International election observation mission (Georgia)

Civil Georgia, UK
March 30 2004

Repeat Parliamentary Election, Georgia – 28 March 2004

Tbilisi, 29 March 2004 – The International Election Observation
Mission (IEOM) for the 28 March partial repeat parliamentary election
in Georgia is a co-operative undertaking of the OSCE Office for
Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), the OSCE
Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), the Parliamentary Assembly of the
Council of Europe (PACE), and the European Parliament (EP).

This preliminary statement is issued prior to the tabulation and
announcement of official election results and before election day
complaints and appeals have been addressed. A complete and final
analysis of the election process will be offered in the OSCE/ODIHR
Final Report.


The 28 March 2004 repeat parliamentary election in Georgia
demonstrated commendable progress in relation to previous elections.
The Georgian authorities have seized the opportunity, since the 4
January presidential election, to further bring Georgia’s election
process in closer alignment with European standards for democratic
elections, including OSCE commitments and Council of Europe

However, in the wake of the events of November 2003, the political
life of Georgia, as reflected in the election process, is not yet
fully normalized. The consolidation of the democratic election
process will only be fully tested in a more competitive environment,
once a genuine level of political pluralism is reestablished.

The conditions in the autonomous Republic of Adjara were once again
not conducive to democratic elections. Intimidation and physical
abuse targeted at opposition supporters and journalists underlined
the serious democratic deficit in Adjara. This situation overshadowed
the progress made in the democratic election process in the rest of
the country where the election took place, and created a
double-standard for elections in Georgia.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) made commendable efforts to
administer this election in a credible and professional manner. Some
previous recommendations made by the OSCE/ODIHR and
PACE were taken into account by the CEC, noticeably improving the
election process.

However, some recommendations of a more political nature, such as the
lowering of the 7% threshold for allocation of parliamentary
mandates, were not acted upon. The CEC at times appeared to exceed
its authority, for example, extending legally established deadlines
or modifying other legal provisions through decrees.

President Mikheil Saakashvili’s offer to reduce from five to three
the number of his appointees on some District Election Commissions
(DECs) and Precinct Election Commissions (PECs) addressed concerns
regarding the lack of political balance on election commissions.

However, the President’s concession and consequent changes to the
composition of election commissions came late in the electoral
process, are not yet regulated by law, and should have also been
extended to the CEC.

Of serious concern remained the failure of DECs and PECs to maintain
appropriate distance from the ruling parties, and the interference of
some local authorities in the lower-level commissions. A significant
challenge to be addressed is the strengthening of the independence of
the election authorities at all levels.

Although the dominant position of the National Movement – Democrats
has led to a less pluralistic environment for this election, a total
of 16 political parties and electoral blocs did contest these
elections, representing a wide political spectrum and a degree of
choice. With the exception of Adjara, contestants were free to
campaign. However, most political parties took a passive approach,
which resulted in a very low-key campaign. It was only during the
final week of the campaign that parties became more active.

A wide and diverse range of media could freely cover the campaign and
electoral preparations; however State TV news broadcasts focused
overwhelmingly on the authorities and the parties supporting them,
and failed to provide sufficient airtime for political debate and
exchange of views. Adjara TV once again displayed a clear bias in
favor of the Adjarian authorities. Media coverage of the election
process was further constrained by the lack of visible and effective
campaigns on the part of most parties.

The IEOM notes the following positive elements in this election:

– Improvements to the administration of the election process;

– Enhanced professionalism and openness of the CEC;

– Commendable efforts to improve, computerize and consolidate the
voter lists, although they remain incomplete;

– With exception of Adjara, a peaceful and free pre-election period,
although there was a late and very limited campaign;

– Freedom of expression enjoyed by the media, with the exception of

– Efforts made to increase the participation of national minorities
in the elections, including the printing of bilingual ballot papers
and voter information material;

– Improved training for lower-level election officials;

– Increased secrecy of the ballot; and

– Less police presence in and around polling stations.

However, issues of concern remain:

– A complete lack of commitment by the authorities of Adjara to
guarantee sufficient conditions for the conduct of a meaningful
democratic election in that area;

– The continuing lack of a clear separation between State
administration and political party structures, and the ongoing
potential for misuse of State administrative resources;

– Inability to ensure the balanced composition of election
commissions at all levels;

– The interference by some local authorities in the functioning of a
number of lower-level commissions, thereby lessening their

– The failure of the State TV to provide a balanced coverage of the
election campaign, and a forum for political debates with exchange of

– The unwillingness to lower the 7% threshold for seat allocation
when constitutional amendments were recently adopted; and

– In contrast to the 2 November Parliamentary elections, a reduced
scrutiny by domestic observers in the pre-election period.

However, on election day domestic observers were present in
substantially more polling stations than in the previous election. On
election day, voting was conducted in a calm and peaceful atmosphere.

PECs generally operated in a collegial manner and had benefited from
the additional training provided by the CEC. Observers evaluated 80%
of PECs visited as having good or excellent organization of the poll
and understanding of the process.

Election day registration occurred in about 90% of polling stations
visited. In Adjara, there appears to have been less systematic
irregularities, although isolated violations have been reported. Once
again, problems were particularly noticeable in Marneuli, Gardabani
and Tkibuli, where observers reported cases of multiple voting and
ballot stuffing as well as suspiciously high turnout figures.

The institutions represented in the IEOM stand ready to continue
their assistance to the Georgian authorities to address remaining
shortcomings in their electoral process, in order to hold genuinely
democratic elections that are fully compatible with Georgia’s
membership within the OSCE and the Council of Europe, and in
accordance with other European standards.



The 28 March repeat parliamentary election concluded the election of
the fourth Parliament since independence. After the flawed 2 November
2003 parliamentary elections, the Supreme Court annulled the results
of the proportional component (150 of 235 seats). However,
inexplicably, the results of the majoritarian component were not
challenged, despite many of these being equally flawed. Therefore,
only the proportional component was repeated on 28 March, together
with two majoritarian contests.

Following the resignation of President Eduard Shevardnadze, Nino
Burjanadze, the Interim President, called an extraordinary
presidential election on 4 January, 2004 that demonstrated notable
progress over previous elections. Mikheil Saakashvili was elected
President with 96.2% of the vote.

He nominated Zurab Zhvania first as State Minister, and then as Prime
Minister in line with Constitutional amendments. As one of its first
measures, the government launched a highly publicized and vigorous
anti-corruption campaign leading to several arrests.

The political environment has changed dramatically since the November
elections. The parties that led the November events – the National
Movement and the Burjanadze-Democrats – consolidated their executive
power and joined forces. The Citizens Union of Georgia, the former
ruling party, disappeared from the political scene. The fragmented
opposition attempted to consolidate itself by creating electoral
blocs: the New Rights (NR) formed a coalition with Industry Will Save
Georgia (IWSG) while the National Democratic Party (NDP) united with
the Traditionalists.

On 6 February 2004, the Parliament passed substantial constitutional
amendments, inter alia strengthening the position of the executive
vis-à-vis Parliament and introducing the position of Prime Minister.
Criticism was raised over the lack of public discussions and
information on the amendments since the authorities ignored legal
provisions requiring a one-month public debate before the adoption of

The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe’s call for further
discussion, and the refinement of the proposed constitutional
amendments before their adoption, were not taken into account.
Subsequently, the European Parliament also raised concern on how the
amendments were adopted.

The situation in Adjara remained tense. Although the state of
emergency imposed since 23 November limited campaign opportunities,
parties in opposition to Adjaran leader Aslan Abashidze coalesced to
form the `Our Adjara’ movement. Relations between the Georgian
government and the Adjarian authorities have significantly
deteriorated in recent weeks. On 14 March, President Saakashvili was
denied entry into Adjara, where he intended to campaign. The Georgian
government reacted by imposing sanctions on Adjara, and tensions
mounted considerably. The situation was seemingly resolved after an
agreement was reached during a meeting between Saakashvili and
Abashidze on 18 March.

As in previous elections, voting did not take place in Abkhazia and
in Java and Tskhinvali districts (South Ossetia). The international
community provided significant funding and technical assistance for
the parliamentary election, mainly through the OSCE Election
Assistance Program, which provided a crucial contribution to
realizing this election.

Election System and Legal Framework

Parliament is elected for a four-year term and is composed of 235
deputies elected through a mixed election system, with 150 mandates
allocated proportionally through national election lists, and 85
mandates through plural-majoritarian constituencies. The proportional
component of the election takes place in a single constituency.

Parties/blocs must obtain at least 7% of the votes to obtain
mandates. In a welcome development, and in line with previous OSCE
recommendations, the CEC on 23 March adopted a decree defining the
calculation of the 7 % threshold. However, on the eve of the
election, the Tbilisi District Court overturned the CEC Decree, thus
leaving open-ended the fundamental question of how the calculation of
the 7% threshold will ultimately be determined.

The Unified Electoral Code (UEC), the principle legislation governing
elections, overall provides an adequate foundation for the conduct of
democratic elections. However, some significant recommendations
provided by international organizations have not been acted upon. The
CEC also proposed a number of amendments to the UEC focusing on
technical issues, but the outgoing Parliament failed to adopt them.

Election Administration

The election administration is a three-tiered structure: the Central
Election Commission (CEC), 75
District Election Commissions (DECs) and some 2,860 Precinct Election
Commissions (PECs).

Transitional legal provisions adopted in August 2003 concerning the
composition of election commissions remained in force. The greatest
challenge faced by the CEC was the holding of elections in Adjara,
where the election commissions were politically polarized and the
local authorities did not willingly cooperate. The tense pre-election
environment had a negative effect on electoral preparations. The CEC
attempted to exert its authority over the six DECs in Adjara, e.g.
the dismissal of two DEC chairs for failing to follow CEC
instructions. Nevertheless, many commission members, including
Chairpersons, were either loyal to the local authorities or unable to
assert their independence from them. Thus, the CEC could not fully
control the election process in Adjara.

In distinct contrast to the past, the authorities implemented a
number of recommendations, including those enumerated below, made by
the OSCE/ODIHR and PACE. For example, President Saakashvili offered
to reduce from five to three the number of his appointees on DECs and
PECs, but not on the CEC, thereby partly addressing concerns
regarding the lack of political balance in commissions. Ertoba
(Unity), the NDP-Traditionalists bloc and to a lesser extent the
Socialist Party, benefited from this `redistribution’ of commission
members. However, due to the lateness of the decision, the lack of
clarity about its implementation, and other ongoing changes of
commission’s personnel, a degree of confusion has resulted at DEC and
PEC levels. Notable improvements introduced within a short timeframe

– The computerization and consolidation of voter lists into a central

– A more streamlined and professional election apparatus at the
central level;

– A willingness to hold accountable those responsible for election

– The introduction of a DEC protocol that includes a matrix of PEC
results, thereby enabling parties to verify the calculation of
results at the district level. This may serve to deter fraud or
enable identification of fraud;

– A greater emphasis on training of lower-level election officials,
particularly regarding the procedures to complete results sheets

– The introduction of ballots and voter information materials in
minority languages. However, providing protocols in these languages
in future elections would also be also desirable;

– The adoption of a decision on the method of calculating the total
number of registered voters; and

– Improved procedures for filing complaints on election day.

The CEC met frequently, generally taking decisions in a transparent
manner. In many instances, the numerous decrees and other subordinate
legal acts adopted by the CEC constituted improvements necessary for
the proper implementation of the UEC. However, the CEC, on occasion,
adopted decrees conflicting with the UEC, and could be deemed to have
exceeded its authority. For example, it frequently amended legally
established deadlines. However, there have been few challenges to
this practice.

Apart from Adjara, prior to election day international observers
expressed general confidence in lower level commissions. Most DECs
functioned efficiently, but the transparency of their work remained
an issue. However, an imbalance in the nomination process existed,
and the National Movement-Democrats (NMD) enjoyed a strong majority
of senior positions in DECs and PECs. In 18 districts, observers
received credible allegations of bias in favor of the NMD or Revival
by the DEC Chairperson.

Furthermore, the failure to maintain a clear separation in the roles
and functioning of the election administration on the one hand and
party activists, senior local government officials and domestic
observers on the other, remained a significant obstacle to the
development of a professional, impartial, and independent election
administration. The new authorities should make a determined effort
to address this shortcoming in advance of future elections.

Voter Registration

After the 4 January presidential election, the CEC began the
consolidation of handwritten voter lists into a single computerized
database. The accuracy of this data was verified, and many of the
errors were eliminated. Observers expressed increased confidence in
the voter lists, although the number of registered voters
under-represents the number of eligible voters. Nevertheless,
shortcomings were observed, including a relatively large number of
entries lacking identity card numbers and concerns that some voters
are registered at polling stations in places other than their
official residence.

Further consolidation and correction of errors should be carried out,
and registers should be updated on an ongoing basis in order to
maintain and improve their quality and inclusiveness. The new printed
lists were displayed publicly for a two-week period, thereby enabling
citizens to recheck entries and to register to vote if they were not
on the list. The CEC produced voter lists according to the language
in which they were originally compiled, which increased the
transparency of the process for non Georgian speaking voters.
However, a shortage of staff with the appropriate skills, and
relatively poor data, challenged the CEC’s ability to prepare
accurate lists within the deadlines foreseen, and delays occurred.

During the re-registration period, observers reported that the
majority of PECs were open. However, in a significant minority of
districts, most PECs were closed or did not display lists publicly.
In general, procedures were followed correctly. During this period,
excluding Adjara, only 20,515 additional voters were registered, thus
demonstrating the passivity and lack of interest on the part of
voters. This attitude persisted despite the efforts of the CEC to
raise public awareness. The CEC announced 103,838 registered voters
in Adjara between 8 and 21 March. Despite the request of the Adjarian
authorities, the CEC decided not to extend the registration period.

Citizens were allowed to register on election day. Although not
foreseen in the Election Code, this practice is justified in the
current circumstances, but should not be repeated in future
elections. It became incumbent on PECs to ensure that the eligibility
of those citizens who registered on election day was checked properly
and to follow other procedures rigidly to ensure that no multiple
voting was possible. Observers noted that the residency requirement
was being less rigorously applied in this election.

The voter lists in Adjara remained one of the most contentious issues
of this election, with the potential to influence the outcome of the
election. Following an instruction from the CEC Chairman, five DECs
in Adjara transferred voter lists used for the January 2004
presidential election.

While entering these records into the central database of electors,
it became apparent that the quality of the data was generally very
poor. Frequently, vital information such as voters’ addresses was
omitted, making it impossible to produce meaningful printed voter
lists. This left the CEC with no option but to begin a complete
deregistration of voters. The uncertain and tense pre-election
environment in Adjara affected the voter registration process there.
Fearing for their security, some PEC members did not participate in
the work of PECs, and some voters were dissuaded from registering.

Candidate Registration and the Campaign

Although the dominant position of the National Movement – United
Democrats has led to a less pluralistic environment for this
election, a total of 14 political parties and 5 electoral blocs did
contest these elections, representing a wide political spectrum and a
degree of choice. However, 3 parties withdrew just before election

The election campaign was very low-key. Although, with the notable
exception of Adjara, parties were free to campaign throughout most of
the country, there were few public meetings or party rallies. In
marked contrast to the campaign for the 2 November elections,
observers noted only a few billboards and posters, mostly put up
during the last week of the campaign. However, some degree of
door-to-door campaigning took place. In addition, opposition party
offices in many towns were not operating.

The lack of sufficient funds after the 2 November elections may
partly explain the passive approach of many opposition parties. In
contrast, the newly created Freedom Movement, headed by Konstantin
Gamsakhurdia, son of the first President of independent Georgia,
opened new branch offices, and ran an active and visible election
campaign during the last 10 days.

International observers noted instances where campaign material,
usually for the parties supporting the new authorities, was displayed
in the premises of lower-level election commissions or in local
government offices. For example, National Movement campaign material
was observed in several local authority offices in the Kvemo Kartli
region, and in DEC premises in Tianeti, Tkibuli, Gardabani, Liakhvi,
Khoni, Ambrolauri, and Dusheti.

Campaign material of the Labour Party and Ertoba were displayed in
the Dusheti Culture House. Local government officials were directly
involved in campaign activities as heads of campaign staff or
district party offices. Such cases include: the governor of Racha
Lekhumi and Kvemo Svaneti heading the regional National Movement
campaign staff; the gamgebelis (local executives) of Chugureti-Didube
and Chkhorotsku and the Ambrolauri deputy gamgebeli heading the local
National Movement branches; the Ambrolauri City gamgebeli holding
Rightist Opposition meetings in his office; and the Gori gamgebeli
being head of the Labour Party branch.

In Adjara, the situation differed significantly from the rest of
Georgia. Opposition gatherings were mostly forbidden or violently
suppressed and attacked by supporters of the Adjaran authorities,
including a public meeting on 20 February during the visit of the
Council of Europe’s Secretary General, Walter Schwimmer, to Batumi.

Offices of parties in opposition to the Adjaran authorities and of
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were ransacked, journalists and
opposition activists were assaulted, and opposition members of
election commissions were intimidated. While incidents of violence
and intimidation also marred previous elections in Adjara, the
intensity and frequency with which they occurred this time was much
higher. Overall, the environment in Adjara was once gained not
conducive to a meaningful democratic election.

The Media

The media operate in a pluralistic environment and enjoy freedom of
expression. State TV-1 complied with the legal provisions for
allocation of free airtime (two hours every day), although these
spots were transmitted well out of prime time. However, the State TV
failed to provide a forum for political debates that are crucial to
inform the electorate about political parties’ platforms.

The transmission of political spots of the `Our Adjara’ movement
during the pre-election campaign, making clear reference to the
November events, raised concern about the impartiality of the State
TV. This was all the more of concern since it was broadcast free of

Outside the free airtime provided by State TV, media coverage was
generally dominated by representatives of State institutions and the
leading parties, while the opposition was largely ignored.

State TV provided extensive and overwhelmingly positive coverage of
the current authorities, allocating 46% of total airtime to the
President, and 20% to government officials. Together with the time
devoted to the National Movement-Democrats (14%), the
pro-governmental faction received 80% of the total airtime,
illustrating its lack of balanced coverage of the campaign.

Private electronic media showed a similar picture, with limited time
devoted to opposition parties.
Rustavi-2 devoted 38% of its news coverage to the President, about
19% to the government, and 14% to the National Movement-Democratic.

On Imedi TV, their share was 30%, 22%, and 12%, respectively. As in
previous elections, Adjara TV continued to provide positive and
exhaustive coverage of the Adjarian authorities and Revival, while
allocating mostly negative coverage to the President and Georgian
government officials.

Moreover, the outlet confirmed its bias during the standoff between
the Georgian government and the Adjarian authorities, addressing the
audience with alarmist propaganda.

The print media generally provided more balanced coverage than the
television stations monitored by the IEOM. With few exceptions,
criticism of the authorities, as well as of opposition parties, was
present. The distribution of space among political forces was more
balanced than on television.

The activity of some local media has reportedly been suffering from
undue pressure and restrictions, often by local government officials.
In Adjara, on several occasions journalists were impeded from
operating freely, and even intimidated and physically assaulted. As a
result of the low-key campaign and the failure of most political
parties to mount visible and effective campaigns, the media could not
provide the public with comprehensive information on all aspects of
the election process.

Election Disputes

Few formal complaints concerning the 28 March elections were filed
with either the election administration or the courts. At the central
level, the CEC received approximately a dozen complaints, two of
which raised issues relating to the 28 March elections. The Tbilisi
District Court, which has jurisdiction over the CEC, heard only eight
cases appealing CEC decisions, two of which were admitted.

The EOM monitoring of the case concerning the calculation of the 7%
threshold raised serious concerns on the independence of this
decision. Court cases continued in regard to the majoritarian seats
at both the appellate and the Supreme Court level, indicating the
continuing problems caused by second-round contests based on the
flawed 2 November elections.

While the absence of complaints could be an indication of an improved
process, a lack of competitiveness and the general apathy which
characterized the campaign, civil society organizations which in the
past had served as a check on both the administration and political
parties were less active and did not challenge a single action or

Participation of National Minorities

Georgia has two large minority populations – Azeris and Armenians –
and a variety of smaller national minorities; most minorities are
concentrated in certain regions. There are no relevant political
parties representing national minorities, but some parties included
representatives of national minorities on their candidate lists.
Overall, however, less than 3% of candidates belonged to national
minorities, and no candidate list reflected their share of the

On election commissions in areas where national minorities reside,
they were significantly under-represented. In addition to providing
ballot papers in Azeri and Armenian in areas with a concentration of
national minorities, as well as protocols in Georgian and Russian,
the CEC also provided PEC manuals and voter education materials in
minority languages.

Some of these materials did not arrive in a timely manner, thereby
reducing effectiveness. Training of election commissions has been
provided in minority languages as well; however, in some instances,
training in Azeri-populated areas was conducted in Russian, and
commission members reportedly had comprehension difficulties.

Participation of Women in the Election Process

Georgian politics remain dominated by men, with limited
representation of women in the government and political party
leadership. The Speaker of the outgoing Parliament and former Interim
President, Nino Burjanadze, is the woman holding the highest public
office. Only 17 women (7.2%) were members of the outgoing Parliament.
Out of the 73 majoritarian candidates already elected, only two are
women (2.7%). In the newly created Cabinet of Ministers only four of
20 members are women, and none of the newly appointed regional
governors are women.

Of a total of 2,700 candidates registered for the 28 March elections,
849 were women (31.4%). Their share on individual lists varied
widely, however, between 13.3% on the National Movement-Democrats
list, and 62.8% on the list of the Party of Democratic Truth. Only
the list of the National Movement-Democrats list is headed by a

Following recent changes to the election commission composition, one
woman, nominated by the Sportive Union of Georgia, sits on the CEC.
Regarding the DECs visited by international observers, 79% of the
Chairpersons and 77% of the Deputy Chairs were male, while 63% of the
secretaries were women. In polling stations observed there were less
chairwomen than in the previous election.

Some 30 domestic observer organizations were registered to observe
this election. However, only four planned to have a large-scale
observation: the International Society for Fair Elections and
Democracy (ISFED), Fair Elections Foundation (FEF), and New
Generation New Initiative (NGNI, Taoba), while the Georgian Young
Lawyers Association (GYLA) concentrated on observing DECs and a
sample of PECs. ISFED conducted a parallel tabulation of votes (PVT)
enabling the public to compare it with the preliminary results
announced by the CEC.

After the presidential election, FEF split from ISFED, which
fragmented the domestic election observation effort and created
confusion among observers. A degree of competition was observed
between these two organizations in some regions. During election day,
in a positive development, they held joint press conferences. These
organizations had a solid reputation as impartial observers, although
a few allegations to the contrary were received. Overall, the
scrutiny of the election process remained limited during the
pre-election period.

Election Day, Vote Count, and Tabulation

Voting was conducted in a calm and peaceful atmosphere. PECs
generally operated in a collegial manner and had benefited from the
additional training provided by the CEC, with observers evaluating
80% of PECs visited as having good or excellent organization of the
poll and understanding of the process. However, observers noted that
in nearly half of all PECs visited not all members of the PEC were
present for the opening of the polling station. Observers also
recorded an increase in the number of polling stations where campaign
material was prominently on display compared with the previous

Many PECs were unaware of the late withdrawal of three parties from
the election contest, and a large number of them had not received the
withdrawal stamp. This resulted in confusion and inconsistent
application of marking of the withdrawn parties on ballot papers in
many polling stations in most regions of the country.

Election day registration occurred in about 90% of polling stations
visited. Observers noted that the residency requirement was being
less rigorously applied in this election. In 48% of the polling
stations visited, citizens were refused the right to vote. Once
again, voter irregularities were particularly noticeable in Marneuli,
Gardabani and Tkibuli where observers reported cases of multiple
voting and ballot stuffing being observed as well as suspiciously
high turn out figures.

The application and verification of anti-fraud ink was once again
inconsistent in many regions of the country, particularly in Kvemo
Kartli (Marneuli and Rustavi), Samtskhe Javakheti, Samegrelo Zemo
Svaneti and Guria. In almost 10% of cases, observers noted that
inking was rarely or never checked and in nearly 7% of cases the ink
was not applied. The absence of ink reduced the effectiveness of an
important anti-fraud mechanism that is crucial when voters are
allowed to register on election day. Observers reported cases of
identical signatures on voters lists in Marneuli and Gardabani.

Despite the tense atmosphere in Adjara, the process was generally
well organized, except in Kobuleti. Voting was orderly with the
exception of some polling stations in Kelvachauri where bussing of
voters from one polling station to the other was directly observed.
Unusually high numbers of voters’ certificates as well as a lack of
uniform application and checking of inking were reported in Khulo and

The atmosphere at the count was generally positive with no violent
incidents reported by observers.

Observers noted a reduction in the number of unauthorized persons
present inside polling stations compared to the previous election but
they were more actively interfering in the process. The redesigned,
more user-friendly protocols allied to the additional training
provided to PECs significantly reduced the number of PECs who
experienced difficulty in completing protocols. Compared to the
previous election observers reported an increase in the presence and
diligence of domestic observers during both the voting and counting


Mr. Bruce George, President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA),
was appointed as Special Coordinator by the OSCE Chairman-in-Office
to lead the short-term observers. Mr. Matyas Eorsi led the
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) delegation,
and Mr. Demetrio Volcic led the European Parliament (EP) delegation.
Amb. Michael Wygant (U.S.A.) headed the OSCE/ODIHR Election
Observation Mission.

The OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission (EOM) opened in Tbilisi
on 15 February with 40 experts and long-term observers deployed in
the capital and 12 regional centers. On election day, the IEOM
deployed some 440 short-term observers from 43 OSCE participating
States, including 27 parliamentarians from the OSCE PA, 15 from PACE,
and four from the European Parliament. The Council of Europe deployed
an additional 21 observers. The IEOM observed voting throughout
Georgia in 1,400 polling stations out of a total of 2,860, and
counting was observed in some 130 polling stations.

The IEOM was also present in more than 40 district election
commissions to observe the tabulation of results. The OSCE/ODIHR will
issue a comprehensive report on these elections approximately one
month after the completion of the election process. The IEOM wishes
to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Central Election
Commission, and other national and local authorities for their
assistance and cooperation during the course of the observation. The
IEOM also wishes to express appreciation to the OSCE Mission to
Georgia and other international organizations and embassies
accredited in Tbilisi for their support throughout the duration of
the mission.

For further information, please contact:
– Amb. Michael Wygant, Head of the OSCE/ODIHR EOM, in Tbilisi
(+995-32-253 526);
– Urdur Gunnarsdottir, OSCE/ODIHR Spokesperson (+48 603 683 122); or
Nicolas Kaczorowski, OSCE/ODIHR
Election Adviser, in Warsaw (+48 603 793 780);
– Angus MacDonald, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe,
in Strasbourg (+33 630 496 820);
– Jan Jooren, Press Counsellor of the OSCE PA, in Copenhagen (+45
4041 1641);
– Tim Boden, European Parliament, in Brussels (+32 475 351 948)
OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission: Kipshidze str. Block II,
Building I, Tbilisi, Georgia — Tel.: +995-32-253
526, 253 527; Fax: +995-32-253 523, E-mail: [email protected]

Lawmakers mark anniversary of Armenian genocide

Press Herald

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Legislative Dispatches

Lawmakers mark anniversary of Armenian genocide

AUGUSTA – The Legislature passed a joint order Tuesday recognizing the 89th
anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

According to the order, the Turkish regime of the Ottoman Empire launched a
campaign against the Armenian people on April 24, 1915, that resulted in the
deaths of more than 1.5 million Armenians.

“Some of the survivors settled in the state of Maine and their heirs have
made significant contributions to the state,” the order stated. “We join our
citizens of Armenian heritage on April 24th in remembering this event, and
we express our deepest sympathy for the families of those who perished.”

The order was sponsored by Sen. Michael Brennan, D-Portland, and
co-sponsored by the rest of Portland’s legislative delegation. “I felt it
was important for the Legislature to mark the anniversary of this tragedy
and honor those who suffered,” Brennan said.

BAKU: Armenian intelligence behind officer’s Budapest killing

Azeri analyst says Armenian intelligence behind officer’s Budapest killing

17 Mar 04


Commenting on the killing of Armenian officer Gurgen Markaryan by
Azerbaijani officer Ramil Safarov in Budapest, the director of the
Centre of Political Innovations and Technologies, political analyst
Mubariz Ahmadoglu, said today that the incident was the result of work
carried out by Armenian intelligence. He said there was sufficient
evidence to substantiate this theory.

According to the analyst, in addition to dealing a blow to
Azerbaijani-NATO relations, the killing has had an impact on
Azerbaijan’s international authority. Therefore, the Armenians are
capitalizing on the incident to put forward theories that Nagornyy
Karabakh cannot be part of Azerbaijan for genetic reasons.

The Armenians are concerned that many international organizations are
no longer taking Armenia seriously and are reluctant to believe
it. For this reason, the theory that Armenian intelligence has tried
to play a trick on Ramil Safarov seems quite probable.

According to Ahmadoglu, it would be right to treat the issue more as a
political and interstate one.

Living in Yerevan becomes hazardous, NGO says

March 16 2004


YEREVAN, MARCH 16, ARMENPRESS: A coalition of 28 nature protection
non-governmental organizations, united in Yerevan Ecological
Alliance, warned today that living in Armenia’s capital is becoming
gradually hazardous, following mass logging of trees in public parks
and building the vacated areas with cafes and other entertaining
Sona Ayvazian, one of the seven members of the Alliance’s board
said today: “We have neither forests, nor parks, the only green area
in the capital is the Botanic garden in which many species are drying
up.” She called on mass medias and public at large to raise their
protesting voice against the ongoing destruction of green areas.
According to another speaker, in early nineties trees were cut by
people to warm their houses due to the lack of other fuel, today
forests are destroyed to make money.

Arminco may compete for mobile phone services

March 16 2004


YEREVAN, MARCH 16, ARMENPRESS: The biggest Armenian Internet
provider, Arminco, has announced today about its plans to compete in
a tender that is supposed to be announced some time later this year
for providing mobile phone services. Speaking to a news conference
Arminco’s chief manager, Andranik Alexanian, said his company is
waiting for the government to announce the tender to learn its terms
in order to make the final decision. “We have all capacities to
participate in the tender,” Alexanian said.
The government announced earlier this month that it will strip
Armentel operator of its exclusive right to mobile phone services on
June 30. This means that Armentel may continue providing cellular
phone services, but will have to put up with the existence of rival

Abashidze Called on Russia to Stop Rose Revolution in Adjaria

Economic News
March 15, 2004 Monday

Aslan Abashidze Called on Russia to Stop Rose Revolution in Adjaria

Moscow. Aslan Abashidze claims that the Georgian authorities are
preparing military invasion of the republic. Mr. Abashidze considers
that they are trying to repeat the so-called Rose Revolution in
Adjaria, – according to NTV.

The Georgian authorities are gathering 100 thousand people, men and
women, from all the regions of the country. People with military
training and those who participated in similar actions will be among
them. All of them will come to the border of the autonomous republic
and women will be ahead them, Adjaria head claimed.

Mr. Abashidze also called on the world community to stop Tbiisi
authorities attempts to exert pressure on Adjaria. I want to tell our
opinion to influential world organizations and to our neighbors
Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia in order to stop the force
that will bring lamentable consequences, Aslan Abashidze claimed in
the course of press-conference in Moscow.

New book on terror

National Post (Canada)
March 8, 2004 Monday National Edition

Canada makes terrorists feel at home, book says: Cold Terror shows
how we became a haven before 9/11

by Mary Vallis

An Armenian immigrant who participated in Canada’s first major
terrorist incident 22 years ago lives in Toronto and plays guitar in
a band, according to a new book probing the country’s terrorist ties.

Cold Terror: How Canada Nurtures and Exports Terrorism Around the
World explores how Canada has evolved into an internationally
renowned hub of global terrorism. Written by National Post reporter
Stewart Bell, the book contains exclusive interviews with victims of
terrorist attacks, senior intelligence officials and terrorists

In September, 2003, at a nondescript coffee shop in Toronto’s Little
Italy, Mr. Bell met with Haig Gharakhanian, one of three Armenians
convicted of plotting to kill a Turkish diplomat in Ottawa. The man
was nervous because his band’s CD was about to be released, and he
had just met with CSIS to get clearance for his Canadian citizenship,
but spoke with Mr. Bell anyway.

“As we were speaking, the lead singer of his band comes in and sits
down,” Mr. Bell recalled. “You could just see this guy’s eyes
widening as he listens to the guy who’s been his guitar player and
roommate for years explaining his involvement in terrorism.”

Mr. Gharakhanian, who was just 17 years old when he participated in
the attack, spent nine months in prison for his role in the 1982
shooting of Kani Gungor. The diplomat was left paralyzed. Mr.
Gharakhanian, who had Iranian citizenship, helped scout out the
target and delivered a letter to the United Press International’s Los
Angeles office in which the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation
of Armenia (ASALA) claimed responsibility for the attack.

After he was released on parole, Mr. Gharakhanian applied for refugee
status and successfully fought a deportation order. Mr. Bell uses his
case as one example that illustrates how Canada’s generous
immigration policy has fuelled the country’s links to terrorism.

“He got a very light sentence. He was not deported because the
immigration judges felt sorry for him, and now he’s about to become a
citizen,” Mr. Bell said of Mr. Gharakhanian. “That was our beginning.
We treated a guy who was basically a terrorist sympathetically, and
that set the stage for everything that’s followed… We still see
examples of that every day.”

Mr. Bell’s book, released today, chronicles how Canada became a haven
for some of the world’s most powerful terrorist organizations. It
also features newly uncovered pieces of an internal CSIS report
written in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The report shows that as Jean Chretien stood up in the House of
Commons and proclaimed Canada free of terrorists planning attacks,
CSIS had concluded al-Qaeda had operatives in Canada and could list
them by name.

Mr. Bell argues Canadian politicians do not pay enough attention to
warnings from security and intelligence officials. Politicians have
not taken a strong stand against terrorism in part because they fear
they will alienate some of their core voter support — namely
interest groups who promise to deliver ethnic voting blocks.

Illustrating his point, Mr. Bell refers to an interview he conducted
with the president of the Montreal chapter of the World Tamil
Movement, which has been identified as a front for the Tamil Tigers.
The man explained how a Liberal party candidate attended one of the
group’s events, and how he directed “all of the Sri Lankan votes” in
Montreal to the Liberals during the last federal election.

Mr. Bell explains how acknowledging this country’s ties to terrorism
defies the image many Canadians have of their homeland.

“Canadians like to think of themselves as benevolent world citizens,
peacekeepers in blue berets who bring kindness and calm to troubled
lands,” he writes.

“The cold truth is that, since the early 1980s, Canada has become a
source country of international terrorism. Former prime minister Jean
Chretien used to boast that the United Nations Human Development
Index showed Canada was the best country in the world in which to
live. In the past two decades, it also became the best country in the
world for terrorists to make their home.

“Canada has provided a haven, money, propaganda, weapons and foot
soldiers to the globe’s deadliest religious, ethnic and political
extremist movements, murderous organizations that have brought their
wars with them, turning this country into a base for international

Mr. Bell warns Canada is vulnerable to another major attack on its
own soil. “Canada is itself a terror target and has put itself at
greater risk by being nice to terrorists,” he writes. “Terrorists who
feel comfortable enough to raise money and forge passports will not
hesitate to stage attacks here as well.”

GRAPHIC: Black & White Photo: Bruno Sclumberger, Ottawa Citizen; In
Ottawa in 1982, Turkish diplomat Kani Gungor was shot and left
paralyzed in Canada’s first major international terrorist attack. An
Armenian convicted in the ambush has won Canadian citizenship.

Statistics of AA website

Azat Artsakh, Republic of Nagorno Karabakh
March 8 2004


Immediately after its registration in August of 2001 the web site of
the newspaper “Azat Artsakh” had 312 visitors. In February 2004 the
number of visitors reached 5131. In 2003 the number of visitors
reduced 4 times-1176. According to experts, of Karabakh web sites
“Azat Artsakh” has the most visitors. In 2004 people from 58
countries of the world visited “Azat Artsakh”, 17 percent of the
visitors are not signed up. Visitors from Russia form 34.5 percent,
USA 14 percent, Azerbaijan 7 percent, Armenia 3 percent, Germany 2.5
percent, France 2 percent, Belgium 1 percent. The geography of
visitors is rather vast. Besides the countries of the region and the
co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group, Turkey, Israel, Algeria, Hong
Kong, Cyprus, Kuwait, Guinea, Egypt, Vietnam, Cote d’Ivoire,
Philippines are also interested in the developments in NKR. During 2
years of existence the web site became an initial source of
information about Karabakh for many visitors. The materials of the
web site are reprinted in other electronic mass media, there are
references to the web site in various news portals. During the last
two months the web site was regularly visited from Turkey, Israel and
Great Britain. In the second half of January the number of visitors
grew steeply. According to experts, this is the result of the
increasing interest of European organizations in the Karabakh
conflict and the growing role of Nagorni Karabakh in the negotiation