Strategic Analysis Caucasus Brief
Bi-weekly review (24. 1. – 07. 2. 2021)
Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin, Armenia. Photo: Ruzanna/ Shutterstock.com
Robert Kocharyan announced his intention to compete in the early parliamentary elections
Ex-president of Armenia Robert Kocharyan said on January 27 that he would take part in the early parliamentary elections whenever they take place.
„I think it’s right to participate. Otherwise, we will give these people in power the opportunity to reinstall it. I understand all the problems associated with this issue, the likelihood of falsifications, doubts about legitimacy. But I still don’t think it is right to leave these people alone with the public. Therefore, yes, we will take part and win. We will fight and win,“ cited Arka.am Kocharyan’s words.
The ex-president added he would prefer that an interim government be established before elections are held — as the country’s opposition is currently demanding. Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan declined such request but said he was ready to step down to pave the way for early elections without forming an interim government.
Kocharyan, who served as a president from 1998 to 2008, is currently on trial in Yerevan, charged with “overthrowing the constitutional order” for his role in a deadly post-election protest crackdown in March 2008 that left ten dead.
As OC-Media reminds, in addition to the incumbent, Nikol Pashinyan, there are three prominent political figures in Armenia gunning for the country’s top spot. Edmon Marukyan, a former ally of Pashinyan and leader of the Bright Armenia party; Armenia’s first post-soviet Prime Minister, Vazgen Manukyan; and Robert Kocharyan.
- OC-Media, „Robert Kocharyan: ‘We will win Armenia’s next election’“, https://oc-media.org/robert-kocharyan-we-will-win-armenias-next-election/
- Arka.am, „Armenia’s ex-president Kocharyan unveils intention to compete in early parliamentary election“, http://arka.am/en/news/politics/armenia_s_ex_president_kocharyan_unveils_intention_to_compete_in_early_parliamentary_election/
For additional information, see:
- Eurasianet.org, „Explainer: Why Armenia’s ex-president is on trial“, https://eurasianet.org/explainer-why-armenias-ex-president-is-on-trial
Karabakh politician arrested after calls for Pashinyan’s death
Vahan Badasyan, the „United Armenia“ Karabakh Party leader, has been accused of calling to murder Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan.
As Caucasian Knot informs, on January 28, the Day of Armenian Army, Vahan Badasyan was in the „Yerablur“ Military Pantheon in Yerevan, where he told reporters that „Nikol Pashinyan must be eliminated.“
„Pashinyan must be eliminated not only because he is a symbol of defeat, but also an enemy. It is necessary to eliminate it, including by physical liquidation by means employing weapons. And from today, I start preparing this,“ Badasyan has stated.
Badasyan ran for the presidency of Nagorno-Karabakh in the election in March 2020, paradoxically as the main Pashinyan’s ally in Karabakh. However, his party „United Armenia“did not make it through the threshold to get to the parliament, and he did not succeed in the presidential race either. Last autumn, he took part in the Karabakh war and was wounded in the head.
- Caucasian Knot, „Vahan Badasyan arrested in Yerevan“, https://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/53534/
Violence against journalists on the rise in Armenia
A steep rise in the number of cases when the force had been used against journalists and media had experienced pressure from the authorities, was documented in Armenia in 2020. Such are results of the investigation conducted by the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression.
Given development occurred on the martial law background declared in the autumn of 2020 due to the war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karabakh and restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus infection.
In 2020, 273 cases of violation of the rights of journalists were registered in Armenia. Six of them were cases of physical violence, in which 11 media workers were injured, reported Ashot Melikyan, the chairman of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression (CPFE). Furthermore, the human rights defenders detected 177 cases of pressure on the media and 90 cases of violation of the right to receive and disseminate information, writes the Caucasian knot.
The past year was alarming also in terms of court cases held against media and journalists. In total, 72 such cases were registered. According to Ashot Melikyan, some of the above cases concern insult and defamation.
- Caucasian Knot, „Human rights defenders: violence against journalists increases in Armenia“, https://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/53494/?fbclid=IwAR1MiLIRF4ELYqywChCWtFVCBQcYgkSeUg37FA06ikDSxzy2FV1-p_0mBEU
For additional information see:
- Caucasian knot, „Armenian journalists point to specifics of the emergency state due to coronavirus“, https://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/50371/
Russian-Turkish joint military centre begins monitoring in Azerbaijan
A joint Turkish and Russian centre to monitor a ceasefire agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia has become formally operational in the Merzilli village of the Aghdam region, Azerbaijan on January 30.
Azerbaijani Defence Minister Zakir Hasanov, Turkey’s Deputy Minister of National Defence Yunus Emre Karaosmanoglu, and Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin were in attendance of the opening ceremony of the centre, where 60 Turkish and 60 Russian troops would be on duty.
Colonel General Zakir Hasanov, the Minister of Defense of the Republic of Azerbaijan, said at the ceremony that the activity of the Centre would provide its contribution to the establishment of long-lasting peace and security in the region: „We are also sure that friendship and working relations will be set among our Turkish and Russian counterparts in the Centre. I congratulate Turkish and Russian military servicemen on the occasion of opening the Joint Monitoring Center on Ceasefire Control, wish them successes in their service combat activities.“
As Eurasianet notes, official information about the centre’s precise mission is scarce. But according to a dispatch from the centre in the Russian newspaper Izvestiya, the primary mission appears to be a base for surveillance drones to monitor the new ceasefire lines between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. The Russian troops use Orlan-10 and Forpost drones; the Turks use Bayraktars. The intelligence is used to support the nearly 2,000-strong Russian peacekeeping contingent that operates on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh that Armenian forces are still controlling.
- Kucera Joshua, „Russia and Turkey open joint military centre in Azerbaijan“, https://eurasianet.org/russia-and-turkey-open-joint-military-center-in-azerbaijan
- Trtworld.com, „Joint Turkey-Russia centre begins monitoring Karabakh truce“, https://www.trtworld.com/asia/joint-turkey-russia-centre-begins-monitoring-karabakh-truce-43736
The Georgian Parliament did not terminate the mandate of 51 opposition MPs
The parliamentary majority abstained from revoking the mandates of opposition MPs that retained their parliamentary seats in a protest against allegedly manipulated parliamentary elections. This decision was widely acclaimed by western diplomats.
The deputies voted separately for the termination of the powers of each one of opposition MPs, with none of the ruling party Georgian Dream supporting such move.
Before the vote, Georgian Dream Chairperson Irakli Kobakhidze announced the party had decided to refrain from terminating the opposition MP mandates. He argued the decision would allow the lawmakers another chance to „respect their voters‘ will.“
EU Ambassador to Georgia Carl Hartzell told media that given decision by the ruling party was a right step to take. „There are possibilities to find an agreement that will allow for overall-based participation in the Parliament. I find this the only good outcome of the current crisis. Everything else, I think, will be a lose-lose situation, or a lose-lose-lose situation, because it will be a loss for the ruling party, it will be a loss for the opposition, and most importantly, the loss for the Georgian population“, cited ambassador Georgian agency Interpressnews.
As Civil.ge reminds, of the 51 opposition MPs that retained their parliamentary seats, 36 were elected through the proportional list of the United National Movement-led Strength in Unity Bloc, 5 through the European Georgia, 4 through Lelo, 4 through the Strategy Aghmashenebeli bloc, 1 through the Labor party and 1 through Girchi.
As per the October 31, 2020, parliamentary election results, 60 opposition MPs were elected to the legislature. Besides the 51 MPs participating in the boycott of the Parliament, six opposition lawmakers already took up their mandates, while the remaining three Girchi MPs so far have neither requested revocation nor decided on entering the legislature.
- Civil.ge, „Parliament Abstains From Revoking Opposition Mandates“, https://civil.ge/archives/395060
- Interpressnews, „Carl Hartzell: The decision that was taken by the Parliament yesterday not to revoke the mandates was a right step to take“, https://www.interpressnews.ge/en/article/111563-carl-hartzell-the-decision-that-was-taken-by-the-parliament-yesterday-not-to-revoke-the-mandates-was-a-right-step-to-take/
- 1tv.ge, „Parliamentary majority abstains opposition mandate revocation“, https://1tv.ge/en/news/parliamentary-majority-abstains-opposition-mandate-revocation/
- Report.ge, „Parliament did not terminate the mandate of 51 opposition MPs“, https://report.ge/en/politics/parliament-did-not-terminate-mandate-of-51-opposition-mps/
Imedi TV to change the owner
On January 28, 2021, the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) approved LLC Georgian Media Production Group’s request to sell the shares of the Imedi TV, the largest national broadcaster that maintains a firm pro-government editorial policy.
Current owner applied to the Commission on January 20, requesting consent to fully transfer the company’s shares to Hunnewell Partners, which is co-owned by Irakli Rukhadze, a business partner of ruling Georgian Dream party’s former Chairman Bidzina Ivanishvili.
The Georgian Media Production Group was owned by Ina Gudavadze, the widow of oligarch Badri Patarkatsishvili who founded TV channel Imedi in 2003. The family regained control over Imedi TV – which it had lost in late 2007 – when the owners, who had close links to the outgoing United National Movement government, returned the station a few days after the 2012 parliamentary elections that brought the Georgian Dream coalition to power.
- Caucasus Watch, „Georgian Imedi TV to change ownership“, https://caucasuswatch.de/news/3499.html
- Civil.ge, „Imedi TV to Change Owners“, https://civil.ge/archives/394153