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…

Georgia will conduct a population census in November 2014.

Davit Narmania, Georgia’s Minister for Regional Development and Infrastructure

Davit Narmania, Georgia’s Minister
for Regional Development and
Infrastructure

The Georgian government has announced that it will conduct a population census from 5-19 November 2014, and preparations will commence from this year. The Minister for Regional Development and Infrastructure Davit Narmania and the Head of the National Statistics Department Zaza Chelidze told a press conference in Tbilisi last week that special groups of people will go door-to-door to provide preliminary information about the number of persons living in houses. At the first stage, about 4 000 persons will be employed. From November 5-19, the plan will enter the second stage with a complete census of the population. 15 000 persons are being selected to conduct the interviews based on a special questionnaire.

Narmania noted that the government made a decision to conduct an agricultural census along with the population census, which means that along with social and demographic data, information will be gathered about agricultural and industrial activities. The results of the census will be published step by step, and the first results will be made public after six months, Zaza Chelidze said. About USD 10 million will be spent on the census. The last census was conducted in 1989 and found that 5 443 000 people were living in the country, including the population of the breakaway areas Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

According to the population data from 2002, which were published without a census, 4 601 500 people were living in Georgia at the time. Official figures from 2012 show that the population in territories controlled by the Georgian government was about 4.5 million, while in 2011 it was estimated to be about 4,479 000. However a number of NGOs claim that these figures are inflated and that the population of Georgia may be a million less than is claimed.

Georgia has not had a population census for a long time and the census is both a necessary and a sensitive exercise. Results of the census are likely to help build a picture of the accuracy of Georgia’s voting list, which in the past had proved to be a problematic issue during elections. The census will be an important tool in highlighting sensitive issues in Georgian society, including the issue of an aging population and birth rates amongst different ethnic groups, as well as the actual size of ethnic communities. It is therefore essential that the census be conducted with as much accuracy and professionalism as possible and that the data will be released transparently and in a timely fashion.

Source: CEW Staff report with dfwatch.org

Sargsyan sworn in for second term as he juggles change and continuity.

ss3Serzh Sargsyan was sworn in as President of Armenia for his second term at a ceremony held on the 9th April, despite protests by opposition activists who claim that the 18 February   elections were flawed and that there should have been a run-off between him and the runner-up.

As opposition supporters clashed with police outside the Presidential Palace in Yerevan the President was telling an audience of 2000 VIP guests at the City’s Sport and Concert complex of how he proposed to deal with Armenia’s challenging problems in the next five years.

Without making a direct reference to the elections controversy Sargsyan said that  ‘Elections do not mark a destination; they signify a new phase. This is the phase for unrelenting and persistent work. The time has come to move from words to work, to reinforce words with work.” The President highlighted three main areas of priorities in domestic politics, namely economic development, rule of law and what he called “the deepening of democracy”.

Observers consider that Sargsyan will need to impliment serious changes, particularly in personnel, in order to be able to cope with the serious political and economic problems that his country faces. However he is a conservative person by nature and will not find this easy.

source: CEW with agencies

photo: President Sargsyan arriving for his swearing-in as President of Armenia at a ceremony held on 9 April in Yerevan. (picture courtesy of the press office of the President of Armenia.)

Horse-trading on the square. Armenian politics go open-air.

"Megaphone" horse-trading on Yerevan's Liberty Square.

“Megaphone” horse-trading on Yerevan’s Liberty Square.

Political horse-trading before, after and in between elections is a common feature of politics in many countries, but none more so than in the South Caucasus were deals are cut behind the scenes, usually by leaders of parties or groups, without any reference to their political supporters, let alone the voters. It is one of the features that has helped discredit politics in the region. Often political support is traded for government positions, on some occasions in the past it is alleged that also big sums of money were involved. Despite their totalitarian streaks governments in the region have in the past found it useful to engage in such practices as a means of widening their support, and sometimes to isolate political opponents who refused to be bought and had become difficult.

Armenia has been particularly vulnerable to this sort of murky politics and most political forces had been engaged with it one way or the other. Events of the last few weeks, in  the immediate aftermath of the 18 February Presidential election, have therefore come as a welcome change. Following that election the runner-up, Raffi Hovannesian has contested the result, even though it seems it has been endorsed by the international community and has survived a legal challenge. Hovannesian has taken his protest to the streets. He  has held one meeting with the current Presidential incumbent, who was declared the winner on this occasion too, but nothing much seems to have come out of that. After a brief tour of Armenia’s regions he has for the last days camped on Armenia’s main square, Liberty Square, has gone on hunger strike, and has by and large conducted negotiations with the government on the issue “by megaphone”. More…

Constitutional Court rejects appeal to annul Armenian presidential Elections. Yerevan tense as Hovannisian continues hunger strike.

The Constitutional Court of Armenia

The Constitutional Court of Armenia

The Armenian Constitutional Court on 13 March rejected a request by Raffi Hovannesian, one of the candidates in last month’s presidential election, to annul the vote and call for new elections. The decision, although hardly surprising, added to an already tense situation in the Armenian capital Yerevan as Hovannesian continued his hunger strike, which he promises will only end on 9 April. Various political personalities from both government and opposition have visited Hovannesian in the last days, and there has been a call on Hovannesian to end the hunger strike from Armenia’s spiritual centre Echmiazin. Hovhannesian however continues to call on President Serzh Sargsyan to visit him on Liberty Square where he has been camping out and negotiate with him directly for a way out of the impasse.

Sargsyan himself was last week in Moscow and Brussels where he received the endorsements of the Russian President Vladimir Putin,. and of the President of the European People’s Party, Martens. Political observers say that the situation remains fragile because a number of important political forces, although not necessarily sympathetic to Havhannesian, might use the current impasse to weaken President Sargsyan. There are also concerns about Hovhannesian’s health.

source CEW staff team

Claimant to the Armenian Presidency on hunger strike.

Raffi Hovannisian on hunger strike in Yerevan's main square on 11 March 2013.

Raffi Hovannisian on hunger strike in Yerevan’s main square on 11 March 2013.

Raffi Hovannisian who claims that he has won the Presidential Elections held in Armenia on 18 February, on Sunday 10 March started a hunger strike in the main square of the Armenian Capital Yerevan.

Hovannisian has called for the incumbent President, Serzh Sargsyan, who intends to be sworn in for a second term  as president on April 9th to step down. “As long as Mr. Sargsyan has not stepped down, I will stay at Liberty Square and will not eat food,” he noted.

Meanwhile the next rally of Hovannisian’s supporters will be held on March 15 at 5pm. “On that day we will discuss the future courses of action, the Constitutional Court’s ruling [on whether or not the presidential should be declared null and void], and together we will start the matter of [taking] actions, [making] decisions, and consolidate the triumph,”  stated the Presidential contender. More…