23 October 2017, 09:00
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of October 16-22
Municipal elections in Georgia; negotiations between the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia; death of Armenian philanthropist Levon Airapetyan in a Russian penal colony, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of October 16-22, 2017, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".
In Georgia, municipal elections end with victory of ruling party
On October 21, Georgia held the elections of heads for 64 cities and districts, as well as 2058 members of 64 Sakrebulos (city councils). According to the preliminary information, former Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze was elected the Mayor of Tbilisi, and four parties, including the "United National Movement" (UNM) Party with 17.65% of the votes, the "European Georgia" with 9.2%, and the "Alliance of Patriots" Party with 5. 63%, got seats in the Tbilisi city council. A member of the ruling "Georgian Dream" Party has been also elected the Mayor of Batumi. Kutaisi is likely to hold the second round, since the candidate from the ruling party does not get the necessary 50% of the votes. Members of the "Georgian Dream" Party also became the leaders at the elections of mayors and members of the Sakrebulos in the regions, noted the Central Election Commission (CEC).
The "United National Movement" Party complained about violations: in particular, about "carousels" in Tbilisi. A supporter of the "European Georgia" Party claimed being beaten at a polling station in the village of Kvemo Sarali in the Marneuli District. The "European Georgia" Party treated the complaints filed by opposition observers as an attempt to influence voters.
The authorities announced an "unprecedentedly calm" pre-election campaign. However, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) registered cases of intimidation of oppositionists and dismissals for political reasons.
Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia hold talks in Geneva
On October 16, at a meeting in Geneva, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev and Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan agreed to take additional steps to reduce tension along the contact line of the troops and intensify the talks on Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijani political analysts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent expressed their scepticism about the results of the talks. Togrul Djuvarly, a member of the Azerbaijani National Public Committee for European Integration, believes "the imitation of the peace process will go on." Armenian political analysts also noted the lack of progress in the negotiations. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) for Nagorno-Karabakh stated the need for the unrecognized republic to take part in the negotiations.
Georgian President signs new Constitution
On October 19, the President of Georgia signed the Draft Constitution adopted by MPs on October 13 despite the veto imposed on it by the state leader. Giorgi Margvelashvili explained he signed the Draft Constitution adopted by the MPs to prevent destabilization. In case if Giorgi Margvelashvili refused to sign the Draft Constitution, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze could sign it. The adopted amendments to the Constitution imply the country's transition to a parliamentary system of government and abolish direct presidential election.
In Krasnodar, Court dismisses Ruslan Gvashev's complaint about being fined for praying at Tulip Tree
On October 16, the Krasnodar Territorial Court upheld the fine imposed on Ruslan Gvashev, a 67-year-old former head of the Circassian Shapsug Council of Elders, for a prayer at the Tulip Tree on the Adyg Memorial Day. The police treated the prayer as an unsanctioned action. Ruslan Gvashev fights for the right to national traditions. He states the Tulip Tree is a place of worship, and the Adyg Memorial Day to pay tribute to the Adygs who suffered during the Caucasian War is a ritual event not to be sanctioned under the law. Starting from October 5, Ruslan Gvashev is stopping his hunger strike declared in protest against the court's decision on his fine. The activist intends to continue the struggle for his rights. The Ruslan Gvashev's advocate has announced the intention to file an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
Armenian philanthropist Levon Airapetyan dies in a Russian penal colony
On October 18, businessman and philanthropist Levon Airapetyan, who funded charitable programmes in Nagorno-Karabakh, died in a penal colony in Mordovia. The Russian court found him guilty of embezzling 700,000 US dollars from the mother of former senator Igor Izmestiev. An advocate of the businessman stated that Levon Airapetyan was seriously ill and should not have been imprisoned. However, the Supreme Court (SC) of Mordovia recognized the imprisonment as justified. Levon Airapetyan was buried in Moscow on October 21. More than 1000 people came to the funeral service. On October 20, in Stepanakert, students held a funeral procession in memory of the philanthropist. On October 21, a mourning rally in memory of Levon Airapetyan was held by residents of the Vank village in the Martakert District. More than 500 people attended the mourning events.
ECtHR recognizes violation of Said Amirov's rights
On October 17, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) recognized the violation of the rights of Said Amirov, sentenced to life imprisonment, and obliged the Russian authorities to pay him 8000 euros. The decision pronounced by the Strasbourg Court allows the defence to raise the question on the release of the former Makhachkala Mayor, reported Vladimir Postanyuk, an advocate of Said Amirov. He has explained that the ECtHR recognized as grounded the complaint of the advocates who stated that a person with serious illnesses Said Amirov became a wheelchair user after an attempt on him on April 3, 1993, could not be kept in a penal colony. Meanwhile, according to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) of the Russian Federation, the ECtHR dismissed the Said Amirov's complaint regarding improper medical treatment in the penal colony.