Archive for August, 2007

High Profile Fight in the Center of Yerevan

August 25, 2007

In an incident several days ago, the bodyguards of Gagik Tsarukyan and Ashot Aghababyan, a republican legislator and owner of a large trade fair, engaged in a fight in the center of Yerevan. This appears to be the result of an argument around what has been described as “inappropriate parking”. Reports in the media claim that the fight went on for around twenty minutes, with police having arrived, but failing to intervene. It is also reported, that President Robert Kocharyan’s chief of security, Grisha Sarkisyan, arrived at the scene, and mediated an end to the fighting.

Spokespeople for Mr. Aghababyan and Bargavach Hayastan (the party led by Mr. Tsarukyan) have denied the incident, with reports from Mr. Aghababyan’s side going as far as to claim, that he and his bodyguards were absent from the country at the time of the incident.

According to speculation this latest incident is a follow up to other cases involving Mr. Tsarukyan’s security force. In particular, earlier this month, two of his bodyguards were detained in connection to the killing of a Russian officer serving in Armenia, after it was found, that the weapon used in the incident, was registered to Mr. Tsarukyan’s Multi Group.

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Political activities in the pre-campaign period

August 18, 2007

As the time left to the 2008 presidential elections ticks away, political circles are once again beginning to activate. In an interview in the Pastark (Argument) Club, Ararat Zurabyan, head of the HHSh (Armenian National Movement) stated that his party will nominate Levon Ter-Petrosyan to run for president in 2008. Speculations on Mr. Ter-Petrosyan’s possible candidacy have been steadily growing for the past several months, and this interview will serve only to fuel them further. Nevertheless, it appears, that Mr. Zurabyan has not discussed the issue with Mr. Ter-Petrosyan himself, and is unaware if the latter has indeed any intention of running, relying rather on personal hopes.This issue is of great significance to any further developments surrounding the elections. The entry of Levon Ter-Petrosyan into the race would definitely shake the opposition landscape. Nevertheless, ever since stepping down, Mr. Ter-Petrosyan has stayed well clear of politics and the public eye in general. Unlike most opposition leaders, who tend to run for president having scarcely any chance of succeeding, it is unlikely that Mr. Ter-Petrosyan would subject himself to public attention and possible humiliation of defeat, without having good chances of success.

Meanwhile talks of the opposition unifying are still in the air. Paruyr Hayrikyan, a long time political figure and soviet era dissident, arranged a meeting of opposition leaders, to discuss forming a united front. The news, however, came down sceptically with the general public. Mr. Hayrikan has not long ago been quoted defending his person as the single possible fit for presidency, and it is yet unclear if he himself will remain committed to a united opposition, if it is lead by somebody other than him.

So far, fairly reasonable ideas of holding opposition primaries, once voiced by some leaders, appear far from reality. The lack of distinctive leaders in the opposition field makes it hard for a united front to be formed, and the entry of Mr. Ter-Petrosyan could indeed consolidate the field, albeit, around a person, who has a good chance of further alienating the opposition in the eyes of the public.

Press reports Ter-Petrosyan’s political activity

August 1, 2007

Aravot and Zhamanak Yerevan run reports, that Armenia’s first president, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, has held a series of meetings outside Yerevan. This might signify, what the newspapers consider, Mr. Ter-Petrosyan’s return to politics.

The former president has kept predominantly out of the public eye, after his resignation in 1997. In the run up to this year’s parliamentary elections rumors circulated about his affiliation with the radical Impeachment bloc and his alleged plans to use the bloc for launching a presidency campaign. In the pre-election period some statements came out from the Armenian National Movement (HHSH) that “Levon Ter-Petrosyan is the only alternative to Serge Sargsyan”. This statement, disputable at best, nevertheless points out that the former president’s return to power is still possible in the eyes of some political leaders.

Mr. Ter-Petrosyan is widely associated with the economic hardships suffered by many Armenians during the years of his presidency. Ruling elites afterwards have enjoyed the political gains of comparing their rule with the “dark years” of the early nineties. Additionally, opposition parties and activists are often displayed as affiliated with the former president and his party , which serves well to discredit them.

It is early to conclude whether these reports of Mr. Ter-Petrosyan’s political activity are indeed part of larger move. It is also difficult to imagine him getting any sizable percentage of votes in next year’s presidential elections. HHSH tried to participate in the recent parliamentary elections by forging an alliance with several other opposition parties. It eventually withdrew from the elections when all attempts of an alliance resulted in nothing. It is possible, that Mr. Ter-Petrosyan and HHSH might try to play a role in uniting the opposition this time, something crucially important if anyone is ever to challenge Serge Sargsyan’s bid for presidency in 2008.