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On January 6, 2008 RA Presidential candidate Levon Ter-Petrossian published his political manifesto, thus becoming the first candidate running for the 2008 February Presidential elections to publish his program. Let me remind everybody, that at this point the leading Republican candidate Serge Sargsyan has only clarified his motto, which will be “Forward, Armenia”, and Dashnaktsutyun have started a PR campaign with fictional “contracts” being signed with citizens (68,000 of which, according to RFE/RL have already been signed with citizens), containing some basic programmatic directives.
Coming back to the pioneering candidate – LTP’s program, as Nazarian kindly informed everybody, “You can read it all at the official website for “Levon for president” campaign. The unofficial site also has a PDF version of it.”
Ter-Petrossian has started out the document with a 1 page criticism of the usual practice of “writing manifestos using indefinite terms” and unverifiable sets of objectives. 5 pages of the 16 page document contain concrete programmatic steps on 1) Internal Political Sphere, 2) Foreign Policy, 3) Restoration of Rule of Law 4) Economic Sphere 5) Social Sphere.
1) The Internal Political section is very much declarative, without clear explanation, of how Ter-Petrossian is going to “establish adequate democracy”, which he wasn’t able to do during his past 8 year rule, or how will he improve the “multi-party system and parliamentarism”, when he himself was the first to forbid a party and set up a constitution, which did everything to take power away from Parliament and give it to the President – Levon Ter-Petrossian instead.
Two things I liked however, was the clear intention of cutting the scope of the state and strengthening the civil society.
2) Foreign Policy – is very vague, despite many are speaking about Ter-Petrossian’s pro-Turkish policy and readiness to surrender Karabakh, nothing in his program indicates that, as if the candidate has deliberately avoided going deep into the issue. In fact what he is saying is currently being implemented by the incumbent Kocharian-Sargsyan duo.
3) Restoration of Rule of Law – the title is funny, to say the least, especially considering Ter-Petrossian’s legacy, with infamous Vano Siradeghyan, Minister of Interior, sitting high above the law and sponsoring oligarchs, who are oligarchs today, and proudly parade alongside Levon. This section is clearly targeted towards the electorate of Artur Baghdasaryan’s “Rule of Law” party, speaking about the return of bank savings of soviet times at a better rate, than the “Rule of Law” party was able to achieve with the law adopted in 2005. There is also a special stress on uncovering the events of October 27, 1999. Generally, this is perhaps the weakest part of the program, on the other hand, if it achieves the target of attracting some of Artur Baghdasaryan’s electorate, it might prove a very smart move, to be plagiarising like this.
The rest of this section is in fact continuation of current state policies: fight against corruption, trafficking, etc. Looking at the fact, that corrupt judge Pargev Ohanyan has voiced his support of Levon, I find it unlikely , that the voters will be tricked into believing, that Ter-Petrossian actually means what he says under this point.
4) Economic sphere – I’m not an expert, but in the age of service economy, I don’t think it is too wise to stress the importance of industrial production. On the other hand, I like the points about antimonopolism, bringing large businessmen out of the shadow, more even distribution of taxation load. Some of the concepts I didn’t understand at all – what does the “enlargement of taxation base” mean for example? That’s one of the “simple, understandable term” I guess, huh?
I also expected much more concentration of import-export dynamics, perhaps suggestions to introduce protective taxes on import. Although there is a section of supporting agriculture, I didn’t see anything else on helping the regional development, perhaps creation of tax-free economic zones in Gyumri, Vanadzor to attract economic activity into those areas. And that is a serious weakness – especially as, from what I know, LTP lacks support in Gyumri, and generally, outside Yerevan.
I also didn’t like the section about banking sphere, but, I know very little about economy to say anything worthy on this regard.
5) Social sphere – very strange mix of Conservative and Socialist practices. The populist aspects of all economic doctrines have been incorporated into this section of the program, without much though of their conditionality and logic. I guess this area has been designed with the objective of hitting ARF-Dashnaktsutyun, but also addressing the “Social Budget” presented by Serge Sargsyan and Republicans for this year.
I liked the points about cheep/free housing to young families, paying large compensations for new born children, move towards professional army, although, I do not believe, any of these points are realistic. However, these are clearly areas, which will attract young voters, unless the chasing candidates offer better deals, which they will…
The remaining 10 pages are basically – a self-justification, something like an historical excursion, a need statement and a look into modern day Armenia, with some very interesting figures about demography, and hints about large scale state sponsored machinations in the import industry and economic sphere, mentioning the fuel and sugar import on several occasions. However, the current state of affairs in Armenia is greatly understated, showing the country on the verge of collapse and describing it with the word “Tatar-Mongol Rule” – forgetting to mention that the World Bank and IMF are considering Armenia’s economic indicators quite outstanding, and are mentioning it as an example of economic success on every occasion.
Ter-Petrossian will call a press-conference on January 11, at 12:00, in Yerevan, at the “Tigran Mets” hall of the “Marriott-Armenia” hotel, discussing the candidate’s manifesto with journalists. While I think the program is something above average at this point, it will be very interesting to read press accounts of the meeting with LTP and his clarifications about program points on January 12. Let’s wait and see.