Government Task force issues guidelines amidst tensions following dismissals from the public sector.

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…

Georgian media: Never have so many, broadcasted so much, to so few! 1

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 in the South Caucasus pushes for reforms and free elections

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…

PACE report adds to mixed reviews of Armenian Parliamentary Elections.

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…

A credible voters list is essential for voter’s confidence in Georgia.

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…

Georgia’s elastic Constitution.

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…