Vartan Oskanian, former Foreign Minister of Armenia and a prominent member of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) has been placed under criminal investigation by the National Security Service of Armenia (NSS) on allegations of money laundering and tax evasion at the Civilitas Foundation, a think tank he founded and led from 2008 until this past February when he declared his intent to re-enter politics. Oskanian has declared that the allegations are politically motivated.
According to a statement he issued on June 11, Oskanian said he finds “it strange and astonishing that my work and the work of Civilitas can in any way be linked to money laundering or illegally acquired funds.” “Even more astonishing,” he continued, “is that such a question is being raised at a time when I have entered politics.” He added, “it is obvious to me that the criminal case that has been opened is politically motivated.”
The American Ambassador to Armenia, John Heffern also expressed his concerns. Ambassador Heffern told Radio Free Europe that more than anything “the timing of [the investigation] is troubling. The fact that this would happen at this time in the political calendar is troubling.” More…
The outgoing United States Ambassador to Georgia, John Bass, a few days ago addressed the American Atlantic Council, a Washington based think-tank, during which he took a wide angle look at Georgian politics. It was a thoughtful reflection by a diplomat at the end of an intensive three year period as his country’s main representative in Tbilisi, and it covered many important points. Although the speech was largely sympathetic to the Georgian government, Bass did raise sensitively a number of important shortcomings.
Surprisingly however his speech failed to address what many consider to be the root cause of many of the current political problems in Georgia – the absence of adequate checks and balances. More…
Georgia’s main opposition movement, Bidzina Ivanishvili’s “Georgian Dream” coalition, took its campaign to the country’s second city Kutaisi, on Sunday, 10 June. Ivanishvili addressed a large crowd of thousands from behind a bullet proof screen, as concerns regarding the billionaire’s safety increased as his popularity increases. People from all over the Central Georgian province of Imereti congregated in Kutaisi’s David the Builder Square to hear Ivanishvili introduce the candidates who will run for the single seat majoritarian constituencies in the province on the Georgian Dream ticket next October.
Earlier the local government had refused permission for the rally to be held in the city’s main square.
The event in Imereti was an important test for Ivanishivili’s popularity outside the capital where it was thought that his support was weaker. Imereti is likely to be one of the most hotly contested areas during the autumn’s parliamentary elections in Georgia and unlike other regions outside the capital Tbilisi it has a record of voting against the incumbent government.
Kutaisi was always considered as the second most important city in the country and this has been re-enforced by the decision of the Georgian government to move the parliament there from the capital. The new parliament building was used last month for a special session of the Parliament addressed by President Saakashvili. Some MPs had expressed concern that the building was not safe and should not be used yet. On Friday a local worker was killed when scaffolding collapsed on him. This was the third death connected with the parliament building, a mother and child died on the site of the building during the demolition of a former a war monument to make way for the new legislature. The government has been criticised that in its haste to finish the building it is flaunting safety regulations .
The new parliament building was the subject of a story filed from Kutaisi on 10 June by the BBC’s Damien McGuiness for the BBC web site.
“Looking like some sort of 1960s sci-fi spaceship, a 40 metre-high domed eye, with a huge concrete eyelid, stares out blankly. This is Georgia’s new parliament building.”
Read his story on line
Hilary Clinton with the Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in Yerevan on 4 June 2012 (picture courtesy of the Press Service of the President of Armenia)
US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has pushed for reforms and free elections during her whirlwind tour of the South Caucasus on 4-6 June 2012.
Using measured words aimed at not upsetting her government hosts Clinton flagged up important issues related to democratic reforms and free and fair elections. More…
The EU flag flies outside the building of the Georgian Parliament in Tbilisi.
The 14th EU-Georgia Parliamentary Co-operation Committee met in Tbilisi on 2-3 May 2012 under the Chairmanship of David Darchiashvili, representing the Georgian Parliament and Milan Cabrnoch representing the European Parliament. The meeting approved a document entitled “Final Statement and Recommendations, pursuant to Article 89 of the EU-Georgia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement” which includes 37 articles covering a range of issues. More…
The Georgian government announced on May 18 that it was setting up of an inter-agency group to monitor and react on possible violations ahead of October parliamentary elections and “to ensure a transparent and fair” electoral environment.
Giga Bokeria, Secretary of the Georgian National Security Council and Head of the Election Task Force (picture courtesy of BBC)
The Inter-Agency Task Force for Free and Fair Elections (IATF) is headed by Secretary of National Security Council Giga Bokeria, and includes representatives from the Ministries of Internal Affairs, Justice, Regional Development and Infrastructure, Finance, and Foreign Affairs, as well as from the office of National Security Council.
Creation of such group is envisaged by the election code, according to which the deadline for setting of the inter-agency task force was July 1, 2012. According to the election code, IATF is mandated with “preventing of and reacting to violations of electoral legislature by public officials.” More…