Sunday, January 27, 2008

Week 20-27 January: Elections, fair play and society

Political communication is suffering from the flaws of the mass media society. An articulated analysis is often replaced by slogans, the mutual respect between challengers by aggressive statements. It all leads to a polarization that it is quite difficult to reconcile afterwards.

While in Azerbaijan some newspapers, quoting the Financial Times, already claim the re-election of Aliyev, 8 months before the election (an untimely election campaing?), in Georgia the new government has to take shape. And, clearly, it is no longer time to linger on accusations or open insults, but rumors suggest that all ministers who answer more directly for the level of life of the population are going to be removed: Giorgi Arveladze, the Economy Minister; Davit Tkeshelashvili, the Minister for Healthcare and Social Welfare; Kakha Bendukidze, the State Minister for Economic Reforms.

In Armenia candidates blame “the others” for the quality of political confrontation.
Levon Ter-Petrosyan calls for a mitigation of tension and creation of an atmosphere of tolerances, but, at the same time, goes on in defying the government a bandocratic system. Vazgen Manukyan declares to feel “uneasy about the vitriol and aggression that is presently spreading throughout our society not only by way of public rallies but also through the press and television.” and adds “This road will not lead to an improvement of the situation in Armenia”, words that do not prevent him from describing the ruling élite as “worthless people whose sole aim is to retain those positions”... et cetera et cetera.

Such a venom, the Armenian Observer points out, seems to be infecting the blogosphere, “whereby a range of extremely intolerant propaganda-blogs have sprang up, and have started attacking all and everyone around in the blogosphere - have taken the fun away from blogging. Instead of being the enjoyable personal hobby it once was, blogging now is increasingly becoming a risky business, a hostile environment, where you risk being attacked and harassed for your views.”

So, while the electoral platforms of some candidates promise to change completely the country in a lapse of time from 3 to 5 years, the web offers nice views of the same heroes in the shape of devils… Wasn’t the red-eyed picture of Tony Blair, during the election campaign, harshly criticized for not being in line with political fair play?

Probably Armenian society doesn’t need heroes nor devils… and since this is just a blog, and I have already mentioned the UK, let me put it with some brilliant English humour… (

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Week 14-20 January: 360˚ Negotiations

Hard work for mediators, with negotiations going on about stability and future.

Starting with Georgia, today Saakašvili swore, pledging, in his first speech as President, to represent all the country and not just his supporters. At the same time the opposition - not allowed to manifest in the centre of the city - gathered at the hippodrome, and still denied his legittimacy. What’s the next step? To maximize the present visibility and try to obtain anticipated parliamentary elections, making the new Government fall? Or to prepare for the scheduled one in may? Oppositions leaders met with Matthew Bryza, the USA Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affaires, with Ilia II, Head of Orthodox Church and so on … negotiations…
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, who attended for the Moscow government the oath, met with Saakašvili and with Ilia II. Markets of wine and water between the two countries have being announced to open again this year… negotiations on the way…

In Armenia, under the influence of Georgia’s events, the Speaker of the National Assembly Tigran Torossian made clear that “Presidential elections will not yield to parliamentary ones” (A1+, 16th Jan.).
BTW: it’s time for the broadcasting of political manifestos of the candidates, whose list was officially announced the 18th by the CEC: Arthur Baghdasaryan, Artašes Geghamyan, Tigran Karapetyan, Aram Harutyunyan, Vazgen Manukyan, Arman Melikyan, Serge Sargsyan, Levon Ter-Petrosyan. While the opposition is grouping around the last (negotiations…), a common point which can be spotted in the different programs is how to overcome political isolation and try to reach a solution for Karabakh.
Just in these days the Minsk group is touring the Caucasus, bouncing Baku-Yerevan-Baku.

The year 2008 is supposed to be the one of the ultimate settlement of the conflict, on fair and balanced basic principles. But, both basic principles and practical solutions are far from official proclamations and collective understanding in Baku… Araz Azimov, from the Ministry of Foreign Affair, stated that for the last three years he cannot match any significant change.
… so the space left empty by unjustified optimism should be filled with massive negotiations…

Saturday, January 19, 2008

To Hrant Dink

An extra Post, to commemorate someone who willy-nilly became a hero…

“We stayed in Turkey because that was what we wanted - and out of respect for the thousands of people here who supported me in my fight for democracy...”

On the anniversary of Hrant Dink’s death that’s the only thing I can offer to his memory ... the images of the thousands who claimed the pride to be Armenian, to be Hrant Dink, no matter who they are... to turn Turkey into the country he and they wanted to be citizens of.

(at the bottom of the page)...Some of the few pics I managed to take in the sad and moving day of his funeral and of the overwhelming procession ... together with the bitter words of Ilnur Cevik on the day before Hrant Dink’s Anniversary. (

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Week 7-13 January: “Georgia's traditions are more revolutionary”

Thus the Armenian expert Alexander Iskandarian said, mentioning to the potential influence of Georgian Presidential Election on the incoming Armenian one (02/19). The same point of view is shared by the Azeri specialist Razim Agaev, very doubtful that any other South Caucasian republic would be able to raise such a popular participation.

Although results are official and internationally recognized, the opposition kept its supporters mobilized for the entire week, from the hunger strike to today’s peaceful rally, with over 100 000 people expected by the joined opposition parties. They claim results to be fraudulent. The CEC confirmed Saakašvili to be the winner, with 53.47% (1 060 042 votes), followed by Gachechiladze 25.69% (509 234). Results that do not match those given by other independent observers, such as the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (Saakašvili 50,8%, margin of error +/- 2,2%). Abroad, only Russia is supporting opposition’s claim, but it seems very isolated. Even the CIS observation mission recognised the elections to be in line with international standards. Russian observers, by the way, were not allowed in the CIS mission by Georgian authorities.
At present, an exposition of hundreds falsified protocols has been opened in Tbilisi, dedicated to the so called “Georgia-American lies, in honour of Matthew Bryza”, the American Congressman who is reported to have described elections as democratic (on Russian tv, 01/13 12:09).

The results of the plebiscites:
For North-Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) integration: 72.5%
For holding Parliamentary Elections in the Spring of 2008: 69.8%
Protesters are not, indeed, against the main line of the present President, his pro-Western attitude, but accuse him to be extremely authoritarian, close to dictatorship. To ease his position, Saakašvili opened the door of the new Government to opposition. Being Georgia, since the Rose Revolution, a semi-presidential republic, potentially the role played by the Government in leading the country is a key one, but till now the strictly presidential heritage prevailed.
Even if the mediation works, and opposition agrees to enter the Government, will this solve the problem of the extremely polarized political life, and enable the President to gain the confidence of Georgian citizens again?

It seems that November’s rallies, with over 600 wounded, had already entered in the collective memory as another epic moment in Georgia’s fight for freedom… or so are self – represented by those who had joined the protests … (

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Week 1-6 January: Countdown is over!

Finally Georgian Extraordinary Presidential Election’s day came.
Electors voted the new President, and for two referendum, if the want their country to join NATO and Parliamentary elections to be held in April instead of October.

The Georgian Constitution (Art. 74.2) states that “The referendum shall not be held with the view of adopting or repealing law, in terms of amnesty or pardon, ratification or denunciation of international treaties and agreements, as well as the issues restricting the basic constitutional rights and freedoms of individuals”. So the referendum has not any juridical value (btw: no treaty has being written till now, and it will be the Parliament to ratify it) and its purpose was just to remind people of what the incumbent President did to ensure the access in NATO, an issue which is viewed positively by 83% of population, according to recent surveys.

The Presidential Election legal framework (Art. 70 Constitution as amended after the Rose Revolution) states that:
“4. A candidate shall be deemed to be elected if he/she has obtained more than half of the votes of participants.
5. If no candidate has received the required number of votes in the first round, a second round of elections shall be held in two weeks after an official announcement of the first round results.
6. Two candidates having the best results in the first round shall be put to the vote in the second round. The candidate who received more votes shall be deemed to be elected.”

The preliminary results published by the Central Electoral Committee (6.00 pm) are:
Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia............................0.16%
43 years old, Imedi movement. First woman ever to run for presidency in Georgia
Georgij Маisаshvili .......................................0.77%
42 years old, Future Party
David Gамкrelidze........................................ 3.73%
43 years old, New Right Party
Shalvа Naтеlаshvili...................................... 6.22%
49 years old, Labor Party
Arkadij Pатаrkatzishvili .........................7.47%
52 years old, unofficially withdrew his candidature and is at present abroad. Owner of Imedi TV and involved in scandals and accused to be preparing a coup d’etat
Levan Gachеchiladze ..............................25.21%
44 years old, supported by a coalition of 9 opposition parties
Mikhail Saakasvili ...................................50.17%
41 years old, National Movement, ruling party, incumbent President.

At launch time today Gachechiladze claimed “Not counting votes in Tbilisi, Saakashvili has 44% and I have 34% of the vote. In Tbilisi, however, I have gained an overwhelming victory, which gives me an overall nationwide lead”, while David Gамкrelidze said during a press conference “I want to state that the result of the yesterday’s election is that there should be second round of polls […] I want to congratulate Mr. Levan Gachechiladze with success in the first round […] I want to call on Mikhail Saakashvili, if he really has a sense of responsibility towards the Georgian state, he should say no to artificial victory in the first round and agree on holding of second round. That would be a solution to the current situation.” (

The point is how “free and fair” were elections. The OSCE Interim Report assess that while elections were in essence consistent with most OSCE and Council of Europe commitments and standards for democratic elections, significant challenges were revealed which need to be addressed urgently (full report available Human Rights denounces serious violations ( and Russian medias, quoting the Minister of Foreign Affair, went so far as to declare “Media sources, non-governmental organizations and representatives of opposition are reporting about numerous cases of violation of the electoral laws by the authorities” and “Hasty remarks made by the U.S. congressman Hastings [coordinator of the OSCE short-term election observation mission] about “triumph of Georgian democracy” are superficial”.

The nine opposition parties bloc is threatening unrests from the 8th of January for the supposed manipulations of electoral results.
New preliminary results (7:30 pm): Saakashvili 48,55%
Early results (11.30 pm): Saakashvili 52,8%

Game over … or not?