Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dear Readers,

For some weeks I won't be able to update regularly my blog.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Week 14-20 April: Separatism or Social issues

In defining their own identities, people may rely on their job/level of life or on their cultural belonging. The first, at social level, is the economic cleavage, the second the national one. In Soviet time, because of the Marxist theory of the clash of classes, the first was the most stressed. In the era of the clash of civilizations, national issues are the most sensible ones. And thus, they can be used as tools of political pressures, if not of blackmail.

Georgian government, a month to the elections, is under the cleaver of Russian moves in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The RF government has taken the first steps for a recognition de facto of the two republics, although not yet of a political one. Putin’s instructions are that: “List of documents issued by Abkhaz and South Ossetian state agencies to individuals that are recognized by the state agencies of the Russian Federation is defined. Legal personality of legal entities, registered under the legislation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which is considered as lex personalis of such legal entities, is recognized as well. Federal bodies of the executive authorities are instructed to carry out cooperation with Abkhazia and South Ossetia in frames of legal assistance in the filed of civil, family and criminal laws. In case of necessity, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s local representations in Krasnodar district and in the Republic of North Ossetia–Alania will perform consular functions to provide assistance to persons permanently living in Abkhazia and South Ossetia[…] It is also envisaged to develop additional proposals on concrete directions of further interaction with Abkhazia and South Ossetia in favor of the social-economic development of these republics, protection of rights of the population living there, including the Russian citizens”.

For such a step, Russian government is blaming the Saakashvili administration, “which neglects the capabilities of the existing mechanisms for establishing normal economic relations, solving social problems…”, recently addressed by the Resolution of the UN Security Council (April 15). Moscow is discrediting the present administrations in its ability to protect State’s territorial integrity, in having good relation with its neighbour, in peacefully negotiating. Its aim is to show that Russia has nothing again Georgia in itself (visa restriction to Georgian citizens has being lifted, decisions for a further normalization taken).

Karabakh is not mentioned in this effort to “promote … the stability in Caucasus”, as Lavrov said. But Razim Agaev, an Azeri political analyst, suggests that Russian support to separatism may spread to Karabakh. For sure, whoever plans a colour revolution in Azerbaijan, catching the chance of next presidential elections, must face the probability to loose the Karabakh. Or, at least, to be challenged on it.

In Armenia, the new administration will carry the same politics as the previous one, about the Karabakh issue. Another Karabakhi entered the cabinet, the Minister of Defense. But it is not the national cleavage that the new President wants to pursue. Quite the opposite, after the unpleasant and almost fratricide confrontation between Karabakhis and Armenians in the days of post-election demonstrations, the message about all the matter is just continuity and stability. The main focus of the Government is not the promotion of a micro-ethnicity (like Kosovarism, as a different Albanian identity), but social issues, the only ones that, if dealt successfully, can provide legitimacy and consensus to the four parties coalition government and the President.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Week 7 – 13 April: Armenia, moulding the future

Since the 9th Armenia has officially a new President. The inauguration of Sergh Sargsyan, in the frozen centre of the city, kept far from the general public, marks the end of the long election period in the country, started far before the official electoral campaign, with the militant return in the political arena of Levon Ter Petrosyan, and continued in a stormy way after the day of the vote, 19th February.

Rallies, the eruption of police early morning the 1st of march, clashes, state of emergency, deaths and arrests… were all these events just transient, now that the President is in his place, managed to attach to his government a previously opposition party and enjoys – numerically - the support of almost all the Parliament? Something for sure changed, in not forever, at least for a while. The political crisis is not resolved, with people still kept under arrest and a new law on assembly that – for sure – does not meet international standards. Society is still quite polarized, albeit the radical opposition is probably reduced to a small (but rather motivated) group, and, what’s worse, it is cut outside the legal political confrontation. One of the first enemies of a State-mechanism is the creation of extra-parliamentary fractions. Either they are dismantled with force, and this seems to be the strategy adopted, either their issues and representatives enter the legal State framework.

In the third part of his inauguration speech, Sargsyan stated that he “will fully implement the program”, to turn Armenia in a country (of) “mutual respect, love, tolerance […] dignity […] strong, proud, democratic […] peace, stable development”. So ambitious an aim that he added “Alone, no one can turn Armenia into a country of dreams”. So he summed all part of the society, with two captatio benevolentiae targeted to the Church and the intelligentsija, to “overcome polarization, rough confrontation, and discredit”.

Just a couple of sentences, in the fourth part of the speech, for the “painful events” and the following "wounds". No words to the memory of the deceased... quite surprising, for someone who relies so strictly on the army, not even for those who died performing their duties (at least two, the number of dead is nine, now). And some rather alarming statements: “Unchecked freedom can result in conflict […] the State may interfere with the exercise of certain fundamental rights.” These words are extrapolated from their context, but deserve to be underlined in their un-ambiguous meaning. The turn of the screw could be not so ephemeral.

On the other hand, the first step taken, the choice of the Prime Minister, economically more than politically led, may display a pretty technical approach to the management of the State, a factor that could provide a good context to engage a confrontation, not on principles but on needs, with the opposition in the Parliament and outside it.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Week 31 March – 6 April: A cold spring

NATO&democratization, or just democratization… a cold spring in South Caucasus.

Saakashvili, however triumphantly, came back to Tbilisi from Bucharest without having been able to put his own signature on the MAP agreement. Decision postponed to December, allegedly, with, right now, only an unprecedented declaration about “welcome of Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro Atlantic aspirations”. If it’s just a matter of time, it will take eight months more to realize the so called “geo-political revolution”, as Saakashvili describes it. If not, the strength of not NATO members – Russia in particular - on its politics should be reconsidered. Meanwhile, apparently, fairness and freedom of elections in Georgia are supposed to be two of the requisites to be considered for its accession. Putin contested the relevance of NATO in democratization processes, quoting the case of Ukraine and Estonia.
About elections, the new system of single mandate constituencies is already favouring parties rather than coalitions, as a single party faces less difficulty in expressing a candidature. The Republican Party presented 10 candidates of its list. Time for submission will expire the 21st, and the eight opposition parties have to negotiate on 75 names, plus the proportional list.

Ilham Aliyev joined the Summit in Bucharest as well. Azeri army is in Iraq, and a member of ISAF. But the relations of the country with NATO are on a different level than Georgia’s, and are not likely to change, as long as its links with Russia are so entangling.

Armenia has not relieved yet by the government’s turn of the screw. From many sides, local and international, it was invited not to turn stabilization into repression, to permit an independent investigation on the events of March 1st, to negotiate with the opposition. One option could be, for example, to create a Parliamentary Committee for what happened (art. 73 § 3 Constitution RoA: “If necessary and in conformity with the procedure stipulated in the Law on Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly ad hoc committees may be established for the preliminary review of special draft laws or for submission of conclusions and reports on special issues, events and facts to the National Assembly”). Since the government enjoys an overwhelming majority, and for the Committee to be representative also of the part of opposition which is not sitting in the National Assembly, NGOs or other organizations could be involved in the work of the Committee as amici curiae, a practice already well established in the international legal system.