Georgia’s Defense Minister and the leader of the Our Georgia-Free Democrats (OGFD) Irakli Alasania, one of the six parties constituting the Georgian Dream (GD) collation, has dismissed speculations over the possibility of the GD’s collapse after his February 2 meeting with Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. The first signs of uncertainty emerged on January 22 when Alasania stated on the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s political talk show Accents that he had “tense” talks with PM over the upcoming October presidential elections. Ivanishvili’s concerns were prompted by the fact that the OGFD’s discussions over the presidential candidacy were not synchronized with the GD, Alasania said, adding that “I agree fully with him that the presidential candidate should be agreed with the coalition and agreed with the coalition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili.”
An Azerbaijani court has ordered two opposition leaders, one of whom is planning to run for the 2013 Presidential elections, to be held for two months awaiting trial as authorities investigate their involvement in the staging of riots in the town of Ismayilli.
On December 10, 2012, Kyrgyzstan celebrated 10 years since the creation of the Ombudsman’s Office or the Institution of the Akyikatchy in Kyrgyz. During the ten years since its creation, the Ombudsman’s office has been recognized as a vital tool of democracy. According to the institution’s statistics, more than 200,000 people have applied for an appeal in 10 years. The Ombudsman is viewed by a majority as a mature state body, whose aim is to protect the rights and interests of its citizens and preserve dignity and honor.
During a visit to Armenia on January 17, Georgia’s Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili opened for restoring the South Caucasus railway (SCR) connecting Armenia to Russia via occupied Abkhazia. Ivanishvili said that the issue can be resolved despite the troubled relations between Moscow and Tbilisi if all engaged parties are willing to do so.
On January 5, 2013, tensions erupted in Uzbekistan’s Sokh enclave. A number of Kyrgyz nationals were taken hostages and the border was unilaterally closed by the Uzbek side. The situation in the isolated enclave and nearby Kyrgyz villages remains critical and risks evolving into a humanitarian crisis. The situation is exacerbated by an information blockade on the Uzbek side and continuing allegations from the Kyrgyz side. Meanwhile, both Kyrgyz and Uzbek authorities seemingly make every effort to resolve the conflict by peaceful means.
A month after Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev made a speech to the Nation with an outline of the country’s new development strategy through 2050; he signed several decrees ordering the reorganization of the government. For the first time in Kazakhstani history, a special ministry in charge of regional development was created at the national level. This government structure already received extensive authorities to bridge the gap between Kazakhstan’s major urban centers, Astana and Almaty, and the provinces in terms of economic growth and employment opportunities. The new ministry’s organizational chart also includes three sectoral committees responsible for the implementation of such local policies as administrative support for small and medium businesses, land resource management as well as construction and housing.
The death of an 18-year-old conscript caused thousands of Azerbaijanis to gather in downtown Baku to protest against increasing mistreatment in the army. It was the first massive rally initiated by youth activists through social networks in 2013, a year of presidential elections in Azerbaijan.
On New Years’ Eve, President Mikheil Saakashvili appraised the post-election situation in Georgia as a gradual deterioration of democratic institutions and relations with western allies. A few minutes earlier, in stark contrast to this statement, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said that a “very interesting stage of the country’s development on the path of democracy and rebuilding has now started.”
On December 14, President Nazarbayev addressed the Nation from the stage of a new Opera and Ballet Theatre already touted as one of the Kazakhstani capital’s most beautiful buildings and the living proof of its success as a rapidly growing cultural hub of the entire Central Asia. Although Nazarbayev previously made a traditional address to the Nation in January 2012, in the wake of early parliamentary elections, he chose the end of the year to unveil a vast policy speech commonly known as “Kazakhstan-2050,” since it outlines the country’s goals for its future development up to the middle of the 21st century.
At a Cabinet meeting on December 20, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov announced plans to establish a new agency under the Ministry of Economy and Development that will oversee foreign investment and protect the national economy against possible risks deriving from such investment. Annamuhamet Gochyev, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers for Economy and Finance was tasked to prepare a proposal and submit it for Presidential approval at a Cabinet meeting on January 11, when the government will sum up the 2012 results. It is expected that the establishment of this agency with a wide range of authorities might create major bureaucratic hurdles for foreign companies seeking business and investment opportunities in Turkmenistan.