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Democratization In The Caucasus: Elections In Armenia, Azerbaijan, A

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  • Democratization In The Caucasus: Elections In Armenia, Azerbaijan, A

    By Cory Welt

    Center For American Progress
    May 30 2012

    Testimony Before the U.S. Helsinki Commission

    CAP Adjunct Fellow Cory Welt testifies before the U.S. Helsinki
    Commission. Read the full testimony (CAP Action)

    Thank you to the Helsinki Commission for convening this briefing. I
    appreciate the opportunity to join this distinguished group of

    I want to first make some observations relevant to all three states,
    and will then address some issues specific to Armenia's parliamentary
    elections earlier this month and Georgia's upcoming parliamentary
    elections in October. I will conclude with a brief comment on

    My first point is that, leaving out the earliest years of transition
    from Soviet power, elections in the Caucasus have yet to serve their
    basic democratic function of transferring power from one political
    party to another. Where an incumbent team has lost power-which really
    only happened in Georgia's Rose Revolution-it did so outside a normal
    electoral process.

    Second, in all three states, elections have still not produced a
    viable multiparty democratic system, in which opposition political
    parties have enough of a presence in parliament to serve as a
    check on authorities, or to realistically position themselves as
    governments-in-waiting. All three states still operate within the
    paradigm of a "party of power" rather than a modern democratic paradigm
    of parties that alternate power.

    Third, problems with the electoral process, at this point, are less
    related to the mechanics of voting day-the casting, counting, and
    recording of ballots-than to the overwhelming power advantages with
    which authorities are able to control or at least greatly influence the
    country's overall political climate, including campaign and election
    processes, legal and judicial contexts, and public expectations
    and opinion-in other words, the gamut of so-called "administrative
    resources," the broad and frequently illegal use of government finances
    and officials for political purposes.

    Fourth, governments in all three states have utilized particular
    electoral systems to shore up their rule. A long-running debate
    focuses on the benefits and drawbacks of proportional vs. majoritarian
    electoral systems for constructing multiparty democracy. In the
    Caucasus, the conclusion is clear: The more majoritarian seats
    there have been in parliament, the better it has been for the party
    in power. Particularly in Armenia and Georgia, mixed systems with
    a majoritarian component repeatedly lead to substantially greater
    ruling party representation in parliament than there would be in a
    strictly party-list system.

    As a result of these considerations (and others), elections in Armenia,
    Georgia, and Azerbaijan have tended to reinforce-or at least not
    weaken-the power of those in power in ways that fall short of normal
    democratic practice.

    CAP Adjunct Fellow Cory Welt testifies before the U.S. Helsinki

    From: A. Papazian