Monday, March 26, 2012

Week 19-25 March: What springs in spring

A warm, not really hot, weekend in Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
And it's not because of the blooming spring. It was the weekend of contemporary elections. Albeit for different reasons.

In South Ossetia, although this time the vote was considered legitimate, no new president's name sprang from the ballots. It should be remember that it's since November that South Ossetia is trying to elect its president.
Head of the delegation of the Russian Public Chamber Maxim Grigoryev, while monitoring the process, assessed that the elections passed in the calm atmosphere.

Well, it would be surprising if five months after the mobilitation, with their first preference ignored, the few people who live in South Ossetia would still feel excited about the vote.
Anyway, no candidate reached the 50%+1, so there's going to be a runoff between the most voted two: Leonid Tibilov (42.48%) and David Sanakoyev (24.58%). The first one has a KGB background, the second a Human Rights one.

Still, it's hardly predictable that it would make any difference who, on the 7th or 8th of April, will eventually become the president.
This second round should be considered the peak of lowering expectations for South Ossetian political life.
Moreover, none of the two was suggesting something really shaking. Just Stanislav Kochiyev, the leader of the South Ossetian Communist Party, had in his program the re-unification with North Ossetia (which means annexation to Russia) but he scored just 5.26%.

At least, this sounds like a reasonable projection: so called independence twinned by a growing dependence from Russia.
But it's just a projection. After such troubled elections, it's hazardous to make forecasts.
So was hard to forecast the bad performance of political parties in Abkhazia.

Electors gave preference to independent candidates [11/13] in the first round, and confirmed the trend [15/20] in the second.
Being independent doesn't necessary mean being anti-government. So, it's not necessary a vote of protest. But it's definitely a sign that political parties in the region cannot rely on a stable, loyal electoral base.
A bad spring surprise for local parties.

A good confirmation, not as an unpredictable surprise, came from Armenia.
After some speculations, it's official: Armenian delegation will participate in the work of Euronest plenary session to be held in Baku on April 1-4.
Since Armenia withdrew its participation from Eurovision, some members of the delegation started to voice their concerns about security warrants.
So, through EU mediation, a little step has been taken, and Armenian politicians will visit a hopefully warm, spring Baku.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Week 5-11 March: Return to sub-normality

The upside-down world of South Caucasus goes on its way.
Especially during electoral periods.

In South Ossetia the main characters of November elections disappeared. In two week time elections will be held again, but without Alla Dzhoeva, who's been hospitalized after her head quarter was raided, and without her main contender, Mr. Bibilov who withdrew as well.
So the present aspirants, in the end of a troubled political campaign which basically lasted 6 months, are Ambassador to Russia Dmitry Medoyev, Ombudsman David Sanakoyev, former State Security Committee Chairman Leonid Tibilov, South Ossetian Communist Party leader Stanislav Kochiyev, Apparently the second enjoys more chances to be elected. Or, as it seems to be the case, to be the second best.
On the 25th it will became clear who's the new President. What's clear already now is how miserable the whole electoral process has been. And so are the "State" institutions, so blatantly used for political/clan needs.

It's rather a sub-normal electoral period of Abkhazia, also.
Early presidential elections, followed by Russian parliamentary elections, followed by Russian presidential elections, and, on Sunday, Abkhazian parliamentary elections. Due to the double citizenship, many residents in Abkhazia spent a considerable amount of time voting, in 2011-2012. Not surprising the voter turn-out is not so high, this time.
And there's going to be a second round, as not all candidate managed to collect the necessary 50% preferences and/or the voters' turn-out didn't meet the electoral provision. To the ballots again...

And back to sub-normality between Georgia&Russia / Azerbaijan&Armenia.
A deadlock on the visa-diplomatic relations in the west of Caucasus, no Eurovision contest in the East.
Not doors, but just small windows of communication and people to people contacts might open. But so far this option is denied.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili found unacceptable the preconditions to reciprocate the lifting of visa between Russia and Georgia and Armenian singers are requested not to go to Baku.

Different issues, same output. After a slight chance of un-freeze the situation, we are all pushed back to sub-normality.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Week 27 Feb.- 4 Mar.: Something new

It's not yet springtime, but already something new is in the air.
Not everywhere, thou.

On the Karabakhi-Azerbaijan contact line the exchange of fire has become an unpleasant evergreen. The only thing that seems to give it a break is the presence of the Minsk Group directly there. Usually, when some OSCE staff is there, there's not report of violations. A coincidence that underlines the urgent need to arrange some kind of - as low profile as possible - permanent monitoring. Or at least a couple of patrols of quick reaction monitoring.
So far, it's still a deep, cold and dark winter over there...

On the opposite, in western Caucasus a new interesting proposal sprang.
On the 25th January the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev declared Russia ready to restore diplomatic relations with Georgia.
There were remarks from Tbilisi and for the time being the thing didn't sound very promising at all.

Unexpectedly, again from the level of the presidency, a counter move from Tbilisi arrived, not in the form of a invitation, but as a concrete proposal: to lift visa rules towards all Russian citizens. There's already in force a favourable regime of visa for North Caucasians. And if this very liberal system wouldn't crash against new possible rules of restrictions of crossing - let's say, for security/anti-terrorism, or whatever -, it would mark a very positive development. Apparently, today there was a shooting close to Ganmukhuri. Let's wait for EUMM assessment about that (where there's a monitoring structure...)

It's just the beginning of March, perhaps it's too early for springtime first fruits.
And so the counter-suggestion of Moscow, to ease the law on occupied territories, turned a very pragmatical proposal in a political issue which may block the entire process.
Now the debate is around the unwelcome preconditions of the lifting, which means that the question has already moved to another level. Let's see if the twist is reversible.

But, whatever, there's something new on the list.