Comment: The significance of the Georgian political earthquake is still sinking in.

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…

Ahead of Presidential elections in 2013 Azerbaijani government proposes to toughen legislation on public protests 1

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…

“Developmental Observation,” a new yardstick for measuring democracy in election observation missions or a means of glossingover realities?

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…

Sargsyan promises “free, fair, transparent and democratic” Presidential elections.

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…

Dozens arrested in Baku during unauthorised opposition rally.

A protesteor being
detained by police in
Baku at an unauthorised
rally on Fountain Square
on 20 October 2012.
Photo courtesy of
Mehman Husseynov

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…

High hopes as committed democrat takes over key post.

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…