Azerbaijan snubs US pre-election mission; Georgia rolls out the red carpet.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Melia.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Melia.

The Azerbaijani government refused to accept a US Government delegation ahead of the country’s forthcoming Presidential elections. A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Baku said the visit of the delegation led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Melia, was “postponed at the request of the Azerbaijani government”. No reason was given. More…

In Azerbaijan, two leading candidates in the Presidential elections are not campaigning. Why?

Ilgar Mammedov being detained by police in Baku on 4 February 2013 (picture courtesy of RFE/RL)

Ilgar Mammedov being detained by police in Baku on 4 February 2013 (picture courtesy of RFE/RL)

There are several peculiar things connected with the Presidential elections in Azerbaijan on 9 October, but surely the one that is most peculiar is that two leading contenders are not campaigning at all. One does not want to, and the other cannot. More…

Georgia: On the right course, but a free electoral environment is a must.

COMMENTARY

The positive assessment of the pre-election mission of the US Government that visited Tbilisi over the last days sums up well the current political atmosphere in Tbilisi. The stress that marked the years of the Saakashvili administration with its heavy handed police tactics and massive surveillance has gone, and everybody can notice this. This has greatly contributed to creating the right conditions in which Georgians will choose their next President on 27 October. Yet there is no room for complacency. Georgia is not just Tbilisi and outside the capital old habits die hard.

Two particular concerns need to be highlighted. The first is connected with disruptions to the campaign activities of the candidate of the United National Movement, David Bakradze. Appearance of the odd clown at election gatherings is a known and accepted ploy in elections in western countries. Indeed many a British Prime Minister had to endure the presence of one during their campaigning. But there is a fine line between making a point and disrupting a political event, with or without violence. This line must not be crossed and Georgian law enforcement bodies must see to that. Bakradze is in this election the underdog and his rights need to be protected, fully. The second issue which was correctly also raised by the US delegation is that related to National Minorities. Here the Georgian Dream government has been less than re-assuring in its conduct nationally, but even more so in terms of the attitude of its proxies in the regions. Georgia is not simply a country of ethnic Georgians – it is a multi-ethnic and multi-faith country, and has been for many centuries. Those trying to give an impression otherwise are wrong. This is an issue with importance way beyond the current Presidential election, but the election will provide another test as to how Georgia is treating its national minorities. Here Ivanishvili and co are yet to prove themselves.

This commentary was prepared by the editorial team of CEW.  

Commentary: Election Monitoring: time to shift the emphasis onto local monitors.

Observers of Transparency International georgia planning election monitoring ahead of the 2012 Parliamentary elections. (picture courtesy of TI Georgia).

Observers of Transparency International Georgia planning election monitoring ahead of the 2012 Parliamentary elections. (picture courtesy of TI Georgia).

There are some who think that the time for large scale international election monitoring is outdated and needs to adapt to the changing circumstances. Smaller teams with more political clout, working closely with local activists may be better placed to focus on what really matters – the substance of whether or not an election has reflected the views of the electorate, and if the conditions existed for those views to be formed in a reasonably free atmosphere. The Georgian Parliamentary Elections in October 2012 proved the effectiveness of domestic election monitoring, which ideally should form the basis for election monitoring. Reports of Election Monitoring Missions often focus on technical aspects of election organisation. Frankly, at least within the OSCE area, after twenty years of experience this should not be an issue at all anymore, and if it is it is best to be dealt with outside the context of election observation. More…

Free, fair or flop: Georgians voting for the not so important president.

Voter apathy has not stopped many candidates putting forward their names for the forthcoming Presidential elections in Georgia, even though the new President will have much reduced power. Every sign indicates however that this is going to be a three-horse race.

Georgians go to the polls again on Sunday, 27 October, to vote for a new President at the end of the eventful ten-year administration of the incumbent, Mikhail Saakashvili.  According to the Georgian constitution Saakashvili cannot run again, after having served two terms. The election comes just a year after the historic October 2012 Parliamentary election that saw the first peaceful transfer of power between opposing political groups through the ballot box in the Caucasus region. More…

Ilham against all, but not all against Ilham.

The people of Azerbaijan will go to the polls on 9 October to elect a President. The incumbent, Ilham Aliev is seeking a third term after the constitution was changed earlier to enable him to do so. As many as two dozen others have been provisionally registered to contest the election.

Who are they, and why this sudden rush to unseat Aliev? The odd answer is that whilst Aliev is running against them all, not all of them are running against him. In fact most of the people who have put forward their names represent parties and organisations that over the last decade have been loyal and vocal supporters of the Aliev Government. Their candidacy is part of an elaborate exercise aimed to reassure anyone who cares that the Azerbaijani elections were free and competitive, and to dilute the impact of the few who are really out to unseat Aliev. More…