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…

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…

Ahead of Presidential elections in 2013 Azerbaijani government proposes to toughen legislation on public protests 1

Young protesters being detained by police following
an unsanctioned protest in the centre of Baku on 20
October. The government is hoping that stiffer penalties
will make potential protestors think twice. (Picture courtesy of Youth Media Centre, Baku).

Following the “unauthorized actions” held in Baku on 20 October, lawmakers in Azerbaijan are contemplating tougher penalties which they claim will encourage a greater sense of responsibility by activists and protect human rights.

The parliamentary committees for “Legal Policy and State building”, and “Human Rights” held a joint session on Tuesday, 23 October, to discuss amending the legislation surrounding freedom of assembly in the country. Members of Parliament are concerned that these so-called “unauthorised actions” have been on the rise in recent years in Azerbaijan, and have a negative impact on Azerbaijan’s international image. This trend, the lawmakers argue, is likely a result of the fact that the penalties just are not a big enough deterrent for protesters. More…

“Developmental Observation,” a new yardstick for measuring democracy in election observation missions or a means of glossingover realities?

Karina Gould has been reading a paper proposing a new approach to election monitoring. She sees value in the arguments but warns about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

“A more sophisticated and perhaps fairer way of observing elections is also to take into account the direction of political developments,” notes a recent paper released by the Caspian Information Centre (CiC), a privately funded research group based in London dedicated to the study of the Caspian region, in a critique of the electoral observation regime currently in place.

The paper, titled “Oh Dear, ODIHR! Why the OSCE’s Election Monitors Don’t Always Get It Right”, takes aim at the contemporary framework and tools to assess democratisation, particularly with regard to Azerbaijan. The authors of the paper suggest that instead of focusing on the “gold standard” of elections – a standard most “established” democracies such as the United States and Great Britain would not meet – it might actually be more useful to implement what is referred to as “Developmental Observation”. This technique “assumes that what is important is the way things are moving, rather than how they appear in a snapshot.” More…

Dozens arrested in Baku during unauthorised opposition rally.

A protesteor being
detained by police in
Baku at an unauthorised
rally on Fountain Square
on 20 October 2012.
Photo courtesy of
Mehman Husseynov

Approximately fifty activists are thought to have been arrested and detained following an anti-corruption protest organised in Fountain Square in down town Baku on Saturday 20, October.

The protest, which was organised by opposition political parties and youth groups, began at 15:00 on Saturday and lasted for two hours, according to a post on the “Azerbaijan Agenda” Facebook. The demonstrators were calling for the dissolution of parliament following the release of a video at the end of September showing a member of the Azerbaijani Parliament demanding a $1.3 million bribe from a former university rector in exchange for a seat in parliament. More…

“Any shvilli is fine as long as he is the true choice of the Georgian people.” EPC hosts roundtable discussion about Georgia in Brussels.

Speakers at an event on the Georgian elections held at the E{PC in Brussels on 19 September 2012.

The leading Brussels think tank, The European Policy Centre (EPC), on 19 September hosted a round table discussion on the Georgian elections with the participation of Georgian politicians, and representatives from European institutions and civil society. The well attended event was chaired by Amanda Paul, Senior Analyst at the EPC.

The different views of the Georgian political spectrum were presented by Giorgi Kandelaki, Deputy Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Georgian Parliament and an activist of the United National Movement who gave a spirited, somewhat aggressive presentation, whilst the opposition view was presented by a more statesmanlike presentation by Tedo Japaridze, Georgia former Foreign Minister and currently International Secretary of the Georgian Dream coalition.

The European perspective was given by the Estonian Ambassador to the EU Matti Maasikas, Polish MEP Krzysztof Lisek, Jacqueline Hale, a senior policy analyst at the Open Society Institute in Brussels and Dennis Sammut, Executive Director of LINKS, the London based think tank. More…