Parliamentary Election Monitor

Elections in Armenia are usually overshadowed by incidents of violence such as the stabbing of an opposition campaign manager during the 2003 Presidential Election, and sometimes — as was the case in the village of Shahumian during the last parliamentary election or in Nor Hajn during the 2005 local election — even killings. Recently, an internal spat in an opposition party resulted in physical attacks, and RFE/RL reports that a brawl has been reported between the two expected front runners this time round, Prosperous Armenia and the ruling Republican party.CRD / TI Election Monitor 2007 writes, adding, that rivalry between the two pro-presidential parties can be considered a significant factor in how the election plays out. Visit the blog for more.

Kornelij's Election Leaflet #5

Kornelij Glas has issued yet another election leaflet, summerizing key political developments over the past two week:

  1. There is a degree of calm-down in the political processes – it looks as though the political parties are getting ready for the official start of campaigning.
  2. The greatest degree of activity is observed from the side of “Aylyntranq” aka “Impeachment”, but the rally activity is coming to a halt. The last rally had about 100-200 participants (I’m writing 200 just to be on the safe side, lest anybody think that I’m trying to reduce the figures).
  3. On the positive side for “Aylyntranq”, they are leading on the OpenArmenia. According to the results of the current polls on OA the movement is the front runner. Heated debates concerning the past and the future of the movement are debated on a number of discussion threads, this one in particular. Several activists of the movement have joined the forum – and the activists of the youth wing Aramazd Ghalamkaryan and Hrant Ter-Abrahamyan are actively participating in the debates too.
  4. Also, according to the on-line polls conducted by OA and Uzogh dashnaks have a lot of votes. I can state, that generally in my surroundings the general acceptance of ARF is growing, which probably has to do with the fact, that dashnaks have an understandable position and are nationalistically oriented. (Let me just add, that I have no sympathies whatsoever towards the activities of ARF in Armenia)
  5. Bargavach Hayastan opened a site. Following from that site it is clear, that a) Tsarukyan has a laptop, and it is even possible, that he has a blog, b) to join the party you need 2 photos and the party is ready to help you make those if you need, c) despite all the the malicious gossip, the party does have a programme– in all three languages, surprising as it may seem.

Iran-Armenia gas pipeline and other developments in the Armenian economy

Iran plans to deliver 1.1 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Armenia this year through the pipeline, the volume rising to 1.5 billion in 2013 and 2.3 …Armenia reports, while Hyelog republishes a more detailed article from the Earth Times:

Twenty-five miles of the 90-mile pipeline have been built. In the first stage, 300 million to 400 million cubic meters of gas will be transported. Eventually, the pipeline will be able to pump about 2.5 billion cu.m. of gas, the report said.
Initially, Armenia will receive 1.08 million cu.m. per year from Iran, a figure that is expected to double by 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Department of Energy’s data arm. In exchange, Armenia will provide Iran with 3 kilowatts of electricity per cubic meter of gas.

Following the Armenian economist’s recent post about construction activity being the prime driver of GDP growth, writes about continuous growth of real estate prices in Armenia:

The average price in January per 1 sq/m of housing in Yerevan has increased by 2.5% compared to December 2007, and is worth now 230,4 thousand drams ($640). The average price per 1 sq/m of housing for a private house in the regions for the reported period compared to December 2006 grew 3.7%.

On another post dedicated to the IT sector of the Armenian economy, quotes the CEO of “Synopsys Armenia”, Rich Goldman as saying, that Armenia, compared to other countries, has serious advantages in the sphere of information technologies.
Interestingly, a recent important development in the IT sector in Armenia, namely the release of the Armenian language interface to Windows XP was met with a wave of sarcasm and laughter over the quality of translation, or rather, the attempt to twist the Armenian language to meet the technological challenges of the day. Ahousekeeper was the most recent one posting on the issue, with Hayk, Nm_work, Angry Root (myself), Nerses_am and others also having posted about their impressions earlier.
There are some good news in the education front as well, as AUA (American University of Armenia) has received a US Accreditation, which is actually “big news” as Life in Armenia puts it:

The accreditation process has been going on for a few years now and the success means a lot for the school and the country. Now a Diasporan (or indeed a non-Armenian) from the Texas, Tbilisi, Tehran or anywhere else can come to Armenia and get a degree that will be fully accepted to one earned in California or elsewhere. This includes an MBA, or other degrees which of course would cost much more in the USA. For locals who would go there anyway, this makes their degree much more valuable internationally.

Looks like education can actually become a well selling product for the Armenia economy, where there are already some 4-5000 Iranians, mostly students if I understand this article by ArmeniaNow correctly.
Another sector of the Armenian economy, often spoken of as a priority area, is tourism. Raffi K. at Life in Armenia talks about his recent Ski trip to Tsakhadzor, the most popular winter tourism destination in Armenia:

The ski rentals cost 5,000 dram ($14) and the day pass for the lifts was 7,000 ($20). Ski rentals are available in a few places… you might want to get there early and look around. Snowboards seem to cost double what skis cost. Lift tickets can also be purchased on a “as you ski basis”, at 1,000 dram per lift.

So it’s not just the construction sector in the Armenian economy after all, is it?

Sksel e — Flash Mob

Sksel e Flash Mob, Yerevan, Republic of Armenia © Onnik Krikorian, CRD / TI Armenia 2007
CRD / TI Armenia Election Monitor 2007 reports about the Flash Mob event organized by the group of young civil activists as announced earlier here.

[…]Standing at the corner of each intersection leading into the roundabout opposite Yerevan’s Opera House, as well as circling the grassy area in its center, each participant stood with a newspaper reading separate articles of their choice out aloud. Also wearing hats made out of newspapers, the sight and sound of that alone was surreal and unexpected enough for Armenia even in this day and age.
As were leaflets handed out asking “are you satisfied with yourself, or with the person next to you?,” “are you guilty?,” and “are you afraid, or don’t you care?”[…]

Aylyntranq rally on March 16th

CRD / TI Armenian Election Monitor 2007 has an account of Aylyntranq rally held on March 16th, 2007 on Matenadaran square:

Today saw another rally held by the Aylentrank (Alternative) movement outside the Matenadaran in Yerevan. The meeting attracted only a few hundred people and was much less than the already small gathering attracted for its first open air meeting held in Liberty Square on 20 February. A1 Plus was one of only a few media outlets reporting on the meeting.

The blog has also speaks about conflict of interest for young political activists, working in international organizations like UN and trying to get active in the political life of the country. Incidentally one of such people, Aramazd Ghalamkaryan (also a blogger) has been effectively fired from UNDP, and two other young political activists have decided to leave MIAK to comply with the UN regulations.

What was most interesting about today’s event, however, was for CRD-TI Armenia to have the opportunity to talk to local blogger and Aylentrank activist, Aramazd Ghalamkaryan. Until recently, Ghalamkaryan was an Information Associate at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Armenia until his political activities resulted in his suspension. Unreported by the local media, rumor and speculation about his dismissal has been spreading in Yerevan in recent days.

Exhausted Politics and Politicians of Armenia

There is still two months to go before the parliamentary elections, but it is already clear, that the political landscape of Armenia is already exhausted. Although there were public unrests as a result of past elections, still the political landscape didn’t register any qualitative growth. On the contrary, the processes underway in 2003-2004 led to a decomposition of the opposition and exclusion of the society from public life, which could be clearly seen in the developments around the constitutional referendum.” (Kornelij Glas)Following an earlier analysis of the Armenian political landscape two weeks ago, Kornelij Glas has another in-depth analysis of the political situation in the country – and it doesn’t seem that things are improving. Two important conclusions are made by Kornelij Glas, which should be mentioned here:

Hence we can conclude, that under the current situation, whereby there is an ideological vacuum among the political elite, any changes for Armenia as a result of the elections cannot be expected.

On the other hand the overall indifference in the society does not encourage real political activity, and the elections are turning into a simple futility. The most likely result of the current elections will lead to further erosion of political ideology and public disappointment. There is also a possibility, that because of the created political vacuum, the society will be stimulated, and new political forces with fresh ideology will come round. All in all the current political landscape does not correspond to the society – they are moving in different directions. The political forces have led themselves into a vicious circle, where there is no room for the majority of the population.

While Kornelij is predicting the possibility of a fresh political force to develop, Bekaisa is analyzing one of such newly engineered forces – MIAK (United Libratory National Party). Bekaisa starts up by providing an interesting background: looking into how widespread political experiments are held throughout the territory of the former USSR, where an experiment tried out in Belarus is then implemented in Russia, to be further recommended for action in the other CIS satellites (Armenia among them). Bekaisa compares the Russian pro-government parties – “Yedinaya Rossia” and “Spravedlivaya Rossia” with the two Armenian parties of power: “Bargavach Hayastan” and “Republican Party”, and states, that our democracy is becoming strikingly similar to the Russian model of sovereign democracy. Looking into the political vacuum created as a result of final devaluation of the traditional opposition parties, as well as the fact that other government-engineered initiatives to create a youth party have failed so far and given the need to fill in the vacuum created (which was also discussed by Kornelij earlier), Bekaisa looks at MIAK as a party created to solve the following main tasks:

  1. to fill in the niche occupied by our energetic arturik [Artur Baghdasaryan, “Orinats Yerkir”], who is so much in favor in the west
  2. to fill the liberal niche to a certain degree
  3. to fully block the youth niche, as other projects like urikhanyan, kayunutyun and others were too awkward and didn’t justify themselves
  4. to present all the other young and liberal forces as “marginals”(c) and city fools
  5. to have a “constructive” and young opposition, which knows a lot of useful words like “structures”, “systems” and “mechanisms”.

Full posts by Kornelij Glas and Bekaisa are here and here.

Notes from the Armenian Blogosphere

The Armenian and English versions of the CRD / TI Armenia Eleciton Monitor 2007 blog have published their notes on the Armenian Blogosphere, the Armenian version dealing with Russian and Armenian language blogs, and the English version speaking about the English language blogs. Here are some extracts from both language versions:

Korneilj Glas – better known as analyst Samvel Martirosyan, is pointing at his article published on the “Human rights in Armenia” web site. The analyst expresses interesting points of view regarding the current situation, and describing it as “pre-electoral ideological crises”, whereby the political landscape has become extinguished, and the political forces are incapable of presenting the voters with clear ideas, and those few who make an exception, are “led by ideas which are frozen, solidified over the years and not applicable to current realities”.
The newly established ICHD blog states that the “lion’s share” of ensuring legitimate elections is the responsability of the state. The blog asks the question very much in circulation these days: “What should be done?”, and follows up with variants of answers:

  1. do nothing
  2. boycott the elections
  3. persistently and everywhere talk about the [negative] impacts of forging elections

This issue of taxation is perhaps most poignant in a country such as Armenia where the shadow economy and widespread tax evasion accounts for the lion’s share in all financial transactions undertaken. Indeed, after Emil Danielyan reported that many of Armenia’s wealthiest men, who are coincidently sitting in Parliament, post losses despite their obvious affluence, Armenia Blog posts satellite images, photographs and commentary on their mansions and estates.
Interestingly, the oligarchs who will once again be running for Parliament are still able to get away with tax evasion and other illegalities much to the concern of civil society and human rights activists who are already in shock over the continuing eviction of residents from their homes in central Yerevan to make way for the new constructions. Indeed, Armenia Now warns that this situation is set to continue.

The wife of "Shoushi" batallion's ex-commander hurt in a car accident

Via Uzogh:
The wife of “Shoushi” batallion’s ex-commander Jirair Sefilyan – Nanor Barseghyan has been hurt as a result of a car accident. On the 17th of March the car in which Nanor Barseghyan was seating, was hit from behind by another car on one of Yerevan avenues, as a result of which the first car collided with the car from opposite line. Luckily there were no victims, and Nanor Barseghyan, having broken her wrist, was transferred home after receiving necessary medical care.

Questions about the Armenian economy

There is some impressive growth in the Armenian economy, the Armenian Economist (of course 🙂 ) says:

[…]Armenia’s economy has grown at double digit rates over the past five years. Construction activity accounted for much of the recent growth in the economy (see recent post). Changes in the underlying trend in construction activity and its composition over the past decade, however, may foretell further growth and expansion in the economy.[…]

However, there are questions the blogger says, and no one seems to be answering them, like: “Do we know of any studies on how labor markets are impacted by this? Also, has anyone explored the effects on future growth?” (The Armenian Economist)
iArarat has some answers about the Armenian economy – “Emigres are Armenia’s version of Oil”, the blogger hints by republishing extracts from this AFP article:

[…]One key to salvation has been a diaspora estimated at almost nine million people scattered across the United States, Russia, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Their donations and transfers to Armenia amounted to 1.2 billion dollars (900,000 euros) last year, an impressive chunk of the country’s 6.5-billion-dollar (five-billion-euro) GDP, economist Tigran Jrbashyan
said. “Emigres are Armenia’s version of oil.”[…]

Kornelij Glas has drawn attention to the “pointless and aggressive” competition between the mobile phone operators in Armenia (VivaCell and Armentel) as a result of which the corporate tariffs of Armentel mobile have declined 8 times. “How far below are we going?” Kornelij asks with pessimism, although it’s hard to see from his post what is so bad about having cheaper mobile service.
If competition is bad, monopoly is decidedly worse, especially natural monopolies like water provision. Raffi K. from Life in Armenia is “Waterless”:

[…]A stark reminder of this pain in the ass of life in Armenia. I am waterless today. I hate that such a simple thing, something you’d never think about in the US, and something so essential, can remain a problem for so long. They been 24/hr promising water for a good 6 years now… and not even an improvement in hours so far as I can tell.[…]

How about setting up some competition in the sphere? Right! I guess I got a little bit carried away… 🙂

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