgia’s future that the elections are deemed free and fair. But the question is already arising, who if anybody, is going to decide if they were or not?
Two reports issued last week by two reputable organisations, both claiming to cover the pre-election period, whilst not exactly contradictory, leave the reader with two different impressions. More…
On 30th August, Bidhzina Ivanishvili, the leader of the Georgian Dream coalition sent a letter to international leaders regarding the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Georgia. The following is the full text of the letter
By this letter, I would like to appeal to the international democratic community.
The fate of Georgia will be decided by the outcome of the upcoming October 1 election , and to a great degree, how the election will proceed will be determined by the leaders of international democracies around the world: Will Georgia finally start on a path towards democratic development or will the country continue its fight against authoritarianism and post-communism. More…