16 April 2018, 09:05
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of April 9-15, 2018
Voting at the presidential election in Azerbaijan; protests in Armenia against the nomination of Serzh Sargsyan as Prime Minister; Freedom House's criticism of the democracy level in Russia and the countries of Southern Caucasus; spontaneous rally in Nalchik with the demand to punish killers of taxi driver; actions of animal rights defenders in Southern Russia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of April 9-15, 2018, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".
Ilham Aliev wins presidential election in Azerbaijan
On April 11, in Azerbaijan, a voting took place at the early presidential election. According to the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Azerbaijan, acting President Ilham Aliev gained 86.3% of the votes. Ilham Aliev, whose victory no one doubted, will rule Azerbaijan until 2025. This is his fourth term of office. The opposition called the election illegitimate citing violations committed during the voting, and also questioned the legality of the very appointment of the early election. On April 12, delegates of the OSCE and PACE reported severe restrictions on the opposition and violations committed during the presidential election in Azerbaijan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the administration of the President of Azerbaijan accused observers of biased attitude.
On April 14, about 1500 people came to the rally against the results of the presidential election in Azerbaijan. In their hands, they were holding posters with the slogans reading: "I did not choose you", "Take your hands out of our pockets!", as well as portraits of political prisoners and flags of Azerbaijan and the EU. The protest action was organized by the National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF), the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA) and the "Musavat" Party and was sanctioned by the city authorities. Participants of the rally demanded to cancel the results of the early presidential election in Azerbaijan and create conditions for holding free election.
In Armenia, nomination of Serzh Sargsyan as Prime Minister provokes protest actions
On April 9, the inauguration of new Armenian President Armen Sargsyan took place in Yerevan. On the same day, acting Armenian Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan announced that former President Serzh Sargsyan would be nominated to be the Prime Minister. The announcement provoked protests of opposition-minded activists. In accordance with the constitutional reform, the Prime Minister to be elected by the Parliament on April 17 will become the first person in Armenia. Earlier, Armenian political analysts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot" have voiced the opinion that the transfer of the control over the police and the special services to the head of the Cabinet of Ministers testifies that Serzh Sargsyan will retain his unlimited power in the country. It is the above anticipation which provoked the mass protests.
On April 14, participants of the meeting of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) unanimously supported the nomination of Serzh Sargsyan for the position of the Prime Minister. After that, at least 5000 people took part in the rally against the nomination of Serzh Sargsyan. Some protestors entered a building of the Public Radio of Armenia and demanded to provide them with the opportunity to make a statement on the air. Guards did not use force, and the building was de-energized. On the air of other media, Nikol Pashinyan, the leader of the "Civil Contract" Party, appealed to citizens of the country with an appeal to come to the streets and join the protest. After the rally, about 1000 of its participants stayed for a long time in France Square, and about 200 activists set up tents to spend a night in the square. When commenting on those protest actions, the political analysts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot" have predicted that the opposition is unlikely to be able to mobilize the society to fight to achieve its goal.
Freedom House reports low level of democracy in Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia
On April 11, the international human rights organization Freedom House published its report entitled "Nations in Transit-2018", devoted to estimation of the democracy level in the countries of the former socialist camp in 2017. In the report prepared by the Freedom House, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia got the worst points since 2009, and for Georgia, the report noted that the estimation of the democracy level in the country decreased by seven points at once in comparison with the previous year and reached the level of 2014. The rights defenders noted the pressure on the media and courts in Georgia and claimed systemic corruption in Armenia. Azerbaijan was included in the category of "consolidated authoritarian regimes", and for Russia, the report particularly pointed to the persecution of gays in Chechnya. The Georgian authorities sharply criticized the report prepared by the Freedom House and voiced their disagreement with the statement about a significant decline in the level of democracy in the country. The Armenian Minister of Justice accused the rights defenders of biased attitude for their estimation of the results of the Serzh Sargsyan's rule and his plans to remain in power.
At a spontaneous rally, residents of Kabardino-Balkaria demand to punish killers of their fellow countryman
On April 12, Nalchik hosted a spontaneous rally in connection with the resonant murder of Khusey Makitov, a resident of the Elbrus village. The man was killed on April 6. Two law enforcers seconded to the republic were detained on suspicion of killing Khusey Makitov. According to local residents, Khusey Makitov refused to take the law enforcers to Terskol, and a conflict arose between them. On April 9, a source from the law enforcement forces reported that the suspects had been arrested and the case had been handed over to military investigators. The rally participants decided to appeal to the General Prosecutor's Office with a request to take control over the investigation into the case. A gathering was held after a large-scale resonance had occurred in social networks, which users had expressed their indignation about the crime and demanded a severe punishment for the guilty persons. The rally participants created an initiative group to entrust its members to monitor the investigation into the murder of Khusey Makitov. The members of the initiative group are informed by agents of the republic's leaders that the investigation into the case is under control of the administrations of the Russian President and of the leader of Kabardino-Balkaria. It should be noted that on the eve of the rally, Zaurbek Makitov, a brother of the killed man, recorded an audio appeal, in which on behalf of the family he had called on people not to hold any mass events. However, activists do not exclude that relatives of the killed man were subjected to pressure.
In Southern Russia, animal rights defenders hold rallies with demand to adopt Law "On responsible treatment of animals"
In the regions of Southern Russia, activists joined the All-Russian campaign of animal rights defenders, which was held on April 14. Participants of the rallies in Rostov-on-Don and Sochi demanded to adopt a law banning the killing of neglected animals. In Krasnodar, the same demand was voiced during the march of local animal rights defenders. According to the protesters, it is a law which will help to form the right attitude to animals, cardinally solve the problem of homeless animals and prohibit all types of inhumane treatment. It should be noted that earlier, animal rights defenders have accused the authorities of Kuban, the Rostov and Volgograd Regions of mass killings of stray dogs on the eve of the FIFA World Cup, matches of which will be held in 2018, including in Southern Russia.