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…
On May 24, Baroness Emma Nicholson, Chairperson of the ad hoc committee for the Observation of the 6 May Parliamentary Elections in Armenia, presented the findings of the mission to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in Tirana.
Noting the electoral campaign was “vibrant, competitive, and largely peaceful”, the report highlights several issues observed leading up to and during the election, notably the general distrust of the election process as a whole. Issues raised include: inaccuracies in the voter lists, voter intimidation, voting and vote counting procedures, as well as the issuance of passports to facilitate fraud, vote buying and deficiencies in complaint and appeal mechanisms.
The International Electoral Observation Mission (IEOM), composed of observers from PACE, the European Parliament, OSCE/ODIHR and OSCE/PA, visited 1,000 out of 1,982 polling stations in and around Yerevan, Armavir, Ejmiatsin, Aragatsotn, Shirak, Vanadzor, Ararat and Vayotz Dzor on 6 May 2012. More…
Issues surrounding the voters’ list that have marred previous elections in Georgia – multiple entries, the persistence of deceased voters, and errors in voter information – continue to cause anxiety and low confidence in the democratic process amongst stakeholders and the Georgian electorate.
In an effort to increase confidence in the process a state funded commission was established last year with a view to ascertain the accuracy of the list. The Voters List Verification Commission (VLVC) is chaired by Mamuka Katsitadze of the New Rights Party, and consists of members of ruling party and some opposition parties’ representatives, as well as representatives from several civil society groups.
August 1, 2012 is set as a deadline for the commission to complete voter list rechecking after which the list should be handed over to the Central Election Commission (CEC). The VLVC is also authorized to continue monitoring the voters’ lists after August 1. The Commission launched door-to-door campaign on April 24 as part of rechecking the accuracy of the voter register ahead of the October parliamentary elections. 11,100 field observers, known as registrants, recruited by the VLVC, were tasked to visit every household in Georgia to ensure accuracy of the list. More…
Yet another set of Constitutional amendments have been adopted by the Georgian Parliament, the latest is a series of changes to the Constitution introduced by the ruling United National Movement (UNM) since it took power in 2003. The UNM has had a quasi-total monopoly in the Georgian parliament since the events around the “Rose Revolution” in November 2003 and could push through constitutional changes without needing the support of other political forces.
Many constitutional experts agree that tailoring constitutional amendments to suit particular situations or individuals is bad practise, even if technically possible. 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…
Caucasus Elections Watch has interviewed Evgeni Kirilov MEP, Rapporteur of the European Parliament on developing a strategy for the South Caucasus and asked him for his views on the current election trends in the South Caucasus.
CEW: This month we have seen the start of an election cycle in the South Caucasus, with important elections in all the three countries scheduled over the next two years. What are the expectations of the European Parliament from this process?
E. Kirilov: The European Parliament has always followed very closely the democratisation processes in all the three South Caucasus countries. A special focus is given particularly on the electoral process as a corner-stone of any functioning democratic system. Therefore the European Parliament expects from its three partners in the region to continue with the democratic reforms and to ensure that the forthcoming important elections in the next three years will respond to the European standards and will be free, fair and transparent. 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…
For the last nine years Georgian NGOs and civil society in general have been struggling to regain the status within their society that they held prior to the Rose Revolution of November 2003. That event on the one hand brought many civil society leaders into the political mainstream, as the government of President Saakashvili tapped into the talent of the mainly young civil society leadership to fill many government posts. On the other hand the government’s approach to what was left of civil society has since then not always been friendly. A senior government official recently described civil society leaders as “Tbilisi based, elitist and disconnected”.
There are some signs that a new generation of civil society leaders are now ready to reclaim the ground lost. More…
The voters list has once more emerged as one of the main problems connected with Armenian elections. Opposition activists accuse the Armenian government of artificially inflating the voter’s list by several hundred thousand voters as part of organised election fraud. The issue is somewhat more complicated, but many questions remain.
On 25 April 2012 the Armenian Passports and Visas Department (PVD) of the Armenian Police, the entity that is responsible to compile the country’s election list, published the names of those entitled to vote in the May 6 elections. The list had 2,482,238 names. After some adjustments in the days prior to the elections, the final election list on the eve of the election included 2,484,003 names.
This figure immediately triggered an outcry from opposition parties who questioned how there could be in 2012 more than 150,000 additional voters in Armenia then in 2008, when it was common knowledge that the population of the country had decreased as a result of outward migration during the recent economic crisis. More…
Over the next eighteen months the three countries of the South Caucasus – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, will conduct important elections that many consider will determine the future of the individual countries and of the region, and most certainly will decisively impact their relations with Europe.
The cycle kicked off on May 6th with Parliamentary Elections in Armenia. Parliamentary elections in Georgia are scheduled for October. Next year will see the three countries voting in Presidential elections.
The region has a history of troubled and contested elections, and whilst some polls have been better than others, many observers feel that there has not been a single election, since the three countries regained their independence after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, that fully met international standards. This situation continuously raises questions of legitimacy around the three governments, and has been a matter of concern to European Union and US officials, who are keen to increase relations with the region and see this situation as a major obstacle. More…
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has repeated his committment to hold free, fair and transparent parliamentary elections in the Autumn. Addressing a meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Economic Forum in the Georgian Black Sea Port of Batumi, Saakashvili described the committment as important for the country’s future security.
“We would like a large number of international observers, including from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to come before the elections,” Saakashvili said. “We want to get their advice before the elections. The advice will enable us to improve the pre-election sphere to conduct the most transparent elections.” The Georgian President said ”we are ready to cooperate with international institutions and will do everything to hold just elections for no one to have any questions.”
The Georgian President also said that Russia had decided to conduct large military exercises in the Caucasus region close to the Georgian elections . The President said that for these reasons the elections are very important, “on the one hand, for Georgian credentials, but they also have a huge security dimension.”
The opposition Armenian National Congress, an alliance of opposition political parties and groups headed by former Armenian President Levon ter-Petrossyan, has petitioned the Armenian Constitutional court asking that the results of the 6 May elections according to the proportional system be annulled because of election irregularities. Earlier several ANC candidates had also addressed the court with similar appeals for cancelling the results of the elections in a number of single seat majoritarian elections. The President of the Constitutional Court has asked judges to review the cases, according to a court spokesperson.
Parliament of Georgia
Georgia’s ruling party, the United National Movement, is pushing ahead with a constitutional change that will bring Georgia in line with progressive European countries.An initiative of the UNM aims at revising the Constitution of Georgia by lowering the age at which one can stand for a parliamentary seat from 25 to 21 years. The public discussion period for draft amendments has concluded, and a discussion on the results of these meetings took place in Parliament on May 7, where it was recommended that the initiative enter the standard legislative process. More…
Georgian media has over the last weeks carried a string of reports of intimidation, by officials of local authorities, of opposition supporters in Georgia’s regions. There are also reports of violence against opposition activists.
Rezonansi newspaper and other media outlets have reported the dismissal of more than twenty school teachers in the Shida Kartli region due to their support of opposition parties, or as in the case of Gori School teacher, Ia Bzhalava, because her husband was an activist of the opposition Free Democrats.
The web site Democracy and Freedom (DF) Watch also reported the case of Giorgi Beruashvili, former employee of Privat-Bank in Kareli, a village in Shida Kartli, who was fired only because his sister and mother were attending a Georgian Dream meeting. He told DF Watch that he was considered as one of the bank’s most valued employees before that presentation, and no one had ever mentioned that he was in danger of being fired. But the day after the presentation, he was told that he was fired, because ‘members of his family think in an opposition way.’
Tsisana Javakhishvili says she was the only biology teacher at the public school in the village Nikozi near Gori. She was fired only because she held different views; her husband participated in the local elections in 2010, representing the Free Democrats. The official reason for her firing was lack of experience. But it later emerged that the headmaster directly told her she had to leave her job because of the political views of her husband, because ‘he didn’t need an oppositional [person] at school.’ More…
On May 15, the European Union issued its annual package assessing its relations with its neighbouring countries in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy. The package was introduced to journalists by High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security, Catherine Ashton and by Enlargement and ENP Commissioner Stefan Fule.
In the documents, the EU sends a clear and unequivocal message to the three South Caucasus countries to make improvements on a number of issues related to elections and the broader aspects of democracy and human rights. Whilst recognising that some progress has been made, particularly in Armenia and Georgia the reports highlight serious shortcomings in all three countries. More…
Armenian Parliamentary Elections
6 May 2012 – Results
Number of voters: 1,573,053
Number of voters on the voting list (including those registered on polling day): 2,523,101
Percentage of voter turnout: 62.26%
Number of blank or invalid votes: 53,831
Results (Proportional Lists Elections) :
Republican Party: 664,440 (44.02%)
Prosperous Armenia: 454,673 (30.12%)
ANC: 106,903 (7.08%)
ARF: 85,550 (5.67%)
Rule of Law: 83,123 (5.51%)
Heritage: 86,998 (5.76%)
Armenian Communist Party: 15,899 (1.5%)
Democratic Party of Armenia: 5,577 (0.37%)
United Armenians Party: 2,945 (0.20%) More…
A rally of the Dashnak Armenian Revolutionary federation in Yerevan on 10 April 2012 (picture courtesy of http://www.arfd.info).
It is not possible to say that there has been a level playing field in the Armenian Parliamentary Elections Campaign of the past weeks. Some parties could make use of administrative resources, and others of financial resources not available to their competitors. But an active media, and the ability to use time on television for all parties, enabled all contestants to put across their message to the electorate.
The media in the elections divided into three streams. The printed media has close association with the political parties and in many cases this was reflected in its coverage of the elections. New media: websites and news portals provided a broad spectrum of opinion and were perhaps the most free and active in the campaign. Some web-based media outlets had television programmes included on their sites which complimented the coverage of the regular TV stations. These sites however have limited audiences.
As usual the most important role was played by television stations. Though largely controlled by government, the stations by and large followed guidelines for balanced reporting once the election campaign started. The fact that all parties had free air time, and also the possibility of purchasing a certain amount of paid air time, helped a lot in enabling the message of all parties to get across to the electorate.
All the major parties held rallies in the centre of Yerevan, and in other parts of the countries. These events were usually well attended and often accompanied by musical entertainment. The campaign nearly ended in tragedy when in the last hours of campaigning on May 4th an incident occurred at the final rally of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia. Balloons that had been filled with helium exploded throwing a ball of fire on the largely young crowd. Several dozen people suffered severe burns although miraculously no one died, and most of those injured were released from hospitals a few days later.
There were some small incidents of violence but on the whole the campaign was peaceful. The tone was not always positive and there were some personal attacks on candidates and politicians.
Armenia’s president Serzh Sargsyan led from the front. He participated in numerous activities of his Republican Party (RPA) addressing voters on a range of domestic and local issues. The role of local governors and district administrations remains controversial. Many have been accused of supporting the ruling party not only through the use of administrative resources but also through intimidation of voters.
The full engagement of all the main political forces in the election campaign has helped give credibility to the election process and is definitely a positive factor.
photo: Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, the Director of ODIHR, observes voting in a polling station in the village of Balahovit during Armenia’s parliamentary elections, 6 May 2012. His presence as part of the mission was somewhat unusual. (picture courtesy of OSCE).
Most of the international observers who monitored the 6 May Parliamentary elections in Armenia decided in their preliminary findings to focus on the bright side of the process, although the more serious ones also highlighted serious problems and shortcomings.
Their reports paint a confused picture which reflects a flawed, but improved electoral process, and which has resulted in the government tightening its hold on parliament but with all opposition parties of any significance now represented in the legislature.