Debate within the Azerbaijani Opposition.

Isa Gambar, Leader of Musavat Party in Azerbaijan. Some say he won the election in 2003.

With Azerbaijan’s 2013 Presidential elections around the corner, political activists in the country are beginning to question the tactics and plans not of the government but of the opposition. For many political activists, the government’s plan is well known, and given its track record a transparent and fair transfer of power seems highly unlikely. Karina Gould follows the debate and reports for CEW. More…

Dangling the carrot.

A US Government delegation led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas O. Melia was refreshingly candid in its comments whilst on a pre-election visit to Georgia, sending clear and unambiguous messages. Karina Gould discusses the visit and wonders if the west’s approach of dangling the carrot of future Euro-Atlantic integration will be enough to secure a good election for the Georgian people. More…

Georgians support having more women in politics, but social barriers remain entrenched.

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) released a report last week on the Perception of Women in Georgian Politics.

The data presented in the report, titled “Focus Group Findings on Perceptions of Women in Georgian Politics: An Assessment of Perceptions of Women as Political Candidates and Elected Officials” was carried out by the Institute of Social Studies and Analysis (ISSA), a research organisation based in Tbilisi. ISSA conducted eight focus groups of 7-10 participants across the country in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi and Marneuli to tease out attitudes in Georgian society towards women in politics. More…

PACE rapporteurs say fines against Georgian Opposition “undermine normal political activity.”

The co-rapporteurs for Georgia of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Michael Aastrup Jensen (Denmark, ALDE) and Boriss Cilevics (Latvia, SOC) today expressed their concern about the reports that the Georgian authorities have seized the bank accounts of the Georgian Dream opposition coalition, thereby undermining its participation in the election campaign for the parliamentary elections that will take place on 1 October 2012.

A statement published on the website of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe states:

“The excessive and disproportionate fines levied by the State Audit Service effectively undermine normal political activity by an opposition party. This is of concern, especially in the context of recurrent allegations of bias of the State Audit Service and reports by credible organisations, such as the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, that question the fairness of the court decisions in this respect.

The rationale for campaign funding legislation is to ensure a level playing field between all electoral contestants, and not to drive one party or the other out of the electoral race. The upcoming elections, and their democratic conduct, are crucial for Georgia’s democratic development. We therefore call upon the Georgian authorities to demonstrate maximum restraint and to ensure that all parties, including the Georgian Dream Coalition, can participate fully in the electoral campaign” they added.

The two co-rapporteurs will visit Georgia on 11 and 12 September 2012 as part of the pre-electoral mission of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

source: CEW with

Georgian NGOs condemn the lack of impartiality of the State Audit Service and accuse it of “irreparable damage to the election environment in Georgia.”

The “This Affects You Too” campaign, a coalition of democracy advocates and civil society activists from across Georgia, have appealed to the international community to pay more attention to the campaign environment in the South Caucasus nation. With the rejection of the appeal made by billionaire leader of the opposition coalition, Georgian Dream, Bidzina Ivanishvili, and Georgian Dream majoritarian candidate, former footballer, Kakha Kaladze, to overturn what they deem unlawful fines, This Affects You Too is turning up its international game plan. This Affects You Too has publicly questioned the impartiality of the State Audit Service (SAS) in Georgia, arguing that the SAS has demonstrated its allegiance to the ruling party as opposed to a free and democratic Georgia. In a statement released this week, the election-monitoring coalition has called the work of the SAS “too subjective” and “aimed at [harassing] opposition parties” – pointing to the particular attention the SAS is paying to the Georgian Dream coalition. The report continues that while the SAS, at first, was at least trying to cloak their activities as objective, at this stage the SAS, according to the This Affects You Too report, does not even bother to feign impartiality. The report cites the fact that despite serious allegations of vote-buying, illegal campaign contributions and the abuse of administrative resources that have surfaced against the ruling party, a disproportionately small amount of cases have been opened, let alone pursued, against the governing United National Movement in comparison with those brought against the opposition. More…

US congratulates Armenia as the second most active civil society in the Former Soviet Union.

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Heffern, released a video blog last week congratulating Armenian civil society on their effective and non-violent activity; noting that Armenian civil society is getting “stronger and … more effective every day.”

According to a recent USAID assessment, the ambassador informed us that Armenia has the second strongest civil society among the republics of the former Soviet Union. Noting the “vital” role civil society plays in a healthy democracy, Heffern pointed to the increased activity of civil society groups in Armenia in promoting positive change. More…