Ice broken in Javakheti
The political parties have shown unprecedented activity in this election campaign in Akhalkalaki.
Photos of the candidates, promising better life for the Akhalkalaki residents, could be seen on the public buildings facades, private houses fences, cars.
According to the 2014 census, 168 000 Armenians live in Georgia, most of them in Javakheti and its administrative center Akhalkalaki.
The Armenian community in Georgia has been traditionally politically passive. Low attendance and voting for the ruling party to demonstrate their loyalty have been typical of Javakheti.
Substantial support to the opposition candidates at the 2012 elections came as a surprise.
Will the precedent turn into a trend? This is to be seen at the October 8 elections.
Out of 29 political organizations, taking part in the elections, only 6 are represented in the Javakheti.
The most experienced is Enzel Mkoyan, who is running for office in the Akhalkalaki majority constituency with the support of the ruling Georgian Dream.
Mkoyan is running for parliament for the fifth time since 1999. He changes parties easily: in 2012 Mkoyan has been running with the support of the United National Movement, but after its defeat he swiftly joined the ranks of the Georgian Dream, the winner.
“Electing Enzel – that is how people in Akhalkalaki mockingly call the elections.
There are few new faces among other parties candidates as well, which means, that they didn`t bother to refresh their political resources in Javakheti.
But for the first time ever two independent nonpartisan candidates will try to get elected.
“I believe, there is a chance to compete with the authorities, which is unprecedented. It is a breakthrough. We are witnessing the true political rivalry. The opposition has a chance, Artashes Palanjyan says, one of the two independent candidates.
Majority constituencies number 73 in Georgia. According to the Central Election Commission, in 12 of them ethnic minorities prevail, mostly Armenians and Azeris.
12 out of 850 candidates ,running in 73 majority constituencies, are Armenians. There 6 Armenians in the party lists.
There are 3 Armenians in the present parliament – Ruslan Pogosyan, Enzel Mkoyan (Georgian Dream) and Samvel Petrosyan (nonpartisan).
All three have not been excessively active in the last four years. Enzel Mkoyan has never spoken to the parliament. Pogosyan has done it twice, and Petrosyan is one of the 20 parliament members, most rarely seen at the sessions.
“t is only during the campaign that they come to think of us, we become an attractive brand, and they come to shake hands with us, though thy would not even say “hello before, Ayk Manoukyan says, an Akhalkalaki resident.
Besides unemployment and other social needs, that the candidates promise to take care of, they also vouch to improve the relations with Russia and introduce visa-free regime.
It is a seductive promise in Javakheti, where almost 80 percent of men go to Russia for seasonal work.
We met Nune and Anait, the neighbors, at the potato field in the village of Kartsakh.
“They come daily and ask to vote for them as usual, but nothing ever changes, Nune says. Her husband is in Krasnodar now, working at the road construction.
Houses in Kartsakh, near the Turkish border, are still being heated by casings. Among numerous other problems two are vital for the village – lack of water and natural gas supply. Water is still being carried in buckets or on donkeys.
“They came in expensive cars, promised us heavens, asked for the passport. I quietly listened to them and said – guys, I am dying for some water. Go tell them we have no water, people are dying here. We spend whole day collecting potatoes, then come back home tired and have to carry water in order to get washed and go to sleep, Anait, 47, says.