Armenian elections: one out, and seven left (but one is on hunger strike and another in hospital recovering from an assassination attempt).

One of the candidates in the Armenian presidential elections formally withdrew from the race on 8 February. The Central Elections Commission duly accepted his withdrawal and cancelled his candidature.  Aram Harutyunyan call for the other six candidates challenging incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan to withdraw from the race has not so far been heeded.

However the situation is far from usual. One other Presidential contender Andreas Ghukasyan has been on hunger strike since the election campaign formally kicked off. Attempts to get him to stop the hunger strike have so far failed. Ghukasyan is protesting against the electoral process which he says is flawed and is asking the Central Elections Commission to bar Sargsyan from the poll.

A third presidential candidate, Pruyur Hayrikyan is in hospital recovering from an assissantation attempt on him a week ago. His medical situation was reported to have deteriorated in the last days and he has been asked by doctors not to leave the hospital bed despite successful surgery on him on Saturday. The Armenian Ministry of National Security has reported that it has arrested two suspects in connection with the assassination attempt. More…

ODIHR flags up changes in constituency boundaries in Georgia as a priority.

Janez Lenarcic meeting Maia Panjikidze in Warsaw on 29January 2012.

Janez Lenarcic meeting Maia Panjikidze in Warsaw on 29 January 2013.

ODIHR Director Janez Lenarcic met in Warsaw last week with Maia Panjikidze, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, at ODIHR Headquarters. During the meeting issues related to the final report of the OSCE/ODIHR Election monitoring mission for the 2012 Parliamentary Elections were discussed.

ODIHR issued the final report of the Mission on 21 December. The report is largely technical and in some instances avoids dealing directly with some of the more difficult issues that overshadowed the 1 October elections in Georgia. The report however lists 26 recommendations, some of which it suggests to be implemented prior to the Autumn Presidential elections, and more long term calls for a comprehensive review of all electoral laws, and of the regulations concerning campaign funding.

The first priority recommendation in the report states:

“The OSCE/ODIHR reiterates its long-standing recommendation to address the disparity of the population size in the single mandate constituencies for parliamentary elections.” More…

Assassination attempt casts shadow over Armenian election.


President Serzh Sargsyan visiting Paruyr Hayrikyan in hospital on 2 February 2013.

President Serzh Sargsyan visiting Paruyr Hayrikyan in hospital on 2 February 2013.

On Friday evening, 1 February a gunmen shot and wounded Armenian Presidential candidate Paruyr Hayrikyan casting a shadow on what had so far been a lacklustre election campaign. Hayrikyan is not one of the front runners in the campaign, but is a respected and recognised figure in Armenian society. He was a dissident in Soviet times and served time in prison for his political views. Hayrikyan was operated on the following day and a bullet removed from his shoulder and is now recovering satisfactorily.

The assassination attempt however reminded Armenians of the level of violence in their political life in recent years. In October 1999 several senior members of the Armenian government were killed in cold blood in an incident inside the Armenian Parliament. They included the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Parliament. In 2008 eleven people died in incidents on the streets of Yerevan as protestors questioned the results of the last Presidential election which brought the current incumbent Serzh Sargsyan to power. Such violence in a country of such a small size and which is monoethnic is unprecedented and has left the Armenian body politic scarred. Big questions remain around both the 1999 incident in the Armenian parliament and the 2008 street protests, and the assassination attempt against Hayrikyan is likely to be added to the list adding to speculation of sinister forces at work. More…

Prominent activist arrested in Azerbaijan.

Prominent Azerbaijani activist, Ilgar Mammedov was arrested in Baku on Monday, (4 February) and charged  with instigating unrest in the town of Ismaili. During several days of rioting in Ismaili in January a hotel and several cars were burnt by angry crowds protesting against corruption by local officials.

Ilgar Mammedov is Chairman of the Real Alternative, Movement for Social Change.

It is not yet clear how Mammedov has been implicated in the affair. Ilgar Mammedov is a well known activist, considered cautious and considerate in his criticism. Writing on her facebook page, prominent female activist Khadija Ismailova said that “his arrest is a signal to those who think there is a safe way of doing opposition politics. There is no safe way.”

The arrest of Mammedov is considered as a sign that the Azerbaijani government is upping the stakes in its “cat and mouse” game with opposition forces ahead of presidential elections in October.

Source: CEW Staff

Georgia marks the eight anniversary of the death of Zurab Zhvania – father of the modern Georgian Parliament.

Zurab Zhvania

Zurab Zhvania

Dennis Sammut looks back at the life of one of the most outstanding politicians in the Caucasus in modern times.

On Sunday, 3rd February Georgia marked the 8th anniversary of the death in mysterious circumstances of Zurab Zhvania, a liberal and progressive politician who is best remembered for his work to establish the Georgian parliament as a credible and model institution, in the mid-1990s.

Zhvania started his political career as an environmental activist in the last years of the Soviet Union, and in the years of perestroika set up the Green Party of Georgia which became a focal point for many similarly minded young Georgian intellectuals. In 1992 he was appointed a member of the State Council, a body that had been created after the end of the 1991-2 civil war. Zhvania became an ally of Edward Shevardnadze after the latter returned from Moscow to head the State Council and lead Georgia out of the chaos in which it had found itself.  In 1993 he became the head of the Citizens Union of Georgia, a broad based political force which aimed to support Shevardndze’s endeavours for reform and stability.

In November 1995 Zhvania was elected Chairman of the Georgian parliament. In a very short period of time he managed to introduce a parliamentary tradition in the post-Soviet country, justifiably earning for himself the title of father of the modern Georgian Parliament. He steered Georgia’s membership to the Council of Europe, which it joined in 1999, well ahead of its neighbours Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Georgian Parliament in this period was considered a model not only for other post-Soviet countries but for parliaments in other transition countries far beyond. He was well respected in European and North American political circles, as well as in the region for his visionary ideas that combined with astute pragmatism. His belief in Georgia’s European vocation was never at the exclusion of its Caucasian roots. More…