UNM parliamentarians walk out of Parliament.

Head of UNM faction in the Georgian Parliament, David Bakradze.

All 59 of the United National Movement (UNM) Members of Parliament walked out of the Georgian Parliament on 8 November in protest of the arrest of three senior defence officials (see story in this issue) on allegations of abuse and what they deem an unnecessary tax audit of the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB).

David Bakradze, parliamentary leader of the UNM, told journalists on Thursday that his party would not work under the hostile conditions imposed by the Georgian Dream administration. After staging the walk out on Thursday, Bakradze stated that the UNM was suspending its work in parliament given the “current conditions” in which “the authorities are trying to establish control over the military and the televisions.” He did not specify under which circumstances the UNM parliamentarians would return. UNM lawmakers accuse the Ivanishvili administration of political motivations in these two developments, stating that the Georgian Dream fabricated the charges laid against the chief of staff of the military to put their own candidate in place. A charge which the government denies. More…

Armenian Opposition proposes transition to Parliamentary Republic.

The Office of the President of Armenia in Yerevan.

Ahead of next year’s presidential elections in Armenia it is not yet clear who the contestants are going to be. But as Karina Gould reports for CEW the debate is shifting from personalities to process as radical new ideas for constitutional changes are proposed. The Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), the second largest faction in the Armenian National Assembly, while it has not confirmed whether it will be fielding a candidate in next year’s February Presidential election has indicated what kind of candidate it would support. Such a candidate, party spokesperson Naira Zohrabyan said, would be a “technical” president, willing to embark on the tough road of political reform seeking to implement a completely list-based proportional representation (PR) system for parliament, eradicating the single-mandate constituencies, and moving from a presidential to a parliamentary form of government in an effort to curtail the sweeping powers of the President in Armenia. More…

Sargsyan promises “free, fair, transparent and democratic” Presidential elections.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan
addressing the Congress of the European
People’s Party in Bucharest on 17 October
2012. (Picture courtesy of the Press
Service of the President of Armenia.)

“The authorities of the Republic of Armenia are determined to transform registered progress into a firm trend and to hold free, fair, transparent and democratic presidential elections,” announced Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan at the European People’s Party (EPP) Conference held in Bucharest, Romania on 17 October.

Referring to the positive assessment of the May 2012 parliamentary elections, which were considered to be “the best since independence” by international observers, the President, expressed his plan that Armenia will build on the recommendations suggested by the international community. Sargsyan explained to his audience that in order to achieve free, fair, transparent and democratic presidential elections next February, the Armenian authorities are “conducting preliminary works stemming from the conclusions and proposals of the OSCE/ODIHR.” More…

High hopes as committed democrat takes over key post.

The election of David Usupashvili as Chairman of the Georgian Parliament sends an important signal that the new Georgia embraces the rule of law.

In one of its first decisions after reconvening after the historic 1 October Parliamentary elections, the new Georgian Parliament elected David Usupashvili as its new Chairman. The election of Usupashvili sends a strong signal to Georgian citizens, and the international community at large that the new Georgian government will respect the rule of law and will submit itself to proper parliamentary scrutiny. More…

Editorial Comment: Nothing less than ‘Zero Tolerance’ to election fraud is acceptable!

Georgia goes to the polls in a few days’ time. What happens on 1 October will determine the future of the country for a long time. It is for the Georgian people to decide who they want to govern them and what sort of future they want for their country. But Europe has a duty to observe this process carefully, and to give a true and fair assessment afterwards. Thousands of observers and journalists will be in Georgia these days to do just that.

On too many occasions Europe’s vision of Georgia has been clouded by considerations that are certainly not valid for the current circumstances. Georgia has a damaged society, partly a result of a style of government in recent years that has been confrontational in its approach. The prisons torture scandal over the last days has further exacerbated the problem. The European Union and the United States, Georgia’s two main friends in the world, should have done more in the past years to help raise concerns and address serious shortcomings in the field of democratic governance, human rights and the rule of law. More…

A tale of two reports: Not contradictory, but they leave different impressions.

A stream of European and American officials have been visiting Georgia in the weeks running up to the 1 October parliamentary elections. They all seem to have the same message: the importance for Georgia’s future that the elections are deemed free and fair. But the question is already arising, who if anybody, is going to decide if they were or not?

Two reports issued last week by two reputable organisations, both claiming to cover the pre-election period, whilst not exactly contradictory, leave the reader with two different impressions. More…