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.

A short break

July 1, 2007

This goes to inform, that Tesaket will not be updated for a couple of weeks. We will be back mid July with more news from Armenia.

Proposed legal amendments target RFE / RL

June 28, 2007

Today the Armenian parliament discussed two controversial bills about making changes to existing laws on “Government Duties” and “Television and Radio Broadcasters”. The proposed amendments are widely seen as primarily targeting Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. If made law, these bills will ban Public Television and Radio from airing programs of foreign broadcasters and will impose weighty duties on private broadcasters willing to air those programs.

RFE / RL relies on heavily on Armenian Public Radio for broadcasting it’s programs. Few other radio stations have anything close to the Public Radio’s coverage. Besides that, migrating to a private broadcaster and paying the high duties might prove impossible for RFE / RL, at a time when the US government is considering cutting funding to the service.

RFE / RL regularly airs it’s news, analytical and youth programs on Public Radio and less, on some private frequencies. With the exception of newspapers and internet news sites, it is by far the only substantially independent media in Armenia. Rumors about the authorities’ desire to close down RFE / RL have been circulating for several months, however this is the first real step in that direction.

Parliament is expected to vote tomorrow on the issue. With the the coalition and the ARF having publicly declared support for the proposals, it is almost certain that the bills will become law. Nevertheless, in the course of today’s parliamentary discussions Tigran Torosyan, the National Assembly Speaker, as well as a number of other legislators denied any suggestions that the proposals target freedom of speech in the country and RFE / RL in particular. The bills were harshly criticized both by opposition representatives in parliament and Armenia’s civil society in general. Supporters of the amendments state concerns, that foreign broadcasters have an advantage over local TV and Radio companies, however, it has been noted, that retranslators of foreign TV channels (a number of Russian TV channels as well as CNN and Euronews are available in Armenia) , who do not fall under the proposed duties, are the ones with the real advantage.

Government program passes in parliament

June 27, 2007

In a vote on June 26th, the Armenian parliament accepted the government’s program, presented by prime minister Serge Sargsyan. Arminfo reports that the program is mainly oriented towards social issues. In his presentation Serge Sargsyan stated the government’s efforts of keeping annual GDP growth averaging 8-10% for the next five years.

The program was accepted by a 94 vote majority, with the coalition and ARF voting for it, the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) and Orinats Erkir (Country of Law) respectfully voting against and abstaining from a vote.

Independent examination appears to confirm official version

June 26, 2007

Aravot published some short excerpts from the examination results of Levon Gulyan’s body. Although the document is still not fully translated, the newspaper obtained parts of it containing the conclusions made as to the reason of Gulyan’s death. From what is available it appears that the independent examination generally confirms the official examination results, in that Gulyan died as result of a fall to the ground. The commission also observed some injuries which appear to have been inflicted before the fall, however no connection was found between them and Gulyan’s death.

It was widely believed that the independent examination’s results would confirm Gulyan’s relatives’ claims that he was beaten to death in the police headquarters and only then thrown down from a window, in an attempt to conceal the police’s guilt. The police claim that Gulyan fell either committing suicide, or in an attempt to flee the police headquarters, where he was being questioned. Investigations are still ongoing and indictments are still possible as the Armenian criminal code contains an article on “Driving a person to suicide”.

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.

Court satisfies Zharangutyun’s Claims

June 22, 2007

Panorama.am reports that a court of first instance has satisfied the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party’s leader, Raffi Hovhannisyan’s suit against the Chief Prosecutor’s Office. The Prosecutor’s Office had last year declined Mr. Hovhannisyan’s request to start a criminal investigation into an alleged fact of hacking into Zharangutyun offices’ computers and theft of information. Mr. Hovhannisyan’s suit had gone from a court of first instance to the appeals court, then sent back to a court of first instance under another judge, who subsequently satisfied Mr. Hovhannisyan’s claims.

Levon Gulyan’s examination results arrive

June 22, 2007

A1plus reports that the results of the examination of the body of Levon Gulyan, made shortly after his death by a commission of independent medical experts from Europe, have finally reached Yerevan. The results were due several days after the experts left Yerevan, however they failed to arrive for almost a month, giving way to speculation around the issue.

No details are being given yet about the commission’s conclusions. It appears that the public will have to wait a few more days before the 17 page document is translated.

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.