Monday, August 29, 2011

Week 22-28 August: Elections in Abkhazia

Election results in Abkhazia:
55% to Ankvab, sharp majority at first round, 21% to Sergey Shamba, 20% to Raul Khajimba. These results include the votes of Abkhazians who voted abroad, that is to say in Moscow and in Karachaevo-Circassia.

While few would have bet on the success of Khajimba, many would have had on Shamba. Khajimba was unsuccessful in Presidential Elections 2004 as well, while Shamba gained consensus as Minister of Foreign affaires. As such, he became known and – within the limits of the illegitimacy of his position – somehow popular among representatives of the international community for his moderation. Electoral outputs seem to reflect a sort of disappointment for his grey performance as Prime Minister, a position he covers from February 2010.

The vote puts an end to an electoral campaign which was assessed as competitive and fair, in line with the commitments the candidate agreed on at the end of July, upon the initiative of Khajimba. Still on the elections day, in Sukhumi a certain number of speznas were deployed, as a preventive measure. A pair of episodes unveiled what lies under the surface of fairness and order, rising up the less reassuring face of the “Republic”. Some supporters of Shamba organized an outdoor screening of a video interview with Tengiz Kitovani, in which Ankvab was accused to be a traitor who spied on behalf of Georgia militias during the war 1992-1994. The episode was followed by a close-door meeting which had the scope to prevent political confrontation from escalating, like it had happened in 2004, when Presidential results were close to cause an inner conflict. During the election campaign, Shamba occurred to have had a car accident, and some cast a shadow on this episode as well.

There's no recognition of the institutional role of Ankvab by the international community and by Tbilisi, where elections in Abkhazia are obviously considered illegitimate. It is interesting, on the other hand, to give the floor to the newly-elected President on his relationship with the State of Georgia, and the negotiations that affect them, as he himself described them in the interview “Abkhazia needs German order and billions of roubles” ( "I will not tie our relations with Georgia to the fact that Mikhail Saakashvili may or may not step down from Presidency. What is important is the policy that the State will express. We are even now ready to sign with Georgia a peace, a non use force agreement. This is our main task, to live in peace, in a good neighborhood. We don’t have aggressive plans and we are committed to somehow ensure a safe and normal life to our citizens, first of all to those who live in the border district of Gali. [...] What contacts do we have with Georgia? Our team had just returned from the Geneva session, and I'm not here to say that we have moved in some direction, but there is a dialogue. Geneva is important for us, because it is the square from which we turn to the outside world. It might be an ineffective way out, but it's a place where we can express our opinions. "

Full Article, "Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso",

Monday, August 22, 2011

Week 15-21 August: A question of time

It's time to celebrate anniversaries... from now on till the end of the year, the 20th birthday of the the Soviet dis-Union will be remembered. August is the month of the so called failed coup in Moscow. Then most post Soviet States will mark their independence day.
With one eye turned to the past, the other one should be turned to the future. Is it possible?

Both eyes are wide open in Sukhumi, where the first post independence+partial recognition President is going to be elected. An episode of defamation (?) has been played against Ankvab which poisoned to a certain extent the pre-election period. Allegedly, a document made public accuses him to have been spying for Tbilisi during the war in the early 90ies. Meanwhile Shamba had a minor car accident.
So far it seems that no one can make at the first round. But it's just a question of time to check if polls really mirror voters' preferences. Elections are scheduled for the 26th.
Apart from pre-election dirty tricks, the transfer of power (or legitimation of the present ruling elite) will most probably be peaceful.

Going back to the memories of the last two decades, no cases of peaceful transfer of power were recorded in Georgia as universally recognized. And the bad trend is not improving. Again now, polarization prevails. Ex parliamentary Speaker, now opposition figure, Nino Burjanadze's husband has been sentenced to five years and six months in jail. The verdict of a Court always deserves respect. Still, whatever, however, whenever, whoever, personal confrontation seems always to be on the A list in Tbilisi.

In Yerevan the 5th round of the (somehow self declared) official opposition and the authorities took place. The opposition is taking distance from the most extremist fringes of its own base, now that it's sitting with the majority, and that it's clear that no spring revolution will take place in Armenia, and not just because it's August. Unless the crisis really strikes badly after the hot summer everybody is experiencing.
Dialogue should always be welcomed, but as the Armenian National Congress has built its present identity as an alternative to Sargsyan's power, will it be able to deliver a message of consistency? Isn't it locked in negotiations, now?

A question of time for Azerbaijan, as well.
During the Global Policy Forum, Yaroslavl 7-8 Sept, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Turkish President Abdullah Gül planned to dedicate some time to the discussion of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. The topic, hot on the agenda of the former, has definitely a regional dimension, but for Baku has a very special domestic one, as well.
No one expects big surprise by any meeting any more. But, who knows, it may be a question of time.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

Week 1-7 August: Who's who?

Or who's WTO?
Georgia is, Russia not, Swiss mediates.

Three years passed since war erupted in Tskhinvali district and invasion started in western Georgia.
Then recognition, political stalemate and so far incompatible solutions, proposed by Georgia and Russia:
- Non use of force vs recognition (how to write a non use of force agreement with authorities who are not recognized as legitimate?);
- Returnees vs security (and demography...);
- Political will vs propaganda (and domestic consensus);
- Internationalization vs "spheres of influence";
And so on and on and on.
So may the Geneva Discussions last forever, and so EUMM?

Apparently yes.
What cannot last forever is the process of access to WTO. And Russia is waiting. WTO is waiting. And none of them likes to be kept waiting.
One obstacle was the Russia-Bielorus'-Kazakhstan agreement. But it seems not to be an issue any longer.
The other obstacle is Georgia's possible veto. In view of the international recognition of its border, it's a legitimate claim.
And, unless this will have the counter-effect to push more states towards recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which doesn't happen to be the case, it puts Georgia in the position to be the one who can tip the scale.

Medvedev, interviewed on the 5th talked mildly but firmly about this issue:
"Georgia has a position on Russia’s WTO accession. We respect that position as we respect the stance of any other sovereign state, as long as that position is in line with the goals set out in the WTO’s charter. Trade, trade preferences, customs regimes… we are ready to discuss it all. The imports of wine and mineral water? We will discuss anything. But the problem is something else. In essence, our colleagues in Georgia are trying to force on us a new edition of the political problem under the guise of WTO accession. I am referring to entry points, control over the traffic of goods, then they will want to get the EU involved… Our position on this is clear: if you want information about the traffic of goods, including transit through Abkhazia and South Ossetia, we will provide it via a modern electronic database. I have agreed to the suggestions made by the Swiss president regarding this and I recently discussed it with President Obama. We are ready to implement the model that Switzerland has proposed to us. However, if they try to change current political realities, serving it as a prerequisite for Russia’s WTO accession, we will not fall for it. WTO accession is not too high a price to pay here."
(full interview

Three rounds of negotiation took place in Switzerland.
A conciliatory result there could open the floor to more flexible positions in other fields.
Three years, no humanitarian issues measure agreed.
Whatever may shake this condition, should be welcome.

No shakes are welcome, on the contrary, between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Three violations of ceasefire claimed by Azerbaijan in three days. Disturbing allegations of a toy bomb targeted against children.
So, in the end, who's doing what?
Without a neutral monitor, it's hard to assess.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Week 25-31 July: Do ut des

There's always at least one reason why things are the way they are.
And the reason is quite seldom a matter of principle.

Let's start with the meeting of Ilia II and Kirill. The Moscow Patriarcate is not recognizing the scism of the Sukhumi and Tskhinvali ones. Still, it's not ignoring the issue.
But if Sukhumi and Tskhinvali would ever be recognized as independent State churches, this would trigger Georgian recognition of the Ukrainian church.
So, not recognition in exchange of not recognition. Fair enough, someone would say.

And talking about Sukhumi: it's a hot August, for politics.
Elections are approaching and the three candidates - Sergey Shamba, Raul Khadjimba, Alexander Ankvab - have signed a charter for free and fair elections. The charter was proposed by the Forum for the Popular Union of Abkhazia, whose candidate is Khadjimba, in exchange of? Well, visibility, consensus... usual patterns in electoral campaign.
A gentlemen agreement to refrain from bad propaganda of to be stick to the best possible fair play would have been more elegant, probably... and less ambiguous as an assessment or a hint of the potential quality of elections, by the way.
The three tandems (presidential candidate+his vice president) are: Sergey Shamba+Shamil Adzimba; Alexander Ankvab+Mikhail Logua; Raul Khadjimba+Svetlana Dzhrgenija Ardzimba.
One woman, in exchange of her surname, being the widow of the first de facto President.

In Armenia, as well, rumours about elections are intensifying. And thus, elections or not, preparations are ongoing.
President Sargsyan may concede early parliamentary elections in exchange of what?
A democratic trump card (I called elections when asked, I made them be free and fair) to play during presidential elections campaign?
A shared responsibility- assuming that more opposition members might win parliamentary seats - in case of "phase 2" of Nagorno Karabakh talks?

But is there going to be a "phase 2" in Nagorno Karabakh talks?
Is it a card that Medvedev is considering to play for his presidential campaign? (Look: I am the man who solves decades-protracted conflicts, with force, when needed, with diplomacy, when possible)?

Nothing happens by chance.