Last week in the South Caucasus (April 1-7)
Author: Alexei Vlasov, exclusively to VK
In Armenia, the beginning of April was marked by a new round of tensions between Serzh Sargsyan and the opposition. The tone was again set by Raffi Hovannisian, who, after a pause during the second half of March, again chose aggressive and offensive rhetoric. So, during the meeting with his supporters, Hovhannisyan proposed another ultimatum to the authorities of the country. "We have eight days so that the authorities decide whether they want to follow the path of national unity or not," the leader of the "Heritage" said, adding that he was ready to sacrifice his life to achieve "national unity." Is this PR or the first step in the escalation of internal political conflict?
8 days were not mentioned by accident. On April 9 on Freedom Square the opposition plans to hold a mass protest, which should result in the expulsion of the "dirty power." "We must be together, parties, civil unions, those who say that they are with the people shall be at the square on April 9,” Hovhannisyan said.
Sargsyan’s entourage outwardly calmly responds to the attacks of the main (for now) political opponent. But local experts rightly draw attention to the features of the Armenian policy, when the slightest spark could be enough for a large-scale fire breaking out.
Meanwhile, the situation around the upcoming elections to the Council of Elders is becoming more acute. "If the opposition parties have decided to participate in the forthcoming elections to the Council of Elders as a united front, they could get 55% of the vote," the director of the analytical center "Sociometer" Aharon Adibekyan said last week to journalists presenting results of a survey conducted among the residents of Yerevan.
The findings do not correlate well with the data presented by Armenian sociologists. So far, the balance of power in the upcoming elections clearly is in favor of incumbent Mayor Taron Margaryan, who heads the list of the Republican Party. 36.5% of the respondents would vote for the mayor. As for Oskanian, who heads the list of "Prosperous Armenia", 3.8% of the residents surveyed are ready to vote for him. 22.1% of respondents are still hesitany.
The fight for the votes of hesitating residents of the Armenian capital is going to be hot, but the overall balance of power is not likely to be influenced by this. Probably, the opposition will not be able to complete the process of consolidation in the remaining time before the vote. Once again, the stumbling block would be "compromising" the position of "Prosperous Armenia" and Gagik Tsarukyan. The main oligarch of Armenia is unlikely to make risky bets and burn bridges. This means that the victory of Margaryan may be more persuasive than is predicted by opposition media.
Meanwhile, Georgia's new authorities are engaged in issues related to the president of the country, who could soon be under threat of prosecution. Chief Prosecutor of Georgia Archil Kbilashvili said that during the investigation of a criminal case there is the awareness or involvement in the crime of the President of Georgia, and he did not rule out that the investigation may interrogate Mikheil Saakashvili, if it deems it appropriate.
However, the Georgian President is experiencing psychological pressure not only through the Attorney General, but also through more subtle tools. Last week, there was information that Saakashvili will not attend the military parade on the occasion of Independence Day. The reasoning is remarkable in itself - now the parade will be attended by "the people." This decision was figuratively expressed by the head of the parliamentary defense committee, a representative of the ruling "Georgian Dream" coalition, Irakli Sesiashvili. "The parade will be taken by the people of Georgia, and it should always be so," the deputy said.
Saakashvili's supporters are also trying to mobilize their supporters, carrying out massive retaliatory action. An important historic date is approaching - April 9, the anniversary of the tragic events in Tbilisi. The main task of the supporters of the President of Georgia, according to Vano Merabishvili, is to stop the pro-Russian course of "Georgian Dream". The organizers plan to gather about 60-80 thousand people at a rally.
Meanwhile, in the focus of Georgian lawmakers there was the issue of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgian State Minister for Reintegration Paata Zakareishvili told reporters that the country's parliament plans to soften the law "On occupied territories." It is about a flexible system of penalties to be paid by those who first visited South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Amendments to be made to the law do not remove the responsibility for violation of the border, but in the first case of trespassing it is intended to introduce a fine of 400 GEL, and only in the case of repeated violations will the detainee be criminally liable to imprisonment for a term from two to four years .
However, lawmakers have postponed the discussion of amendments to the draft law "On occupied territories" for another week. Some of the provisions to be included in the new version of the bill raise questions about the deputies of the ruling coalition. At the same time, local experts say that the initiative of "Georgian Dream" is largely symbolic.
Another intrigue in the past week is due to a global scandal, namely the leaking of information about the multi-billion dollar offshore accounts owned by current and retired politicians from India, Pakistan, Georgia, the Philippines and other countries. This information can be much more dangerous than the famous publication "Wikileaks". Information on the secret accounts of Ivanishvili is widely commented on in social networks, though it seems that the leader of "Georgian Dream" has a polished version of explaining the origin of the funds. However, this is a case where, as they say, a residue will remain in any case.
Azerbaijan continues a tactical struggle over the upcoming presidential elections in the autumn. The desire of European structures through a variety of tools to influence the relationship between the Azerbaijani government and the opposition is becoming increasingly evident. As in Russia, the theme of the non-governmental sector financed from outside the country does not leave the pages of the local press.
One of the leaders of the Presidential Administration, Ali Hasanov, made a statement about possible dialogue between the government and the opposition. "In the pre-election period we will hold a series of meetings: we are ready to discuss with the opposition the concerns of all parties," he said in an interview to reporters. At the same time, Hasanov said that Baku will not tolerate interference in the electoral process from the outside: "Everyone should understand that the election results will be determined by the voters, the people of Azerbaijan, and not the different centers of power." It probably is not just about the EU, but also other key players closely monitoring the progress of the campaign of 2013. Yet relations with Brussels in the near future may be subject to the most serious revision, up to limiting the status of observers from the OSCE. To sum up the statements by Azerbaijani officials, it is straightforward - Azerbaijan gives Europe much more than it gets in return. It is not only about the upcoming elections, but, above all, the participation of the EU in resolving the Karabakh conflict.