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…
The Azerbaijani pro opposition forum “Public Chamber” will this week hold a round table discussion on the electoral code of Azerbaijan. Ahead of the meeting CEWs Karina Gould interviewed Razi Nurullayev, the Deputy-chairperson for Foreign Affairs of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan and Chairman of the Board of Directors at “REGION” International Analytical Centre (RIAC).
CEW: What is the motivation behind the organization of the round table discussions this upcoming week?
RN: The round table discussions will take place on 21 June, 2012 in Baku and are being organized by the pro-democracy opposition group, the Public Chamber of Azerbaijan (PC). The PC emerged in the aftermath of the October 2010 Parliamentary Elections in Azerbaijan, which left all of the major opposition parties outside of the legislative body without a single seat due to electoral fraud. The PC is taking on this initiative because it is able to bring together most of the political parties, civil society, experts, academics and individual activists in Azerbaijan. More…
The Georgian Parliament in session
On June 12, the Georgian parliament passed the first reading of the draft amendments to the national election code.
Amendments include modifying the eligibility criteria for voter and political participation, decreasing the legal age requirement for running for office, extending the mandate of the Voters’ List Verification Commission (VLVC), as well as establishing criteria for international electoral observers monitoring Georgian elections.
The amendments are designed to bring the Election Code in line with the May 2012 constitutional amendments which came into force at the beginning of June. More…
The Chairman of Parliament of the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic was in the United Kingdom last week as a guest of the British Armenian Parliamentary Group. Ashot Ghoulian also visited Oxford University where he met a group of students and academics to discuss the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. Speaking at Manchester-Harris College at the invitation of the Oxford Armenia Society Ghoulian answered questions regarding the forthcoming Presidential elections in Nagorno-Karabakh due on 19 July. More…
Georgian NGOs that form part of the campaign “This concerns you!” have sent an open letter to the Georgian Parliament urging the legislative body to take the interests of the public and the voters into account and introduce “must-carry” and “must-offer” rules in the legislation regulating media activities.
“Do not allow any kind of restriction of access to any media outlet; Take into account opinions and recommendations provided by international organizations on the necessity of pluralistic media in the country,” reads the letter.The letter also discusses the restriction of access to Channel 9 and the decision to switch off radio signal in mini buses, moves seen as aimed at restricting citizen’s access to information. “Even if there is some legal basis for the decisions, the end result has become a matter of concern for numerous non-governmental and media organizations and citizens,” says the letter. More…
The campaign in the Presidential election in the self-declared Nagorno- Karabakh Republic is taking place amidst the backdrop of heightened tension of the line of contact separating Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. Last week there were reports on casualties on both sides in the most serious incidents reported this year. Karabakh and surrounding areas were reported tense, and the President of the self-declared republic extended the period of conscription of current military recruits by one month.
Azerbaijan has condemned the elections, scheduled for 19 July 2012 as a provocation. International organisations and western countries are expected to declare that they will not recognise the results because of the current status of the territory and since the Azerbaijani population of the territory which was displaced by the conflict cannot vote. More…
Political parties in Georgia have started preparing candidates for next October’s parliamentary elections.
Davit Sakvarelidze, has resigned from his post as First Deputy Prosecutor General of Georgia to contest a parliamentary seat in the capital Tbilisi
The First Deputy Prosecutor General of Georgia, Davit Sakvarelidze, announced on June 11 that he was resigning in order to enter politics. Georgian media have speculated over the last days that Sakvarelidze will become the majoritarian candidate for the ruling United National movement (UNM) in the Krtsanisi District of the Capital Tbilisi.
A UNM official told the Georgian news portal Civil.ge on that Sakvarelidze’s possible candidacy in Krtsanisi single-mandate constituency was under consideration, but no final decision was yet made.
In the meantime, at a Rally held in Kutaisi, the leader of the Georgian Dream Coalition, Bidhzina Ivanishvili has named six out of the twelve majoritarian candidates for the Imereti region of Georgia.
Gubaz Sanikidze, one of the leaders of National Forum – one of the parties within the Georgian Dream coalition will run in Kutaisi, which is Georgia’s second largest city and one of the largest single-mandate constituencies.
Kakha Kaladze, a retired footballer, who was a captain of the Georgian national team and who won the Champions League on two occasions with AC Milan, will run in his native town of Samtredia. He is pictured hear wearing the distinctive red and black Milan colours during match with Fiorentina
Kakha Kaladze, a retired footballer, who was a captain of the Georgian national team and who won the Champions League on two occasions with AC Milan, will run in his native town of Samtredia. 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
American political leaders have over the last few days highlighted the importance of free and fair elections in Georgia whilst also expressing support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and for the right of the Georgian nation to decide its future.
US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton linked the two messages during a press conference in Batumi on June 5th, at the end of her visit to the country. She said that free and fair elections that will result into a fully democratic transfer of power will be the “single best thing” Georgia can do to advance its security, democracy and international reputation. More…
Georgian Education Minister Dimitri
Shashkin is blamed for political
victimisation of opposition supporters
ahead of next October’s elections
Georgia’s education system has been gripped by tension over the last weeks amidst continued reports of victimisation of staff members who are supporters of opposition parties, or who have relatives who are involved in opposition party politics.
The issue came to a head when the Minister of Education, Dimitri Shashkin at the end of May, dismissed the Chairman of the National Examinations Centre, Maya Miminoshvili, days after her son attended an opposition rally in Tbilisi. The issue turned into a crisis after more than half of the staff at the National Examinations Centre subsequently resigned in protest just weeks before nation-wide university entry exams. More…
On paper the Georgia television media seems to be diverse and pluralistic. In reality few Georgians can hear more than one side of the story unless the recommendations of Georgian civil society are implemented.
Supporters of the Georgian government often refer to the period pre 2003 “Rose Revolution” as a time when Georgia was a quasi-failed state – which it probably was, and a corrupt society – which it definitely was. What they do not say however is that in this time Georgia also had the most free media environment in the post-Soviet space, where criticism of the government had become a national pastime, and journalists expected and received the respect of society. More…
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…