No Georgian please. We’re NATO!

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…

UNM parliamentarians walk out of Parliament.

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…

Internet Governance discussed in Baku as activists consider impact on forthcoming Presidential elections.

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…

Armenian Opposition proposes transition to Parliamentary Republic.

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…

Four views on current politics in Azerbaijan ahead of presidential elections in October 2013

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…

Who will challenge Serzh?

Serzh Sargsyan

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…