Archive for the ‘elections’ Category

Ter-Petrosyan’s second meeting takes place

November 19, 2007

Last Friday saw the opposition’s meeting take place as scheduled. This has so far been Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s second meeting after his return to active politics. So far the only claimed number of people attending has been Haykakan Zhamanak’s 80 – 85 thousand. This however is most probably grossly overestimated. The paper, actively supporting Mr. Ter-Petrosyan and his team, had cited 30-35 thousand as the number of people attending the first meeting, however eyewitnesses suggest that the actual numbers were not substantially different, with this Friday’s meeting attracting only slightly more people.

It is nevertheless noteworthy, that the number of people attending the second meeting was not less than the first one. It had been suggested, that Mr. Ter-Petrosyan’s first appearance would draw a substantial crowd because of the sensation – it has been his first public speech in ten years.

With electronic media largely unavailable, except for several radio stations and regional TV stations, the team relied on leaflets and posters to get the message across. As was the case before the previous meeting, problems arose with this again. Some young people were detained by police as they were dispersing leaflets. Narek Galstyan, the leader of the youth wing of one of the parties supporting Ter-Petrosyan, was beaten by unidentified people, after first being detained by police.

Also noteworthy was the speech of Khachatur Sukiasyan, a businessman and legislator who’s businesses fell under immediate fire from tax authorities after declaring support for Mr. Ter-Petrosyan. It has already been argued, that Mr. Sukiasyan is destined to become Armenia’s Khodorkovsky. This is however a likely overstatement since public support for him appears to be high and the authorities will probably have few options other than applying moderate pressure.

In his speech Mr. Ter-Petrosyan talked extensively about the energy crisis of the early nineties. He vaguely apologized, but only after distending himself from almost all of the blame, citing the Nagorno-Karabakh war as the main reason behind the crisis. Also, in an outright populist move, he apologized from bringing the current authorities to power.

Mr. Ter-Petrosyan also declared that none of the figures of his administration are aiming for government posts. It was however unclear if he was expressing the positions of those once around him, or it is his decision to keep them away. On a final note, destined to resound with many, he read out a list of opposition leaders and declared that if all of them unite around him, he will, if elected, promise to step down in three years, leaving the stage open for them. Since apart from others the list contained Vazgen Manukyan’s name, it is highly unlikely that Mr. Ter-Petrosyan will be forced to make the promise, since Mr. Manukyan is probably the last man to unite around him.

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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.

The big picture of NKR elections

July 24, 2007

In his daily column Aram Abrahamyan, editor of the Aravot Newspaper, expressed opinion, that the elections in Nagorno Karabakh were important not only for the NKR but could also serve an example for the political field in Armenia. Mr. Abrahamyan finds it noteworthy, that after the vote, Masis Mayilyan congratulated Bako Sahakyan with victory, something that has apparently never happened in the history of Armenian elections.

Similar opinions were expressed by Sergey Markedonov, a member of the election monitoring team. Mr. Markedonov stressed that the elections were neither a succession of power from father to son, nor a “color” revolution.

In an interview Arkadi Ghukasyan, the NKR’s outgoing president commented on the fact, that well before the elections the majority of  political forces in the country had declared support for Bako Sahakyan.  Mr. Ghukasyan expressed opinion that this was probably an endemic phenomenon for the NKR and had come about mostly from the pressure of the unresolved conflict. In fact, the consolidation of political forces behind Mr. Sahakyan, apparently after his victory became more or less apparent, is probably the single most important factor, questioning the pluralism and free spirit of the elections.

Following NKR Elections

July 23, 2007

Reactions are coming in on the presidential vote conducted in Nagorno Karabakh last week. Obvious positive responses coming from Armenia, with the president, prime minister and parliament speaker congratulating Bako Sahakyan with victory.

Also in a predictable move international organizations and western states, particularly NATO, the EU and the US were quick to criticize the elections. Rudolf Perina, United States charge d’affairs in Armenia stated that the US, as any other country, does not recognize the NKR and subsequently the elections held there.

A Russian newspaper “Vremya Novostey” (News Time) expressed an opinion, that Mr. Sahakyan will be a good partner for Serge Sargsyan, apparently accentuating widely held expectations that Mr. Sargsyan will succeed Robert Kocharyan in 2008.

With regard to reactions coming from Nagorno Karabakh, Masis Mayilyan, Mr. Sahakyan’s main contender in the vote, congratulated the president elect and said, that Mr. Sahakyan has been rightfully elected, despite some falsifications in the voting process. It is highly unlikely that the results of the vote will be in any serious way challenged from inside the NKR. With official monitoring missions limited mostly to former CIS countries it is yet unclear if a more independent assessment of the elections will become available in the future.

Presidential Vote in NKR conducted

July 20, 2007

Presidential elections in Nagorno Karabakh were held yesterday. The NKR Central Electoral Commission reports that 76.25% of eligible voters took part in the elections. Of the five candidates running for presidency, two – former NSS minister Bako Sahakyan, and deputy minister of foreign affairs, Masis Mayilyan, were considered front runners. Preliminary results show, that as was predicted, Mr. Sahakyan took a comfortable majority, with 87.14% of the vote.

Media reports state of a 93 person international monitoring mission, which has so far reported favorably of the voting process. It is important to remember, however, that since the NKR is not internationally recognized, major international institutions such as the OSCE or the EU did not, in any major extent participate in monitoring the elections. It appears that mostly representatives of several CIS and former socialist countries as well as breakaway republics such as Northern Osetia and Transdniestria constituted to this mission.

So far there are no reports of the four other candidates’ responses to Bako Sahakyan’s apparent landslide victory. It is most likely that criticism of the vote from inside the NKR will be limited, with many parties and structures in the country having declared support for Mr. Sahakyan well before the polls.

NKR to hold elections

June 25, 2007

Presidential elections in Nagorno Karabakh are to be held on July 19th. The current president, Arkadi Ghukasyan, is in his second term and cannot run for president for a third time. Bako Sahakyan, currently head of the National Security Service, is seen as a likely winner. He has the support of Mr. Ghukasyan, as well as several political forces both in Armenia and the NKR. Recently, the “Erkrapah” Karabakh war veterans’ union declared support for Mr. Sahakyan.

Other notable candidates are Masis Mayilyan, currently deputy foreign minister, and Vanya Ovannisyan, a professor at the Artsakh State University.

Raffi Hovhannisyan to participate in rerun

June 19, 2007

In an unexpected move, Raffi Hovhanisyan, leader of the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, declared his participation, in the upcoming rerun of the majoritarian vote in one of the constituencies, where the winning candidate, Republican Khachik Manukyan, had declined his mandate after the elections.

Interestingly, Mr. Manukyan is also to participate in the elections, after first declaring that he had decided to leave politics. This appears to give credibility to the opposition’s claims, that Mr. Manukyan’s refusal of his mandate was actually staged by Republican party leaders.

Mr. Hovhannisyan’s entry into the race has apparently got the other candidates on high alert. The Zharangutyun party was one of only two opposition parties to make it to parliament, and with the other party (Orinats Erkrir – Country of Law) still seen by many as being affiliated with the authorities, Zharangutyun and Mr. Hovhannisyan in person attract much public confidence.

Constitutional Court leaves election results intact

June 13, 2007

Last week saw what can be considered a final end of the post-electoral process. The Constitutional Court read out it’s ruling concerning four opposition parties’ suit questioning the May 12th parliamentary elections’ results. As was expected, the Court did not overrule the electoral commission’s results, stating that violations which had taken place did not affect the end result of the vote.

The Constitutional Court process was the last legal opportunity to declare the elections’ results invalid, and with the oppositions’ meetings gathering fewer people by the week, the parliamentary elections can be considered a closed chapter.

In a separate story last week, the winning majoritarian candidate in one of the constituencies unexpectedly declined his mandate. When contacted by reporters Republican Khachik Manukyan denied any knowledge of the incident. Afterwards, however, he declared that he had decided to stand back, after widespread allegations of violations and fraud concerning his election to parliament.  A rerun of the majoritarian vote in that constituency is scheduled for August 26th.

The opposition was quick to react to this incident, claiming that all Republican candidates are made to sign such applications before the elections and hand them over to the party leadership, which in turn can exercise them after the vote, if necessary.

ARF not joining coalition but keeping most of it’s power

June 7, 2007

A coalition agreement was finally signed yesterday between the Republican Party and Prosperous Armenia (Bargavach Hayastan). The ARF (Dashnakcutyun) did not sign to a coalition government. Instead it signed a cooperation agreement allowing it to retain three of it’s four ministerial portfolios.

When the election results came in the ARF immediately declared that it had no desire to form a superficial part of the government, making some believe that it might become opposition. As talks progressed information came out about the ARF’s interest in one of power structures and the Republicans’ willingness to hand over such a portfolio in exchange for the ARF’s support of Serge Sargsyan in the 2008 presidential elections. However, the ARF had previously declared that it is to put forward it’s candidate for the presidential race. Yesterday, with the signing of these two documents, Armen Rustamyan from the ARF confirmed this decision.

The RPA has a de-facto majority in parliament, however it should not wish to alienate itself from the major parties and especially the ARF, especially with presidential elections ahead