Republican Party of Armenia boycotts special session in National Assembly, possibly driving opposition parties closer together.

“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…

Azerbaijani Government is committed to full internet freedom says senior official.

Elnur Aslanov

“Azerbaijan’s principled and consistent position is to create all conditions to fully ensure freedom of the Internet”, Azerbaijani Presidential Administration Political Analysis and Information Provision Department Head, Elnur Aslanov said. He was commenting on European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes’s statement on control over the internet and electronic media in Azerbaijan and restrictions on their dissemination. (see report in CEW, 20 November 2012.) More…

Is online activism an alternative to street action? 1

The President of Azerbaijan has signed into law amendments that will steeply hike the penalties for unsanctioned public gatherings. Marion Kipiani talks to experts and activists as they ponder online activism as a possible alternative to street action.

The amendments to the law “On freedom of assembly”, to the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Offences were passed by the parliament on 2 November and will come into force at the beginning of 2013. The legal changes mean that the fines for participating in an unsanctioned rally will be increased from the current seven to thirteen manat (approximately the equivalent in Euros) to a hefty 500 to 1,000 manat. (The average monthly salary in Azerbaijan currently stands at just under 400 manat, as eurasianet.org reports). Those who will be charged with organising such unsanctioned gatherings may face fines of up to 3,000 manat – and up to twice that amount, if they hold a formal position such as the leadership of a political party. More…

Azerbaijani and Armenian political parties discover their “Asian side”.

Whilst Armenia and Azerbaijan emphatically insist that they are European countries representatives of some of their leading political parties last week participated in the 7th General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) which was hosted in Baku by Azerbaijan’s ruling party YAP and was attended by a number of other Azerbaijani parties, both pro government and opposition, as well as by the leader of Armenia’s Heritage Party, and Presidential candidate, Raffi Hovhanessian.

The participation of Armenian and Azerbaijani political parties in this event has caused some amused bewilderment since both countries, as well as their political elites, have for the last two decades since they attained their independence, insisted very emphatically that they were European countries, and both countries are now full members of the Council of Europe.

Unlike Turkey and Russia, whose geography puts them part in Europe and part in Asia, Armenia and Azerbaijan have traditionally been categorised in either one or the other. Whilst some still put them as Asian countries, since their admission to the Council of Europe in the late 1990s they are generally defined as European. Political observers question if ICAPP was worth paying the prize of opening once more the discussion on this issue. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have in recent years been criticised in European political frameworks for their human rights record, and their democratic credentials questioned. More…

Armenian opposition parties contemplate co-operation ahead of presidential elections in 2013.

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…

Baku demonstrators demand the dissolution of parliament.

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…