by David Stepanyan
Signing an Association Agreement with the EU on 27 June, Georgia will hardly manage to settle the major problems of its ethnic minorities, including the Sambtskhe- Javakheti region, says Sergey Minasyan, Deputy Head of the Caucasus Institute, in an interview with ArmInfo.
"Nevertheless, I hope, in the new political and legal realities, our compatriots will get new impetuses and mechanisms to improve the situation and get better living conditions. The challenges that Georgia has faced after gaining independence will not disappear. However, the new conditions will stimulate and help Georgia neutralize those challenges," the political scientist says.
According to him, the major problems of the Samtskhe-Javakheti region, where the population is overwhelmingly Armenian, are connected with protection and exercise of the public rights, normalization of the social-economic and political situation, and democratization of the region. Minasyan thinks the change of power in Georgia in 2012 has softened the political atmosphere in that country, which has a positive impact also on the Samtskhe-Javakheti region. Religious freedom and an opportunity for the local Armenians to involve in the public and political processes in Georgia more actively are only part of the general tendency, he says.
"However, in the middle of 2013, there were indications that the Georgian authorities are returning to some methods of Saakashvili. First of all, I mean the multilevel influence of special services on the public, political, social and economic life in Javakheti. It became obvious after the elections to the local self- government on 15 June. In conformity with the new Local Self-Government Code, mayors of the towns having a status of self-governments must be elected through direct voting. It applied to Akhaltsikha, but not Akhalkalaki that has overwhelmingly Armenian population, though the authors of the bill sought to apply it also to Akhalkalaki," Minasyan said.
He believes that the local elections in Javakheti or Kvemo-Kartli were less democratic than in other regions of Georgia. People in those regions are actually deprived of the opportunity to exercise their constitutional right to freedom of choice, amid really developing democratic and election standards in Georgia. "For instance, unlike Tbilisi, elections in the regions densely populated with national minorities were supervised by the special services," Minasyan says for conclusion.