The battle for Kutaisi

Georgia’s main opposition movement, Bidzina Ivanishvili’s “Georgian Dream” coalition, took its campaign to the country’s second city Kutaisi, on Sunday, 10 June. Ivanishvili addressed a large crowd of thousands from behind a bullet proof screen, as concerns regarding the billionaire’s safety increased as his popularity increases. People from all over the Central Georgian province of Imereti congregated in Kutaisi’s David the Builder Square to hear Ivanishvili introduce the candidates who will run for the single seat majoritarian constituencies in the province on the Georgian Dream ticket next October.

Earlier the local government had refused permission for the rally to be held in the city’s main square.

The event in Imereti was an important test for Ivanishivili’s popularity outside the capital where it was thought that his support was weaker. Imereti is likely to be one of the most hotly contested areas during the autumn’s parliamentary elections in Georgia and unlike other regions outside the capital Tbilisi it has a record of voting against the incumbent government.

Kutaisi was always considered as the second most important city in the country and this has been re-enforced by the decision of the Georgian government to move the parliament there from the capital. The new parliament building was used last month for a special session of the Parliament addressed by President Saakashvili. Some MPs had expressed concern that the building was not safe and should not be used yet. On Friday a local worker was killed when scaffolding collapsed on him. This was the third death connected with the parliament building, a mother and child died on the site of the building during the demolition of a former a war monument to make way for the new legislature. The government has been criticised that in its haste to finish the building it is flaunting safety regulations .

The new parliament building was the subject of a story filed from Kutaisi on 10 June by the BBC’s Damien McGuiness for the BBC web site.

“Looking like some sort of 1960s sci-fi spaceship, a 40 metre-high domed eye, with a huge concrete eyelid, stares out blankly. This is Georgia’s new parliament building.”

 Read his story on line 

Source: CEW

Georgia in transition: US leaders hammer in importance of free and fair elections

American political leaders have over the last few days highlighted the importance of free and fair elections in Georgia whilst also expressing support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and for the right of the Georgian nation to decide its future.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton linked the two messages during a press conference in Batumi on June 5th, at the end of her visit to the country. She said that free and fair elections that will result into a fully democratic transfer of power will be the “single best thing” Georgia can do to advance its security, democracy and international reputation. More…

Government Task force issues guidelines amidst tensions following dismissals from the public sector.

Georgian Education Minister Dimitri
Shashkin is blamed for political
victimisation of opposition supporters
ahead of next October’s elections

Georgia’s education system has been gripped by tension over the last weeks amidst continued reports of victimisation of staff members who are supporters of opposition parties, or who have relatives who are involved in opposition party politics.

The issue came to a head when the Minister of Education, Dimitri Shashkin at the end of May, dismissed the Chairman of the National Examinations Centre, Maya Miminoshvili, days after her son attended an opposition rally in Tbilisi. The issue turned into a crisis after more than half of the staff at the National Examinations Centre subsequently resigned in protest just weeks before nation-wide university entry exams. More…

Georgian media: Never have so many, broadcasted so much, to so few! 1

On paper the Georgia television media seems to be diverse and pluralistic. In reality few Georgians can hear more than one side of the story unless the recommendations of Georgian civil society are implemented.

Supporters of the Georgian government often refer to the period pre 2003 “Rose Revolution” as a time when Georgia was a quasi-failed state – which it probably was, and a corrupt society – which it definitely was. What they do not say however is that in this time Georgia also had the most free media environment in the post-Soviet space, where criticism of the government had become a national pastime, and journalists expected and received the respect of society. More…

Hilary Clinton in the South Caucasus pushes for reforms and free elections

Hilary Clinton with the Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in Yerevan on 4 June 2012 (picture courtesy of the Press Service of the President of Armenia)

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has pushed for reforms and free elections during her whirlwind tour of the South Caucasus on 4-6 June 2012.

Using measured words aimed at not upsetting her government hosts Clinton flagged up important issues related to democratic reforms and free and fair elections. More…

PACE report adds to mixed reviews of Armenian Parliamentary Elections.

On May 24, Baroness Emma Nicholson, Chairperson of the ad hoc committee for the Observation of the 6 May Parliamentary Elections in Armenia, presented the findings of the mission to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in Tirana.

Noting the electoral campaign was “vibrant, competitive, and largely peaceful”, the report highlights several issues observed leading up to and during the election, notably the general distrust of the election process as a whole. Issues raised include: inaccuracies in the voter lists, voter intimidation, voting and vote counting procedures, as well as the issuance of passports to facilitate fraud, vote buying and deficiencies in complaint and appeal mechanisms.

The International Electoral Observation Mission (IEOM), composed of observers from PACE, the European Parliament, OSCE/ODIHR and OSCE/PA, visited 1,000 out of 1,982 polling stations in and around Yerevan, Armavir, Ejmiatsin, Aragatsotn, Shirak, Vanadzor, Ararat and Vayotz Dzor on 6 May 2012. More…