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…
A protestor being restrained by police in Baku on 17 November 2012
(picture by Mehman Huseynov).
Dozens of demonstrators were arrested in Baku over the weekend after participating in an unsanctioned demonstration calling for the dissolution of Parliament.
As was the case with previous protests organised by youth movements and opposition groups in Azerbaijan, the Baku City Council did not issue a permit for the demonstration which took place on Saturday 17, November in Fountain Square, citing potential disruptions to traffic in the city centre.
According to the Facebook event set-up to organise the protest, over 1,700 people confirmed their attendance. In the end only around a hundred turned up. More…
The Secretary General of NATO , Anders Fogh Rasmussen, last week nearly became the first victim of Georgia’s new system of political cohabitation when he got caught into the controversy surrounding the arrest and charging of senior military and security officials from the previous government on accusations of abuse of power.
Rasmussen’s facebook page was bombarded with Georgians commenting on various statements that the Secretary General made throughout the week, as he met with President Mikheil Saakashvili in Prague and later in Brussels with the new Prime Minister Bidhzina Ivanishvili. The problem was that many of the comments were in Georgian. At a press conference with Ivanishvili, Rasmussen reminded all Georgians that the official languages of the NATO alliance were English and French and asked them not to post in Georgian. 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 opening session of the Internet Governance Forum in Baku. (Photo: Mehman Huseynov).
The VII Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was held in Baku from 6-9 November 2012. In the run-up to the event, local and international human rights watchdog organisations have voiced concerns about freedom of expression online in Azerbaijan. Marion Kipiani followed the event and spoke to some of the participants.
The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is an annual meeting convened by the United Nations Secretary-General, bringing together governments, civil society and other stakeholders to discuss public policy issues related to the internet. This year’s IGF, hosted in Baku from 6 to 9 November 2012, focused on the role of Internet governance in promoting development. In addressing greetings to the participants of the IGF, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said his government was paying special attention to the development of information and communication technologies (ICTs). The President in his statement said Azerbaijan was respecting the freedom of the Internet, as shown by a number of Internet-based radio and TV stations, electronic newspapers and magazines, and the availability of social networks. The statement further noted that thousands of bloggers in Azerbaijan were freely engaging in their activity online. Local and international human rights watchdog organisations begged to differ. 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…
The Maidan Tower in Baku. A symbol of Azerbaijani history.
With the democratic transition of power progressing in Georgia, the focus of the regional and international community is increasingly shifting to the upcoming elections in Armenia and Azerbaijan. Notably, Azerbaijan has scheduled presidential elections for October 2013, which are regarded by many observers as crucial for the democratic development of the country.
Marion Kipiani was recently in Baku and she spoke with four experts about their perceptions of the political system, the upcoming elections, and the possible impacts of the change of government in Georgia on the electoral environment in Azerbaijan. The political and electoral systems in Azerbaijan are still under development, this was one of the few statements that the four experts unanimously agreed on. Farhad Mammedov, Razi Nurullayev, Anar Mammadli and Arastun Orujlu tell her why. More…
Political repositioning is going on in Armenia ahead of the February 2013 Presidential elections. Karina Gould has been following events.
A second candidate has announced his intention to contest the February 2013 Presidential elections in Armenia. Raffi Hovannisian, leader of the opposition Heritage Party, declared on Friday his decision to challenge incumbent President, and member of the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), Serzh Sargsyan in three months time. “I declare today my nomination in the upcoming presidential election,” announced the former Foreign Minister of Armenia. More…
No soft touch. Bidhzina Ivanishvili is a shrewd self-made man.
Most new governments enjoy a brief honeymoon period at the start of their administration: a time when they can bask in the glory of their victory and a period of grace that the public that elected them allows them before they start demanding that they deliver on their electoral promises. It has now become clear that the government of Bidhzina Ivanishvili in Georgia, which was confirmed by parliament on 25 October, is not going to have such a luxury, as it starts to come to terms with a wide range of problems that they inherited from the previous government.
At the same time as it walks the delicate tightrope of political co-habitation, the new Georgian government is facing challenges in a number of fields, ranging from a tense situation in the prisons , to strike action in some key industries, to having to deal with a financial gap in the budget. The government had not even been properly approved by parliament when a number of problems started emerging, none so far resulting from anything of its own doing. The victory of the Georgian Dream coalition in the 1 October elections raised expectations amongst vast sections of the Georgian population. More…
The first meeting of the new Georgian Government held in Kutaisi on 25 October 2012.
It has been a month since the 1 October Georgian elections which resulted in a landslide victory for the Georgian Dream coalition of Bidhzina Ivanishvili. In terms of Georgian politics, and indeed region wide, this has been a political earthquake.
Not only has an incumbent government in the region been defeated through the ballot box for the first time, and not only has the transfer of power been done in a by and large proper fashion; It is also an earthquake because very few saw it coming.
Many diplomats in Tbilisi are with egg on their face. Their political reporting to their respective capitals over the last year failed to prepare their governments for the change of power. This flaw is particularly acute amongst Embassies of the European Union member states and institutions. The somewhat clumsy way in which the EU acted in the period immediately before and after the election raises some questions. Lessons need to be learned because if people think that this has not been noticed they are wrong. More…
Young protesters being detained by police following
an unsanctioned protest in the centre of Baku on 20
October. The government is hoping that stiffer penalties
will make potential protestors think twice. (Picture courtesy of Youth Media Centre, Baku).
Following the “unauthorized actions” held in Baku on 20 October, lawmakers in Azerbaijan are contemplating tougher penalties which they claim will encourage a greater sense of responsibility by activists and protect human rights.
The parliamentary committees for “Legal Policy and State building”, and “Human Rights” held a joint session on Tuesday, 23 October, to discuss amending the legislation surrounding freedom of assembly in the country. Members of Parliament are concerned that these so-called “unauthorised actions” have been on the rise in recent years in Azerbaijan, and have a negative impact on Azerbaijan’s international image. This trend, the lawmakers argue, is likely a result of the fact that the penalties just are not a big enough deterrent for protesters. More…
Karina Gould has been reading a paper proposing a new approach to election monitoring. She sees value in the arguments but warns about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
“A more sophisticated and perhaps fairer way of observing elections is also to take into account the direction of political developments,” notes a recent paper released by the Caspian Information Centre (CiC), a privately funded research group based in London dedicated to the study of the Caspian region, in a critique of the electoral observation regime currently in place.
The paper, titled “Oh Dear, ODIHR! Why the OSCE’s Election Monitors Don’t Always Get It Right”, takes aim at the contemporary framework and tools to assess democratisation, particularly with regard to Azerbaijan. The authors of the paper suggest that instead of focusing on the “gold standard” of elections – a standard most “established” democracies such as the United States and Great Britain would not meet – it might actually be more useful to implement what is referred to as “Developmental Observation”. This technique “assumes that what is important is the way things are moving, rather than how they appear in a snapshot.” 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…
A protesteor being
detained by police in
Baku at an unauthorised
rally on Fountain Square
on 20 October 2012.
Photo courtesy of
Approximately fifty activists are thought to have been arrested and detained following an anti-corruption protest organised in Fountain Square in down town Baku on Saturday 20, October.
The protest, which was organised by opposition political parties and youth groups, began at 15:00 on Saturday and lasted for two hours, according to a post on the “Azerbaijan Agenda” Facebook. The demonstrators were calling for the dissolution of parliament following the release of a video at the end of September showing a member of the Azerbaijani Parliament demanding a $1.3 million bribe from a former university rector in exchange for a seat in parliament. 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…
The Executive Secretary of the ruling new Azerbaijan Party, Ali Akhmadov.
A second video has surfaced in the seat-buying scandal that emerged at the end of September in Azerbaijan implicating a prominent governing party Member of Parliament, Gular Ahmadova, in an attempt to sell a seat in the Milli Majliss, the Parliament of Azerbaijan, to the former rector of the Azerbaijan International University, Elshad Abdullayev.
The second video was sent to Azadliq, an opposition newspaper, on 8 October by Mr. Abdullayev in an attempt to demonstrate that this was not an isolated incident and Ms. Ahmadova was not acting alone as insinuated by several lead members of the governing New Azerbaijan Party (YAP). Rather, the exiled Azerbaijani academic hoped this video would show the pervasiveness in Azerbaijan of fixing the parliament through bribery. Abdullayev informed Azadliq that following the statements made by the governing YAP and its supporters indicating the uniqueness of this event, he wanted to make it clear that his experience was by no means an isolated incident. More…
After his political immunity was formally revoked in parliament at the beginning of October, former Foreign Minister and prominent opposition politician, Vartan Oskanian, was officially charged on 8 October with the misappropriation of $1.4 million donated by U.S. philanthropist, John Hunstman Sr. to the Civilitas Foundation, a think tank Oskanian founded in 2008.
Karina Gould followed reactions in Armenia and beyond for CEW. More…
Bidhzina Ivanishvili at a Press Briefing.
As the process of political transition in Georgia gathers pace, and with the prospect of political co-habitation between the two main political forces in the country, at least for the next year, the question now needs to be asked how the new situation will impact the region of the Caucasus as a whole.
In this special commentary for Caucasus Elections Watch Dennis Sammut analysis the impact of the “Bidhzina phenomena” on the Caucasus Region. More…