Opposition Rally, Liberty Square, Yerevan, Republic of Armenia © Onnik Krikorian/Oneworld Multimedia 2007
Vigorous politicisation of the Armenian section of Internet is observed as the February 19 Presidential elections draw near. A number of official websites endorsing different candidates have been launched. Already there are websites for Levon Ter-Petrossian, Vazgen Manukyan, Vahan Hovhannisyan, Artur Baghdasaryan and Serge Sargsyan (sorted in the order I found out about them, many thanks to Onnik Krikoryan for pointing me to these sites). Sections related to the elections have appeared in the websites of Republican Party of Armenia, Prosperous Armenia/ Bargavach Hayastan and United Liberal National Party/MIAK parties.
Passport and invitations department at RA police has presented the list of Armenian voters based on polling stations to the Central Electoral Commission, which has been placed in the Central Electoral Commission’s website, and as was the case with the previous elections, every Internet connected voter may check their names in the list and find out which polling station they will be voting, and where that particular station is located. By the way, 2 311 917 voters were registered this time, which is 5 983 less then the previous – May 12, 2007 Parliamentary elections.
A range of information websites dedicated to the upcoming elections have been launched, including the http://elections.a1plus.am/ of A1plus, http://www.echannel.am – by Internews Armenia and http://www.elections2008.am – by MediaMax News Agency, http://blog.oneworld.am – Armenia Election Monitor 2008 – by journalist, photographer Onnik Krikoryan. Nearly all news, information and interactive web portals offer Internet polls of various integrity and very contradictory results. It seems that the biggest number of voters have taken part in the Online Poll at the Persons.am, with Levon Ter-Petrossian leading by 52%, followed by Vahan Hovhannisyan at 16% and Serge Sargsyan with 15%. This poll however most likely grossly falsified, because I was able to vote for my favourite candidate – Vahan Hovhannisyan at least 4 times, with no obvious difficulty. A more secure online poll carried out at Uzogh’s blog has revealed, that of 136 bloggers taking part at the vote, majority are supporting Vazgen Manukyan – holding 32% of the voter sympathy.
Armenian blogs and the Armenian section of the video-sharing service YouTube present a special case. One can discuss, curse and blackmail any presidential candidate or all of them at once. As veteran-bloger Samvel Martirosyan has rightly noted, one can even conduct virtual rallies and demonstrations on the blogosphere. A range of agitational blogs have been registered in the LiveJournal section of the Armenian blogosphere, who are carrying out a rather rough and inefficient electoral campaigns among the bloggers in favor of their preferred candidates – Levon Ter-Petrossian and Serge Sargsyan, but doing it in such a dumb manner, that their efforts are triggering general discontent and anger of the already established bloggers, rather then achieving anything.
One thing however remains a puzzle for me looking at all this internetised electoral campaign – with Internet usage among the general population in Armenia remaining much too low to have any substantial impact, what, why and for whom are all these internet resources created? What are all these efforts for? It is really hard for me to imagine, that an average statistical voter would bother to check, if Artur Baghdasaryan or Vahan Hovhannisyan have already uploaded their campaign manifesto on their nice new pre-election websites or no…