Plus, Bulgaria targets “lazy savers” and changes may be in store for Serbia’s most Western-oriented political party.by S. Adam Cardais and Ioana Caloianu 26 October 2012
On 25 October, Georgia’s parliament approved a new government led by billionaire and former opposition figure Bidzina Ivanishvili, Radio Free Europe reports.
The vote was 88-54 in favor. Eight legislators were absent, RFE reports.
In elections held 1 October, Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition defeated President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement, winning 85 seats in the 150-member parliament. Prime Minister-designate Ivanishvili has pledged to continue pursuing a pro-Western foreign policy, including European Union and NATO membership, while improving ties with Russia, which have been strained since the countries fought a brief war in 2008, Reuters reports.
Ivanishvili says he will leave politics in 18 months to work in civil society, RFE reports.
Voice of America points out that Ivanishvili and Saakashvili have pledged a peaceful transition of power, the first in post-Soviet Georgia. Saakashvili will serve out his term through next year, when many presidential powers will be transferred to the prime minister under constitutional changes.
Saakashvili came to power as a reformer after the 2003 Rose Revolution. He is credited with getting tough on corruption. But many observers say Saakashvili’s strident anti-corruption efforts came at the expense of democratic ideals as he concentrated power within the executive. Ivanishvili has been one of his most vocal critics.
In 2010, a court convicted Osh resident Abdufarit Rasulov of the crime on dubious evidence, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, and handed down a 20-year prison sentence. But Saipov’s father insists the killers are still at large and presented the Supreme Court with new evidence seeming to prove that Rasulov was 400 kilometers away from the murder scene.
In April, the court ordered a fresh review of the case. The Interior Ministry offered RFE no further details on the new investigation.
Saipov edited the only Uzbek newspaper in Kyrgyzstan and contributed to the U.S.-funded Voice of America and RFE, among other media outlets. He covered everything from Islamic groups to opposition politics in Central Asia.
In 2007, friends said Saipov’s murder might have been linked to critical reporting on the Uzbek regime, including the aftermath of the 2005 massacre of demonstrators in Andijan.
On 25 October, the Bulgarian parliament passed at the first reading a proposed 10 percent tax on interest earned from bank deposits, Novinite reports.
“This tax aims to bring to justice those lazy people who rely on the money stashed in banks,” said ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria parliamentarian Krasimir Velchev during parliamentary debate. “The current system favors the banks and the people who do not want to work.”
Expected to take effect next year, the law would require Bulgarians to include income from bank deposits in their yearly earning statements starting in 2014. Economists and the central bank say the measure would reduce personal savings and inspire capital flight, but the government counters that it will raise some $79 million, Novinite reports.
The tax will only be levied on fixed-term deposits. In addition to such deposits in Bulgarian banks, it will also apply to interest earned from deposits in other EU member states and in Switzerland, the Sofia Globe reports.
An unnamed senior official tells Balkan Insight that Tadic has decided not to contest the 25 November party elections because of declining public support. The deadline to apply for candidacy is 26 October.
Instead, Tadic will take an honorary position with little power, the source tells Balkan Insight. This will clear the way for Djilas, the party’s current deputy president, to take over.
Though Tadic is credited with helping Serbia win coveted EU candidate status this year, he lost the presidency to former ultra-nationalist Tomislav Nikolic in May amid an economic crisis and 20-plus percent unemployment. He is also blamed for the Democrats’ weak performance in parliamentary elections that month.
Earlier this month Tadic and Croatian President Ivo Josipovic jointly received an award from the European Council on Tolerance in recognition of their work to reconcile former foes of the 1990s Balkan wars. The council is co-chaired by European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor and former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski.
Authorities in Tatarstan will investigate a video purporting to show a man being tortured to death by Kazan police, according to Radio Free Europe. The prison surveillance footage was posted on YouTube by the local human rights group Kazan Human Rights Center. It seems to show police officers abusing a suspect named Pavel Drozdov in a cell after his arrest in February during an altercation in a bar.
An official autopsy recorded the cause of Drozdov’s death as acute pancreatic inflammation, a version contested by Drozdov’s relatives, who said his body bore bruises and marks of handcuffs, the RFE report says.
The Kazan Human Rights Center claims to have obtained the video from investigators. An earlier request from Drozdov’s relatives to launch a criminal investigation was turned down.
The reputation of the Kazan police has already been severely tarnished by an incident in March in which a man arrested for hooliganism was raped and beaten in a Kazan police station and later died in hospital. Amid a public outcry, the station chief was sacked shortly after the man’s death, and two police officers were sentenced to prison in September for illegally detaining the man and falsifying his statement.