Ossets pick Bibilov, Speaker sticks to guns on bad constitutional amendments, smoking ban, Belgian speaker in town, Janelidze in Warsaw, Margvel blasts government, Military agreement with France, Foreign Min backs Trumps bombing Syria, priest files human right suit, infrastructure plans, reserve fund for fire victims, Chiatura accident, penguins, giant bus parking lot, Misha wants a wall in Ukraine, Big Tabasco goes to court, IMF ready, more flyers, young Lelos beat Japan, This Affects You to court over gov surveillance, constitution mess, SO election, black market uranium, fake USAID Armenia letter, Orban coming

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  1. The MEME this week is is a meme featuring a stereotypical Georgian man’s social media pictures: profile pic–him standing in front of a microphone; instagram–him shirtless; tagged photos–him standing with a bunch of other men; and LinkedIn photo–him trying but failing to look very serious.

    Link: http://bit.ly/2o9BbT0

    Dustin Gilbreath and David Sichinava of the Caucasus Research Resource Centers have a fantastic piece in EurasiaNet about the proposed constitutional reforms and how they would affect the outcomes of future parliamentary elections–in particular, the Reform Commission’s intention to replace the current mixed majoritarian/proportional system with a proportional system that bans blocs and allocates undistributed seats to the leading party. They construct three data models based on different scenarios: the current mixed system; the new system proposed by the Reform Commission; and a theoretical scenario where seats are allocated on a proportional basis and undistributed seats are not re-allocated to the leading party. What do they find? The first two scenarios would have resulted in roughly the same outcomes as actually occurred in the 2008 and 2016 elections. The third scenario, which isn’t stacked so much in favor of the leading party, would have resulted in slimmer majorities in both elections. However, they find that in 2012, when Otsneba won by a 20-seat majority, their lead would have been a lot bigger if Georgia had a system where the undistributed seats were automatically allocated to the leading party, which is what the Reform Commission wants. The conclusion is that the proposed reform would really tip the scales in favor of the leading party, which for the time being is Otsneba. The best thing to do would be to make the system fully proportional, continue to allow blocs, and not allocate leftover seats to the leading party.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2oD3750

    Also for EurasiaNet, Irina Kelekhsayeva and Josh Kucera cover the presidential election in South Ossetia. The victory of Parliament Speaker Anatoly Bibilov has everyone surprised, mainly because the Kremlin openly campaigned on behalf of incumbent Leonid Tibilov. It appears that voters, even though many of them want South Ossetia to integrate into the Russian Federation, resented Russia’s meddling in their election, and Tibilov’s campaigning on his close ties with Vladimir Putin actually backfired. All of that is a bit ironic because Bibilov is arguably the more pro-Russian of the two candidates. At the end of day, it didn’t really matter to Russia who won. Its dominance will continue regardless.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2oqYo40

    Liz Fuller for Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty also covers the presidential election in South Ossetia. The victory for Bibilov puts Russia in a bind. Bibilov has lobbied for years to hold a referendum as soon as possible on South Ossetia’s accession to Russia, and recently said he wants to hold a vote by the end of 2017. Tibilov, on the other hand, who was Russia’s preferred candidate, favored a policy of gradual integration. Russia’s prefers a more gradual policy because it lets them keep de facto control over South Ossetia while avoiding the international backlash that would come from formal annexation, like in the case of Crimea. It would be awkward and embarrassing for the Kremlin if the people of South Ossetia voted for accession and Russia was forced to reject that choice.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2ovaV8y

    Eka Akobia, who is Dean of the School of Governance at Caucasus University, writes for The Clarion about the recent US airstrikes against the Assad government in Syria and whether the US is moving toward an actual strategy for resolving the conflict. The US made a major U-turn in its policy toward Syria, and many speculate it will now demand that Russia accept his removal from office. However, a political settlement would require a serious diplomatic commitment from the US.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2nIxK9G

    ISET publishes the results of an online survey where they asked respondents to identify which country they would like to have been born in. Number one is Georgia, followed by the US, Italy, United Kingdom, and Germany, in that order. Every country in the top 10 other than the US is located in Europe. Of 501 respondents, only one said they would like to have been born in Russia. Most of the respondents were women, most were single, and nearly all held at least a bachelor’s degree. Respondents were also asked why they chose the country they did, with personal freedom, quality of education and healthcare, and opportunities for professional development getting the most responses. Of course beautiful women–Iceland, and attractive men–Italy, mattered too.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2pxwR0k

    Time has a long form piece about the black market for uranium in Georgia. Last year, a small-time trader was busted in Kobuleti for selling about two pounds of uranium to some undercover cops, highlighting the security threat posed by even small amounts of radioactive material falling into the wrong hands. Georgia is located on a smuggling route that stretches from Russia to to Iran and Turkey into Syria and Iran, so law enforcement is working very hard to stamp out any potential trade in uranium. A terrorist could make a so-called dirty bomb out of a small amount of low-enriched uranium, and a device the size of a suitcase could spread radiation across several city blocks, potentially killing hundreds or thousands of people.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2nIAXpY

    Amy McKinnon for Coda Story covers hackers and trolls trying to use Twitter to manipulate voting behavior in parliamentary elections in Armenia earlier this month. Several journalists and bloggers had their accounts hacked before and during the elections. Most bizarre, a number of Russian-language profiles tweeted a faked letter from USAID which called on Armenians to vote in favor of the opposition, which was held up as an example of US attempts to meddle in the election. The letter contained numerous spelling errors and was sent by a gmail account, and an analysis by the Atlantic Council found the accounts that tweeted it were probably part of a coordinated group.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2ovmuwk

    Wine Business Magazine, which covers the Australian wine industry, covers the popularity of Saperavi grapes in Australian vineyards. Currently, 20 vineyards grow varieties of Saperavi in Australia, and several do in the US, as well. It’s still little-known among consumers but with more publicity, Saperavi will become globally-known soon enough.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2oqNLhL

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