Armenian Presidential candidate shot and wounded

Payrur Hayrikyan

Payrur Hayrikyan

Paruyr Hayrikyan, one of the eight candidates in the forthcoming Presidential election in Armenia was shot and wounded this evening in the centre of Yerevan. Armenian media is reporting that the incident took place around midnight Yerevan time. The candidate was taken to a nearby hospital and is reported to be in intensive care. Early reports say that his condition is serious.

No information is yet available regarding the circumstances of the shooting.

Whilst Hayrikyan is not a serious contender for the Presidency he is a well known public personality having been a dissident in Soviet times.

source: CEW with Armenian media

Azerbaijan: testing the boundaries of the political space.

Five young activists were jailed on 26 January for protesting peacefully in the centre of Baku.

Five young activists were jailed on 26 January for protesting peacefully in the centre of Baku.

Azerbaijan imprisoned five young activists over the weekend and heavily fined several dozen others, after they participated in an unsanctioned public protest in the centre of Baku on Saturday, (26 January 2013).

Those arrested included the well-known blogger and dissident Emin Milli who a few years ago was imprisoned for seventeen months on trumped up charges of hooliganism, who was sentenced for fifteen days. Abdulfaz Gurbanli, Rufat Abdullaev, Turkal Azerturk and Tuncal Guliyev were sentenced for thirteen days each. Several other protestors were given heavy fines. They were part of a crowd of several hundred that converged on Baku’s Fountain Square in solidarity with protests that had been held in previous days in the town of Ismaili, 150 kilometers northwest of Baku. More…

Profile: SERZH SARGSYAN, a reluctant reformer.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, (centre), in military fatigues on the Nagorno-Karabakh frontline in 2012.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, (centre), in military fatigues on the Nagorno-Karabakh frontline in 2012.

The incumbent Armenian President and favorite in next month’s Presidential election, Serzh Sargsyan, was born on 30 June 1954 in the then-Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, where he was an active member of the Komsomol Communist Youth organisation and Secretary of its local branch and later became Assistant to Genrikh Poghosyan, the First Secretary of the Nagorno-Karabakh Communist Party Regional Committee.

During 1972-1974, he served in the USSR armed forces. In 1979, he graduated from the Philological Department of Yerevan State University.

As Head of the Nagorno-Karabakh  self-defence forces Committee  from 1989-93 he was an active participant in the fighting with Azerbaijani forces that led to the region’s separation from Azerbaijan. In 1990, Serzh Sargsyan was elected as a deputy to the Supreme Council of Armenia. From 1993 to 1995, he was the Minister of Defence of the Republic of Armenia. From 1995 to 1996, he was the Head of the Republic of Armenia State Security Department and, later, the Minister of National Security. From 1996 to 1999, he was the Republic of Armenia Minister of Interior and National Security. In this position he was instrumental in helping his old friend from Nagorno-Karabakh, Robert Kocharian, who was then the President of the territory, to move to Yerevan where he eventually became President after President Levon Ter Petrosyan was forced to resign.

Under Kocharian, Sargsyan served as Minister of Defence and Secretary of the National Security Council and was appointed Prime Minister in 2007. After Kocharian second term ended Sargsyan contested the 2008 election which he won in the second round, amidst opposition claims of election fraud.

Those who have observed Serzh Sargsyan political career over the last two decades say that he is essentially a “soviet style military man who has understood the need for reform”.  He has been able to manage expertly the rough and tumble of Armenia political life, managing first the transition from Ter Petrosyan to Kocharian, and later his own transition to the Presidency. He is well aware of Armenia’s challenges and limitations and is subsequently a pragmatist. When in 2007 he emerged from the relative shadow of appointments in the military and security sides of government to become Prime Minister, he embraced reform as a necessity. He pursued it cautiously but not without vigor. This has also been the hallmark of his presidency since 2008. More…

End of a dream or the beginning of reality?

Bidhzina Ivanishvili and Irakli Alasnia campaigning in Zugdidi in August 2012.

Bidhzina Ivanishvili and Irakli Alasnia campaigning in Zugdidi in August 2012.

A terse statement on the website of the government of Georgia on 23 January said that the Prime Minister Bidhzina Ivanishvili had relieved the Defence Minister Irakli Alasania of his other role as First Deputy Prime Minister. The announcement triggered widespread speculation about the reasons for Alasania’s demotion, and of splits in the governing Georgian Dream coalition whose spectacular victory in last year’s autumn parliamentary elections changed the Georgian political landscape.

The problem between Ivanishvili and Alasania arose following rumours that Alasania was preparing to present himself as a candidate in the Presidential elections in October and that some of his supporters had already started soliciting support, including from members of other Georgian Dream Coalition parties. Ivanishvili, speaking to Georgian journalists in Davos, said that this had created some problems within the coalition and described this as “Alasania’s small mistake”. Ivanishvili also said that when he recently decided to pay more attention to development of his own party, Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia, including in the provinces, he in advance informed about it and consulted over it with other parties within the six-party Georgian Dream coalition.

There was widespread speculation in the Georgian media about the significance of these developments. Some described them as “the end of a dream”. It had been recognised throughout the election campaign that the coalition was too disparate to be held together, and that it will unravel as soon as the election passes. Indeed this remains a prospect, but for the moment a distant one. Both Ivanishvili and Alasania have sought to downplay the incident and to explain it as part of political reality – normal tension within a coalition.

At the heart of the issue however is the personality of Bidhzina Ivanishvili himself. Ivanishvili continues to be underestimated by friend and foe alike. His dealing with Alasania shows once again that he is not a person to take nonsense from anybody. It also confirms that for Ivanishvili’s loyalty is a virtue above all others.

Ivanishvili has however to learn that the rules of the political world are similar but not the same as those of the business world. Political support and political legitimacy, are, like loyalty, not easily quantifiable. His government already stands accused of being too narrow based, and there are many elements in Georgia who feel they have been left out, despite the fact that they had also opposed the previous government. If Ivanishvili rocks his own boat too much it may do harm that he will not be able to undo later.

However most observers feel that Ivanishvili and Alasania for the moment at least, need each other, and unless there are further complications the issue will pass without much further ado. How the Georgian Dream coalition will deal with the issue of the forthcoming Presidential elections will however be an important test for its long term durability.

source: CEW Editorial team

The credibility of Armenia’s Presidential election is still in the balance.

Presidential candidate starts his campaign with a hunger strike.

Presidential candidate starts his campaign with a hunger strike.

With less than four weeks left before the Presidential Election in Armenia on February 18th the credibility of the whole process remains in the balance as an unusual situation develops with several of the eight candidates refusing to campaign, or announcing their withdrawal.

This election from the start did not look as if it was going to proceed according to normal practices. A number of leading contenders and key political forces declared their non-participation some time ago. Some hoped that this will open the way for new faces. But those that emerged do not seem to be playing by the traditional rules. More…

Saakashvili accuses opponents of “winner takes all”mentality.

President Saakashvili addressing PACE in Strasbourg on 21 January 2013. (picture courtesy of the Council of Europe).

President Saakashvili addressing PACE in Strasbourg on 21 January 2013. (picture courtesy of the Council of Europe).

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Monday (21 January) addressed the Plenary Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. In a wide ranging speech he spoke about Georgia’s current political challenges, its relations with Russia and  Georgia’s long term European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations

Referring to events that unfolded in Georgia following the Parliamentary elections on 1 October, Saakashvili said that PM Bidzina Ivanishvili and his Georgian Dream coalition was suffering from “winner-takes-it-all mentality” and accused the new government of applying “selective justice” and targeting former government officials, UNM lawmakers, local authorities, judiciary and media. He said that the new authorities were pursuing the “campaign to silence political opposition” and accused the government of attempts to get constitutional majority in the Parliament through “direct blackmails” against UNM lawmakers pressuring them to switch sides. He also accused the government of pressuring Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) and claimed that the government “pushed the director of GPB to resign”.

Saakashvili, however, also said that there was still room for “a fruitful cohabitation” and mentioned his five-point plan, which he offered to the new government in his New Year’s address to the nation as a basis for cooperation. More…