Polling closes in Georgian Presidential election.

16.00 GMT: polling has closed in Georgia’s Presidential election. Turnout was considerably lower than at Parliamentary elections last year. There were reports from domestic election monitoring organisations of isolated cases of violations, and a serious case where a group of around 250 voters were not on the voters list in Adjara.

13.00 GMT:  Georgians wait in anticipation to see what will be the result of the first election that will see their President being replaced through a normal electoral process. By 15.00 hpours local time the central Elections commission was reporting that 32.05% of the electorate had cast their vote. This is a significant 13% less than the number of those who voted by the same time during the parliamentary elections last year. The lowest turnout is reported in the mainly Azerbaijani speaking regions of Khvemo Kartli

10.30 GMT: Voter turnout in Georgian Presidential elections was 17.5% by 12 noon – compared to 25% at the same time in Parliamentary elections in 2012.  Commentators have noted that the lowest turnout so far is in the mainly Azerbaijani populated region of Khvemo Kartli. This region was infamous throughout the last two decades for abuses during voting, including ballot stuffing and multiple voting. A low voter turnout may for the first time reflect the reality, namely an Azerbaijani speaking population that often feels marginalised and far away from the political processes in the Tbilisi.  According to the Georgian CEC 58593 representing 14.4% of the electorate, had cast their vote by 12 noon.

08.15 GMT: 240,732 voters had cast their ballot in the first two hours of voting in Georgia this morning, according to a briefing by the Central Elections Commission. This constitutes 6.8% of the electorate. Although compared to the same amount of people voting in the same period in the Parliamentary elections in 2012 this figure is low, commentators think that the early turnout in 2012 was due to the highly charged political atmosphere of that time and that the current vote trend is more in line with previous election patterns where voting peaked around lunchtime.

07.00 GMT:  Presidential Elections are taking place in Georgia. 23 candidates are contesting for the post of Head of States.

All polling stations opened on time at 8.00 am and the election process is under way in a clam atmosphere, the Central Election Commission, said at a briefing on Sunday morning.

3, 537, 719 voters are eligible to cast their ballot. They can do so in 3, 689 election precincts in Georgia itself and 50 election precincts abroad.

The Presidential Elections will be observed by 47,000 election candidates and political party representatives, as well as by nearly 20,000 local and 1,300 international observers. The election process will be covered by 1,400 media representatives.

Commentary: Will Bidzina do a Nelson, or will he do a Sonia?

No soft touch. Bidhzina Ivanishvili is a shrewd self-made man.

No soft touch. Bidhzina Ivanishvili is a shrewd self-made man.

In this commentary Dennis Sammut says that Bidzina Ivanishvili is an enigmatic and often misunderstood leader who has been able to change Georgian politics in a very short time, and that despite his announced political retirement he is likely to remain a very significant person in Georgian public life.

Bidzina Ivanishvili’s announcement that he will resign as prime minister and retire from mainstream politics one week after the presidential election on 27 October has left Georgians and everybody else astonished and bewildered, even though he had previously hinted that that is what he will do. More…

Editorial Comment: All for Georgians to lose!

The 27 October presidential election should bring political closure to twenty-five years of political upheaval, and can give Georgia what it aspires for. But there are some final tests yet.

Compared to previous elections in Georgia, the process of selecting a new president for the country on 27 October has proceeded without major problems. One week before the polls the main threat to the free expression of the will of the Georgian people seems to be apathy, rather than election fraud or manipulation.

Georgia’s political journey over the last twenty-five years has been tumultuous. The events on 9 April 1989, when Soviet OMON forces killed peaceful civilians on Rustaveli Avenue broke the unwritten accord between the Georgians and the Soviet leadership which had seen Georgia getting the best possible deal out of the Soviet system in return for political acquiescence. Ever since, Georgian politics has been a roller coaster of upheavals. Euphoria and disappointment alternated in regular short cycles, with wars, rebellion, revolution and repression added in for good measure. Yet this era of Georgian politics seems now to be coming to a close.

Georgia has had three presidents since it eventually regained its independence in December 1991 when the Soviet Union unceremoniously disintegrated. Most Georgians these days find it difficult to talk highly of any of them. More…

Ilham Aliev sworn in for third term.

Ilham Aliev was sworn in for his third term as President of Azerbaijan at a simple ceremony held in the Parliament of Azerbaijan attended by Members of Parliament, State officials and others.

Earlier the result of the 9th October Presidential election was confirmed at a special session of the Constitutional Court. The decision of the Constitutional Court based on the final report of the Central Elections Commission stated that Ilham Aliyev won the presidential election held on October 9 having gained 84.54 percent (3,126,113) voters.

Farhad Abdullayev, President of the Constitutional Court read out the Constitutional Court’s decision.

Other candidates received the following number of votes:

Jamil Hasanli – 5.53 percent (204,642 votes)

Iqbal Aghazade – 2.40 percent (88,723 votes)

Gudret Hasanguliyev – 1.99 percent (73,702 votes)

Zahid Oruj – 1.46 percent (53,839 votes)

Ilyas Ismayilov – 1.07 percent (39,722 votes)

Araz Alizade – 0.87 percent (32,069 votes)

Faraj Guliyev – 0.86 percent (31,926 votes)

Hafiz Hajiyev – 0.66 percent (24,461 votes)

Sardar Mammadov – 0.61 percent (22,773 votes).

source: Caucasus Elections Watch with Trend News Agency (Baku)

After problematic election, Azerbaijan remains stuck in a twilight zone between democracy and authoritarianism.

Commentary.

The Presidential election held in Azerbaijan on 9 October, and the political situation that emerges as a result of it, can be summed up in one word: problematic. That this election failed in some respects from meeting widely accepted international standards is clear to those who want to make a dispassionate assessment. Some problems observed in all elections that have taken place in Azerbaijan in the last decade have persisted, and the leadership of the Central Elections Commission, which has remained largely unchanged for the whole period, seems unwilling or unable to correct them.

Context, process and outcome.

The context in which the election was held was far from ideal. The reports of organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the terse but clear concerns expressed by the leadership of the European Union, and the concerns of big sections of the international media, may have been dismissed lightly by the Azerbaijani authorities, but in their totality they provide a negative picture of the context in which the election was held that is serious enough to impact the evaluation of the event on 9 October itself. There was some improvement in the situation in the three week run up to the election which saw the opposition allowed to voice its opinions on national television and to mobilise in the streets.

There were also other issues worth noting, for example the odd way in which the incumbent Ilham Aliev decided to run his campaign, and the late but effective way in which the opposition managed to rally around the candidacy of Camil Hasanly. Hasanly himself gave his all, and was more effective than many had thought he would be. The opposition however failed to mobilise a critical mass for its activities. Part of this was due to the opposition’s own limitations, and part due to the very clear dangers faced by those who publicly associate themselves with the opposition. There is however another factor at play which the opposition with its rhetoric seems to have failed to understand: most Azerbaijanis, regardless of whether they like Aliev or not, do not want to go back to the chaos of the 1990s. Whilst the government cleverly plays on this feeling, the opposition seems to be oblivious to its importance.

Shortcomings in the election process itself were noted, and will no doubt be the subject of reporting by the more credible election monitoring organisations. The attitude of the CEC to be meticulous where its suits it, and brush aside serious shortcomings when it does not, contributes to the undermining of trust in the process.

The provisional result of the election gives the incumbent President 84.73% of the vote with a 72.31% voter turnout. Given the context and the process this result, which in any normal election context would be considered exaggerated, may not be the most contentious part of the outcome. A victory for Ilham Aliev with a wide margin was anticipated and predicted. The pattern of what happened on election-day and in the counting process in this, as in previous elections in Azerbaijan, was chequered.

A twilight zone that has become a comfort zone.

The result of all this is an unsatisfactory outcome. The Azerbaijani authorities have over the last decade positioned themselves in a twilight zone between democracy and authoritarianism. This election proves what some had been worrying about for some time, that this twilight zone has now become the authorities comfort zone. However this election has in many ways proven that this situation is not sustainable. President Aliev will now have to decide very soon in which direction he wants to take his country. His speech on election night gives us little indication of what his choice will be. But once the dust of the election campaign has settled down, there will be important and crucial decisions to make that will define his place in Azerbaijani history.

Source: CEW editorial team

ODIHR publishes its second interim report on Azerbaijani elections

OSCE_ODIHR_logo_Album_110612On 1 October the ODIHR Election Observation Mission for the forthcoming presidential election in Azerbaijan published its second interim report which covers the period from 12-26 September 2013.

The report notes that “the official campaign began on 16 September and while it has been generally calm, it has been marred by some reported incidents of intimidation of family members of political figures. To date, the campaign has lacked substantive debate and has focused on personality rather than concrete political platforms. More…