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Caucasus Report: August 13, 2001

13 August 2001, Volume 4, Number 29

TWO DOWN, ONE TO GO. On 2 August, meeting in extra-plenary session, the Georgian parliament finally adopted in the second and final reading the law on local self-government and local elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2001). It also passed the draft amendments to the law on elections. Both bills had been the subject of impassioned discussion over the previous two months (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 24, 28 June 2001).

Opposition deputies boycotted the voting on both bills and subsequently claimed that the vote on local self-government was invalid as only 113 deputies were present rather than the minimum 118 required for a quorum. On 3 August they appealed to President Eduard Shevardnadze to veto both bills, and on 6 August they filed suit with the Constitutional Court, claiming the vote was invalid for lack of a quorum, and therefore unconstitutional. They further threatened to boycott the local government elections that will take place this fall. But on 6 August Shevardnadze rejected the veto demand as "unacceptable" and unfounded, implicitly rejecting the claim that the vote was invalid.

The opposition's objections to both laws focus on what it perceives as provisions which strengthen the position of the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) to the point that, as opposition "Unified Georgia" parliament faction Giorgi Targamadze told journalists on 3 August, they "legalize a one-party dictatorship." The law on local self-government provides for the direct election under the majoritarian ("first past the post") system of local administrators and local councils at the lowest (village/district) level. At the regional level, councils will be directly elected, and the president will then select the council chairman. In large cities, with the exception of Poti and Tbilisi, both the municipal council and the mayor will be directly elected; in Tbilisi and Poti the mayor will be appointed by the president.

As for the amendments to the election law, they address the composition of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) and its local equivalents, and the mechanism for selecting members of those commissions. Under the final version of those amendments, which was proposed by President Shevardnadze, the CEC is to be composed of seven representatives of NGOs selected from no less than 14 candidates proposed by NGOs that were registered no later than November 1997 and that have participated in monitoring no less than two elections. Local election commissions are also to consist of seven members, three of whom will be proposed by the CEC, three by parties that won parliamentary representation in the previous elections, and one by the local administration.

That proposal was intended to circumvent opposition objections to earlier versions of the amendments that would have effectively given the SMK the right to nominate most members of electoral commissions at all levels. Opposition figures that accused the SMK of falsifying the outcome of the April 2000 presidential poll argued that such an arrangement would enable the party to manipulate to its advantage the results of future ballots.

In addition to appealing to Shevardnadze to veto the two bills, parliamentary and extra-parliamentary opposition parties have begun discussions aimed at creating a united front against the SMK, and possibly even a "shadow" parliament and cabinet. They will also draft proposals for ensuring that upcoming elections are conducted democratically despite what they perceive as the legal obstacles to doing so.

But while the two bills will enable the holding of local elections this fall, and the appointment as mayor of Tbilisi of a figure whom Shevardnadze can trust, the parliament has still not approved a third measure proposed by the president, namely the reintroduction of the post of premier. SMK faction leaders engaged in energetic lobbying last month in an attempt to persuade both opposition deputies and those pro-government deputies who voiced reservations to drop their objections to that bill, but without success. SMK Secretary-General Eduard Surmanidze told Prime News on 2 August that the parliament will return to discussing the bill in its fall session. (Liz Fuller)

WHO'S WHO OF ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES. Over the past two months, some 20 percent of the 129 deputies to the Armenian National Assembly have quit, or been ousted from, the parties or factions to which they were originally elected, or, if they were elected as independents, have chosen to join one or other faction. Below is an updated list of the membership of the various factions.

Unity faction (46 deputies, of whom nine now represent the HZhK)
Founded 10 June 1999
SAHAKIAN Galust_______091_________ Head
MKRTCHIAN Vardan_____ 076________ (former Secretary,
______________________________ removed after HZhK
______________________________ defections)
ABRAHAMIAN Henrik_____ 030
ALEKSANIAN Lernik______034
ASLANIAN Gagik_________084 (former HZhK)
AVETISIAN Sukias_______ 061
BADALIAN Garnik_______101
BADALIAN Manvel_______083
BADEYAN Manvel_______ 086 (former HZhK)
BARSEGHIAN Aramayis____089
BOSTANJIAN Vardan______090
DALLAKIAN Viktor______ 047
DARBINIAN Arsen_______049
DAVTIAN Gevorg_______ 073
GALOYAN Ashot________082 (former HZhK)
GEVORGIAN Nahapet______040
GHARAGYOZIAN Harutiun____023
GHAZARIAN Manvel______ 033
GRIGORIAN Artak_______081
GRIGORIAN Henrik______ 093
HAKOBIAN Alexan_______020
HAKOBIAN Armen_______ 102
HAKOBIAN Gevorg_______010
HARUTIUNYAN Grigor_____ 069
HOVHANNISIAN Vanya_____ 103 (former HZhK)
HOVHANNISIAN Davit_____ 097
ISRAELIAN Sergey________098
KHACHATRIAN Armen______080 (former HZhK)
KHACHIKIAN Vazgen______100
KHUDABASHIAN Emma______085
MATEVOSIAN Vardges_____ 072
MELIKIAN Gagik_________074
MINASIAN Gagik_________088
MKHITARIAN Armen______ 006
MKRTCHIAN Misak_______065 (former HZhK)
NAGHDALIAN Hermine_____ 096
POGHOSIAN Alexan______ 044
SARKISIAN Samson______ 038 (former HZhK)
SUKIASIAN Martin_______ 064
TOROSIAN Tigran________079
TSATURIAN Edmund______ 095
TUMANIAN Samvel_______104
VOSKANIAN Gagik_______ 071 (former HZhK)____ Secretary
YEGHIAZARIAN Gurgen_____099
YENGOYAN Robert_______ 094
ZAKARIAN Stepan_______ 077

Communist Party Of Armenia (CPA) faction (8 deputies, de jure)
Founded 11 June 1999
Name___________Constituency________ Position
VOSKANIAN Hrant_____107____________ Head
SARGSIAN Khoren_____105___________ Secretary
BOSHNAGHIAN Perch____109
KHARATYIAN Frunze____111
MANUKIAN Gagik______ 111
MANUKIAN Yuri________110 (technically still a member)
PETROSIAN Norik______106
TADEVOSIAN Gagik____ 112

Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) faction (8 deputies)
Founded 11 June 1999
Name_________ Constituency_________Position
VARDANIAN Aghvan____ 123____________ Head
MATEVOSIAN Martun____048___________ Secretary
BALAYAN Kim__________005
HOVSEPIAN Rudik______120
MIKAYELIAN Mushegh___ 122
PETROSIAN Alvard_____ 121
RUSTAMIAN Armen_____119

Law And Unity faction (aka Right and Accord) (7 deputies)
Founded 11 June 1999
Name___________ Constituency________ Position
GEGHAMIAN Artashes___ 113____________Head
ARSHAKIAN Aghasi_____ 116
AZIZIAN Napoleon_____ 022
BABUKHAIAN Haik______115___________Secretary
KARAPETIAN Alexan_____117
KHACHATRIAN Hrant____114
HARUTIUNIAN Hamlet___ 118

National Democratic Union (NDU) faction (4 deputies)
Founded 11 June1999
MANUKIAN Vazgen_____128_________ (Ousted) Head
AVAGIAN Seyran______ 130___________Secretary
________________________________ and Acting Head
BERIKIAN Filaret______ 129

Rule Of Law faction (6 deputies, de jure)
Founded 10 June 1999
Name____________ Constituency_________Position
BAGHDASARIAN Artur___ 021______________ Head
GASPARIAN Gegham____ 127_____________ Secretary
AGHAJANIAN Artsruni____126
BARSEGHIAN Stepan_____125
YERITSIAN Sergo______124
AVETISIAN Samvel_____ 067 (technically still a member,
________________________although has indicated his
________________________intention to quit)

People's Deputy parliamentary group (16 deputies)
Founded 16 April 2001
Name____________ Constituency________________Position
KARAPETIAN Karen____ 050 (former Kayunutiun)_____ Head
HAKOBIAN Hranush____ 041 (former independent)_____ Secretary
AMIRKHANIAN Robert___ 058 (former independent)
AVETISIAN Samvel____ 015 (former independent)
BAGHDASARIAN Vahram___046 (former Unity)
GRIGORIAN Vahagn____ 025 (former independent)
HAKOBIAN Hakob_____ 035 (former Kayunutiun)
HAKOBIAN Hakob_____ 043 (former independent)
HARUTIUNIAN Mushegh___055 (former independent)
HOVHANNISIAN Hovhannes_ 059 (former Kayunutiun)
KARAPETIAN Parujr______001 (former independent)
MADATIAN Grigor_______009 (former independent)
MURADIAN Harutiun_____042 (former independent)
PAMBUKIAN Harutiun____ 002 (former independent)
SARGSIAN Levon_______ 004 (former Kayunutiun)
SHAHGELDIAN Vrezh_____060 (former Kayunutiun)

People's Agro-Industrial Union (AAZhM, former Kayunutiun) (11 deputies)
Founded 23 July 2001
Name_____________Constituency_____________ Position
AVETISIAN Hambardzum__ 051_________________Secretary
BADALIAN Vladimir______ 092 (former Unity/HZhK)
BALASANIAN Samvel_____063
GALSTIAN Zhora________ 031
GASPARIAN Melik_______ 045
GRIGORIAN Vardevan_____062
GYULZADIAN Vram_______053
HOVHANNISIAN Hmayak___078 (former independent,__Head
__________________________previously in HZhK)
HOVHANNISIAN Martin____018
KOCHINIAN Hovhannes____052
MOVSISYAN Mushegh_____036

Hayastan parliamentary group (12 deputies)
Founded 16 May 2000
Name______________Constituency_______ Position
MALKHASIAN Myasnik___ 028_____________ Head
KETIKIAN Ara__________087_____________ Secretary
GEVORGIAN Zhirayr_____026
GEVORGIAN Ruben______007
GRIGORIAN Hrant_______037
KARAPETIAN Yerem_____032
KHACHATRIAN Suren____070
HAKOBIAN Hakob_______014
MIKAYELIAN Sasun_____ 054
SAGHATELIAN Samvel___ 066
ULIKHANIAN Ghukas____ 019

Members of parliament not included in any faction or group (11 deputies)
Name___________ Constituency
ALOYAN Aramayis_____ 008
ARSENIAN Gurgen_____ 029
GASPARIAN Manuk_____024
HARUTIUNIAN Aram____ 056
KOCHARIAN Shavarsh___ 011 (former AZhM)
KOSTANDIAN Gagik____ 003
SADOYAN Arshak______ 013 (former AZhM)
SAHAKIAN Taron______ 039
SIRADEGHIAN Vano____ 075
SUKIASIAN Khachatur___012
ZATIKIAN Varazdat_____ 016

(Ruzanna Khachatrian and Liz Fuller)

DAGHESTAN EMBRACES SUFISM -- ALONG ETHNIC LINES. The crackdown launched two years ago in Daghestan against "wahhabism," by which the Russian authorities apparently mean any devout Islamic community whose members have aroused suspicion for whatever reasons, has proved successful. But it has had an unanticipated consequence that may pose an even greater long-term threat to political stability: according to an article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 August and entitled "What Is Even More Frightening than Wahhabism?" the systematic persecution of persons suspected of "wahhabist" sympathies has provided the impetus for a renaissance of Sufism, but Sufism with a pronounced ethnic component.

Initially, the paper writes, the Daghestan authorities encouraged the Sufi renaissance, which they perceived as a return to "traditional" Islam. But over the past two years, the sheikhs (religious leaders) representing the different ethnic groups have acquired enormous political influence. The most influential of them, 63-year-old former shepherd Said-Afandi Chirkeiskii, is said to have over 300,000 murids (disciples), while his colleague, Sheikh Bagauddin Ramazanov, has 3,000. (The total population of Daghestan is only 2 million.) Chirkeiskii also effectively controls the republican-level Muslim Religious Board. Chirkeiskii is an Avar: the Avars are the largest of the republic's ethnic groups, numbering approximately 500,000 and accounting for 27 percent of the total population, and they dominate the republic's leadership.

One measure of the scale of Daghestan's religious revival is that the number of new mosques built over the past couple of years is greater than the number of schools and cultural facilities combined. But there are hidden dangers in this process of what "Nezavisimaya gazeta" terms "gentle and gradual shariatization." The paper observes that despite the upsurge in religious belief, "the national factor is stronger than religion. And religion [in Daghestan] has never been apolitical."

The way the religious situation in Daghestan has evolved is, according to the paper, a reflection of the struggle for political power. By this the paper presumably means that the Avars within the republic's leadership decided to support Chirkeiskii in the belief that he constitutes an asset which they can control. But Chirkeiskii's extensive network of murids also constitutes an embryonic political organization that could at some point challenge the secular leadership. Alternatively, or additionally, rivalry between the sheikhs of the various national groups who, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" claims, are "in a constant struggle for supremacy [protivoborstvo]" among themselves, could fuel interethnic animosities.

Chirkeiskii himself, however, has denied that the various Sufi tarikats in Daghestan can be categorized along ethnic lines. He said that among those members of the republic's leadership who regularly visit him are not only National Assembly Chairman Mukhu Aliyev (an Avar), but also Prime Minister Khizri Shikhsaidov, who is a Dargin. (Liz Fuller)

NEMTSOV SUGGESTS NEW APPROACH TO CHECHEN PEACE TALKS. Since late last year, Union of Rightist Forces leader Boris Nemtsov has repeatedly called for immediate negotiations between the Russian leadership and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov on ending the Chechen war (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 50, 29 December 2000 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2001). Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 9 August, he told RFE/RL's Russian Service that he considers Russian President Vladimir Putin's refusal to embark on such talks "unforgivable." Nemtsov attributed that refusal to the fact that Putin "still believes that [Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji] Kadyrov and [former Grozny Mayor Beslan] Gantemirov are the people who can bring peace to Chechnya, together with [presidential envoy to the South Russia federal district Viktor] Kazantsev."

Repeating that a military solution to the conflict is not feasible, Nemtsov again argued, "it is time to begin a dialogue. Delay means more people die."

Nemtsov pointed out that Chechens are collectively disinclined to bow to any authority, and therefore the only reliable way of selecting persons to represent Chechnya in peace talks with the federal center is by democratic elections, with each teyp (clan) choosing its own representatives. He said that when outlining his peace plan to Putin he had proposed ignoring the contentious issue of whether or not Maskhadov should be included in the Chechen delegation, and suggested simply that "we give the Chechen people the right to chose those people whom it trusts to conduct [peace] negotiations."

Nemtsov suggested that Russia should be represented at the peace talks by someone whom Putin trusts absolutely, possibly Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev or Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, but not by Chechen administration head Kadyrov. (Liz Fuller)

QUOTATION OF THE WEEK. "Ninety-nine percent of the population does not agree with the compromises [on Nagorno-Karabakh] that I am working towards.... What I am embarking on is the most difficult undertaking of my life, 32 years after having been elected head of Azerbaijan for the first time. I am staking my entire life's work as if in a card game. I do not want it said of me one day that 'he was a statesman who sold his country's land.'" -- Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev, in an interview with "Le Figaro" (8 August).