Georgian Government accepts the “must carry” initiative.

David Bakradze, Chairman of the Georgian Parliament announced on 22 June that the parliament will legislate within days to adopt the “must carry/must offer” initiative, but this will apply only during the election period.

The Georgian government has decided to accept a proposal of numerous Georgian civil society organisations, aimed at widening access to information available to the Georgian public ahead of Parliamentary elections in October. Parliament is expected to legislate soon so that all cable operators will have to carry all news channels during the election period.

The Chairman of the Georgian Parliament, David Bakradze, said on 22 June that the new legislation would create additional “guarantees to allow television stations to reach out to a larger audience and to expand the area of their coverage.”

Bakradze added that “In particular, the initiative envisages the carrying of all television channels by all the cable operators during the electoral period; I want to stress that it will apply to all the television stations and it will be a huge step that will help the population to receive more information.” Details of the new legislation have not yet been made public, but the announcement was welcomed by both NGOs and opposition parties. More…

Georgian authorities seize 60,000 satellite dishes alleging vote-buying scheme by opposition coalition. Legal watchdogs say the move is illegal.

On 21 June, Georgian police raided warehouses across the country, seizing an estimated 60,000 satellite dish antennas that were to be distributed free of charge by Global TV.

Georgian authorities have claimed that the seizure is part of an on-going criminal investigation into alleged vote-buying by Global TV, in favour of Bidzina Ivanishvili, leader of the opposition coalition Georgian Dream.

Ivanishvili has been sentenced to a multimillion dollar fine for a loan he made to Global TV to import the satellite dishes. The government has accused Global TV of campaigning for Georgian Dream by portraying the dishes as gifts from the coalition’s leader.

The dishes, which were to be distributed free of charge for one year across the country and then paid for at GEL 4 per month thereafter, were part of a scheme through which Global TV aimed to increase access to all media outlets throughout the country. Currently, Global TV is the only cable provider that offers access to Tbilisi based Channel 9 and Maestro TV, which are considered to be pro-opposition media sources. At the moment, only the major TV networks, Imedi and Rustavi 2 – portrayed as pro-government , are available on all major cable providers throughout the country. Both of these channels have requested their signal be discontinued on Global TV. More…

Azerbaijani opposition considers election code. “If no amendments are made to the Code, there are calls to boycott the 2013 elections.” 1

The Azerbaijan Public Chamber on June 21st held a round table discussion on the proposed amendments to the Electoral Code of Azerbaijan.

About 60 participants attended the public debate which was moderated by Mr. Vidadi Mirkamal, the chairman-in-office for the Coordination Council of the Public Chamber. There was one keynote speaker, Mr. Hafiz Hasanov, an elections expert, who presented his views on the general electoral environment in the country as well as his suggestions for potential amendments, generating further discussion.

After the panelists spoke, several party leaders, NGO heads and experts were involved in an interactive discussion that brought forward a wide range of electoral concerns. This included the seven priority recommendations made by the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission following the 2010 Parliamentary Elections that left all major opposition parties without a single seat in the parliament. More…

Presidential Election Campaign underway in the Nagorno-Karabakh 4

A monument that has come to symbolisa Armenian heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh

Campaigning began on June 20th in the run-up to presidential elections in the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) scheduled for July 19th, 2012.

The Head of the Central Election Commission, R. Petrosyan, convened a meeting on June 15th in which he announced the candidates and procedures for the upcoming presidential elections.

In accordance with the electoral code of the territory, 274 electoral districts have been established as well as one polling station in Yerevan, Armenia, to enable Karabakh residents, living there temporarily, to vote. According to the Armenian press, there are in total 97, 664 eligible voters. More…

Armenia post-elections: Former Foreign Minister put under investigation.

Vartan Oscanian

Vartan Oskanian, former Foreign Minister of Armenia and a prominent member of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) has been placed under criminal investigation by the National Security Service of Armenia (NSS) on allegations of money laundering and tax evasion at the Civilitas Foundation, a think tank he founded and led from 2008 until this past February when he declared his intent to re-enter politics. Oskanian has declared that the allegations are politically motivated.

According to a statement he issued on June 11, Oskanian said he finds “it strange and astonishing that my work and the work of Civilitas can in any way be linked to money laundering or illegally acquired funds.” “Even more astonishing,” he continued, “is that such a question is being raised at a time when I have entered politics.” He added, “it is obvious to me that the criminal case that has been opened is politically motivated.”

The American Ambassador to Armenia, John Heffern also expressed his concerns. Ambassador Heffern told Radio Free Europe that more than anything “the timing of [the investigation] is troubling. The fact that this would happen at this time in the political calendar is troubling.” More…

Georgia lacks adequate checks and balances

The outgoing United States Ambassador to Georgia, John Bass, a few days ago addressed the American Atlantic Council, a Washington based think-tank, during which he took a wide angle look at Georgian politics. It was a thoughtful reflection by a diplomat at the end of an intensive three year period as his country’s main representative in Tbilisi, and it covered many important points. Although the speech was largely sympathetic to the Georgian government, Bass did raise sensitively a number of important shortcomings.

Surprisingly however his speech failed to address what many consider to be the root cause of many of the current political problems in Georgia – the absence of adequate checks and balances. More…