Levonator and Sezhadevil in Focus of Bloggers' Attention

The past week was eventful, and while the traditional media in Armenia were pondering their adequate response so as to avoid “unnecessary complications”, the Armenian Internet community were discussing the comings and goings of the current political scene at full speed.
The start of the week was marked by yet another scandal surrounding the Constitutional Right Union (CRU) party[AM] with its chairman, Hrant Khachatryan, slapping the deputy chairman, Haik Babukhanyan, in public for the second time in a year after the latter invaded the party headquarters with a group of supporters backed by police.
Another picturesque moment came as the head of People’s Party Tigran Karapetyan visited Gyumri [AM] and lit special candles, painted in the tricolors of the Armenian flag.
According to many bloggers, although they were hardly serious about this, burning the candles was the equivalent of burning the Armenian flag — something very offensive for the state. On the other hand, some noted, if the red colour stripe burned down, the remaining part of the candle would resemble the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag.
The Kornelij Glas blog is surprised with the stance of the opposition Heritage party [RUS]. After their leader was denied registration as a presidential candidate, the party sent out questionnaires to other opposition forces in order to determine which candidate they would support instead.
Now, the party announces that they won’t support anyone unless at least two opposition candidates join forces. The blogger wonders for how much longer the party will linger with their decision: “Till April perhaps?”.
Dildoyan has many questions for government candidate Serzh Sargsyan [RUS] about the infamous Armenicum drug which was supposed to be a cure for HIV/AIDS in the late 90s and which would have made the country rich, the terrorist act in the Armenian parliament on 27 October 1999 when Sargsyan was the minister of State Security, and also the surrender of strategic industrial complexes to Russia.
The blogger also has some suggestions to improve the speeches of the opposition candidate Levon Ter-Petrossian, saying that he should include the following in his texts:

To the Authorities: Let My People Vote!
You are putting my people under constant pressure – offering bribes in exchange for their vote, intimidating them, using your proxies to bully them, blackmailing them, threatening them with the loss of their jobs and livelihoods. Your pundits are bombarding the air with their phony prognoses of the win in the first round. Leave my people alone! Let my people vote! Move out of their way! Remember – you will not get away with your machinations, not this time. I will not let you.
To the voters: You’ve gotta fight for the right to party!
People, be vigilant. Do not trade in your vote, and with it your integrity and dignity, for the money they have stolen from you in the first place. Get out to the voting stations and vote! For me or against me – not important. Cast your vote, do not let the crooks steal it or stuff those boxes with their fakes. Wake up! Stand up! You will remember the day for years to come and feel proud. I am with you. We are in this together.

With one paragraph, A1plus blog sums up the start of the official pre-election campaign(AM):

The campaign begins with Artashes Geghamyan’s formula of bringing people into the mainstream and the presentation of his “Program of Genesis”, Vazgen Manukyan’s meeting with youth and motto of taking charge of the country, Levon Ter-Petrossian’s announcement about “sacrificing his head to save the country during his trip to the provinces, Vahan Hovhannisyan’s festive singing and dancing with “his friends”, and Rule of Law speculations on divisions in government as a clear sign of a possible second round where the opposition can also join forces…

Regardless, the former president, Levon Ter-Petrossian, remains the most discussed person in the Blogosphere with the F5 blog joining the electorate of this candidate [AM] and urging everyone to “Help each other destroy this corrupt pyramid weighing on our future and the future of our children”.
On the other hand, Gazan2008 explains why he hates Ter-Petrossian so much [AM].

“I hate him because of all those numerous brilliant young people, who made me proud not so long ago. For those, who were “sksela”, “alternative”, “rock” and who smelled of freedom and freshness. I hate him, because his appearance broke that mind-set and sprit once again, turning a large crowd of free young people into puppets of his insatiable arrogance”.

Following the Armenian elections from the UK via satellite TV, Unzipped notes some balanced media coverage on the first of official presidential election campaign, contrasting it with the pre-official campaign period:

“In December on the Armenian air the negative references to the first RA President Levon Ter-Petrosian continue to dominate. In other words, during the last month of 2007 the unprecedented phenomenon, recorded in November, continued when the share of neutral editorial coverage of an Armenian politician quantitatively fell behind that of negative: 103 negative references to Levon Ter-Petrosian versus 100 neutral ones and 4 positive ones. At the same time the share of negative ones in the total number of references has somewhat gone down in December – 49.8% versus 58.7% – in November. ”
Anyway, today was a different story – Armenian media behaved as it should have behaved always. If it only continues this trend over the whole election period and beyond… Media monitoring by international and local agencies played important role in putting pressure on government and Public TV via mainly European/US influential bodies, and is as vital as ever to ensure continuous fair coverage of presidential campaign.

Civilized discussions finished on this. Following the publication of the list of presidential candidate websites on The Armenian Observer blog, an outburst of interest towards those sites by the Armenian Internet community followed. Reporter_arm found a section of personal photos [AM] on the website of the prime minister, presidential candidate Serzh Sargsyan’s website, which became the dominant topic of blog discussions for the rest of the week.
Viewing the childhood photos of the prime minister made Samvel Martirosyan finally realise that Sargsyan is also human [AM]. However, photos of the prime minister playing chess, with a book entitled “Napoleon” specifically brought to foreground, and a number of other photos in the unofficial photo series brought about a highly sarcastic response.
The choice of symbolisms picked by the prime minister made bloggers comment, and usually comment with humor.

The mockery of Prime Minister’s photos further strengthened after the unofficial website in support of opposition candidate Levon Ter-Petrossian posted a sideshow where with appalling negligence of all ethical norms and morality the photos taken from Serzh Sargsyan’s website were edited and commented out in a way as to present the government presidential candidate as a “mafia” boss, gambler and a devilish personality.
To balance it out, the Nothing Else Matters… blog posted Ter-Petrossian’s photo which, according to the blogger, is so scary that there is no need to further edit it.

The week concluded with the appearance of the Levonator and Serzhadevil (see photos posted at the start of this article) which completely frustrated some of the more balanced Bloggers. Ogostos was one of them and called for bloggers to stop making fun of the photos of candidates and to return to a more acceptable level of debate.

The Audio Version of This Article was Broadcast on Radio Hay 104.1 FM.
Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant


  1. […] Reverse Spin wrote an interesting post today on Levonator and Sezhadevil in Focus of Bloggers’ AttentionHere’s a quick excerptLevonator and Sezhadevil in Focus of Bloggers’ Attention January 24, 2008 The week was eventful, and while the traditional media in Armenia are pondering their adequate response, so as to avoid “unnecessary complications”, the Armenian Internet community were discussing the comings and goings of the current political scene full speed. The start of the week was marked by yet another scandal around the Constitutional Right Union (CRU) party(AM) with the chairman of the party Hrant Khach […]

  2. It’s unfortunate that the humor on the caricature slide show for SS was lost on the Armenian bloggers. (http://www.levonforpresident.com/am/160/)
    I guess you have to be immersed in the Western culture to really appreciate humor like that. To call it “with appalling negligence of all ethical norms and morality” is not a truthful way of describing it.

  3. I also don’t understand why the emotionally disturbed post by Gazan2008 is given such prominence as to be translated. The guy needs some professional help, not being elevated to be worthy to be quoted on your blog.

  4. Nazarian – I can appreciate humor, but this one was a really dirty trick – when a couple of months ago someone tried to make a Hitler-like picture from Levon’s photo taken by Onnik, I was among the first to complain. But that is not the point. I just don’t see this slideshow as an acceptable form of campaigning. Just like I don’t like the video put into circulation, where Levon makes a bad joke of Kocharyan, forcing him to say that he is Albanian. This is very far from my understanding of civil debate. Perhaps you’re right, I haven’t been long enough immensed in Western culture to appreciate it (but who said Western culture is good?), although I graduated high school in US.
    The point is – let’s talk about real stuff, politics, issues, not some stupid photos. I was planning a series of posts – analysis of various candidates’ programs, but now I really don’t think it is worth my efforts.
    As to Gazan2008’s opinion – it is so very close to what I feel about those brilliant young people joining Levon’s camp, that I can’t neglect it.

  5. Thanks for mentioning the Levon/Hitler pic which also got me pissed as well, and not least because the issue of copyright has come up again recently. I don’t think we should descend to such levels to be honest, and just as I managed to get the Levon/Hitler pic removed based on my copyright, I don’t particularly think the Serge pic was appropiate also. That said, the Levon/Hitler pic really was worse, in my opinion. I agree with Observer and others that if Armenia is to progress we should be able to push and fight for ideas, beliefs, the law and god knows what else and not descend to this level. Indeed, it’s precisely because it nearly always does that most of the population is confused and really apathetic or fed up with politics in Armenia — on both sides of the divide.

  6. […] The Armenian Observer takes another weekly look at the 19 February presidential election in Armenia as seen by bloggers. However, just as the media landscape was defined by the polarization of journalists and media outlets into pro-government and pro-radical opposition, Observer reports the same is true in the Armenian blogosphere. […]

  7. Observer,
    I also agree with your point about young people… but vice versa. Please comment about Levon Martirosyan and some others (don’t want to mention names) who support SS. While MIAK guys negotiated with Aylyntranq to make a bloc before Parliamentary election in May 2007, and now they support SS: can you explain this?!
    While those guys supporting Levon were always FOR the ideas promoted by him. Moreover, there is no focus on the personality per se, because we all declared that we would equally support VM, RH or another who joins forces.
    Anyway, I believe there is nothing wrong in caricatures and humour. And it is funny to look at Levonator as well as Serzhadevil! Why not?! Don’t we want smth like a freedom of speech in our country?! 😉

  8. re the word “puppets”
    perhaps it is not so visible for an outsider, but believe me, LTP’s team is really a decentralised, liberal and democratic one. young people contribute so much with their ideas and initiatives and Levon’s experience and wisdom so perfectly match with those mindsets and ideas that the campaign expands and becomes more and more influential from day to day!
    while, please, have a look at SS’s posters throughout Yerevan! one may wonder whether Serzh’s PR guys really support LTP! 🙂

  9. Interestingly, use of images even for publicity purposes from the official web sites without permission is copyright infringement unless stated otherwise. Modification of such images most definitely is, and no doubt legal action can be taken. It was with my copyright I managed to get the Levon/Hitler photo removed, for example.

    MIAK guys negotiated with Aylyntranq

    Does anyone have any confirmation of this. For sure, when I was attending the BAA/MIAK parties in the month and a half before the election, this is not the impression I got. Indeed, others now aligned with Ter-Petrosian alleged even then that they were supporting Serge.
    Those that I still keep in touch with and talk with about the election in the past few months — well, since Levon returned — most definitely don’t like Ter-Petrossian and were thinking about who to support. Later in the year, this became more solid — it was Serge, although some said they did so because they saw no alternative.
    I’d like more information on this accusation and it will be interesting to hear MIAK’s response. For sure, as MIAK was heavily discussed before the election and many of those now with Levon were constantly accusing it of working with Serge, I find the accusation hard to believe.
    I’d also like to see more information about this alleged negotiation — names, dates, etc. It’s standard journalist practice to try to work out if the allegation is genuine or made up in an attempt to discredit the fact that there are education, young professionals who choose Serge over Levon.
    And yes, there are those educated, young professionals who choose Levon over Serge. Interestingly, though, I’m told some students are more and more looking to Artur Baghdasarian, but for now, I think it’s fair to say that nobody has mainstream support in Armenia for this election.
    Instead, there might be someone supporting Serge, another supporting Levon, and someone else supporting another candidate. Demographically they might be very similar. That’s could democracy. That’s called a diverse society with a multitude of opinions.
    For sure, it is wrong to frame this presidential election as being one of highly popular Serge against hated Levon, or highly popular Levon against hated Serge. Or indeed, what about the other candidates? What we have instead is a highly polarized battle between two sides with the majority of Armenians stuck in between.
    For now, at least. We’re barely a week into the pre-election campaign so why would it be any different?

  10. when I was attending the BAA/MIAK parties in the month and a half before the election

    when I was attending the BAA/MIAK parties in the month and a half before the PARLIAMENTARY election

  11. Aramazd – MIAK have been utterly disgusting for me from the start – just do a quick search on my blog and you’ll see what I have been writing about them from the very first day that miserable group of careerists started calling themselves a party.
    Gazan2008 – is exaggerating things. I said I have similar feelings – that does not mean I think that way. I just feel I’m sorry, that Levon came, and as a result there is this understanding outside, that “sksela”, “aylyntranq”, etc. were just a puppet brought there to serve Levon’s purposes. I know this is not the case – because I am part of “sksela” – and I see the real picture from inside, so I can assure, that “sksela” is still a very healthy civil movement and I want to compliment outstanding “sksela” people like Isabella, for not imposing any political views on the movement and not trying to drag it into Levon side, despite her being immediately involved in Levon campaign.
    However, what Gazan2008 is saying (and by the way, I have suspicions, that whoever that blogger is, he/she is being paid by KGB to write what he/she is writing), is how many people perceive “sksela”. I know, that some of young people I’ve been trying to bring into that movement are avoiding it especially because they think it is a Levon Puppet. Once again – I know this is not the case, but I also know there is this common feeling, that Levon’s coming broke that movement, and broke “aylyntranq” as well. And I share in this feeling.

  12. Like I’ve said before – I have really mixed feelings about Levon. While I am 100% against Serzh and would do nearly everything to see him thrown out of the country – doing it by supporting Levon is the last thing that I would do.
    As to Levon – like I’ve written before – I have really mixed feeling. For me – he is a villian, the white wizard Saaruman from the Lord of the Rings, who went so high up into his white tower of Isengard, that was lost in his arrogance and became worse then Saauron – the Dark Lord. I know his coming was positive this time – because he brought an appearance of political struggle, but I don’t see him as an alternative, as an “aylyntranq”. And I still have suspicions, that he was brought there to legitimize Serzh’s coming. I would understand much better, if Levon came as a background supporter for Vazgen, or Raffi, or someone else…
    I don’t know – I’m really frankly lost and disappointed by recent developments in politics. And all I want to do now is to at least try to observe everything from a balanced standpoint. And I want to see this country have a democratically elected president. After all – if tomorrow people elect Serzh, Levon or Tigran Karapetovich – and if my more or less balanced observation allows me to say, that it was an indeed democratic election, I will be happy to welcome whoever the president is.

  13. On the other hand – what I’ve seen so far since September 21st till the start of the official pre-election campaign is so anti-democratic, that I don’t think there is a hope, and I think Levon’s persistence in running in this crazy atmosphere and going out to meet people, etc. – his persistence to follow the anti-democratic rules dictated to him from Robocop/Serzhadevil clan is once again a signal, that he is not there to seek democracy. He is there to either legitimize these elections, or provoke major clashes in public. Chgitem… I have a really bad feeling. I know, that when it all starts, I will be there, in the front row – and I’m sure I’ll be on the side of opposition against the authorities. But I’m still not sure whose side opposition are on?

  14. Aylentrank was always about what it is today. That was obvious from day one. Virtually all the main figures were pro-LTP or former members of HHSh. That was obvious from the way the very mention of the names “Levon” and “Vano” were almost deified at the first Aylkentrank rally.
    As for Sksela, I think the true picture will be seen. It has been increasingly hijacked for politically-partisan purposes which is why those truly independent and liberal youth activists I know are not part of it. That’s my opinion, and you have yours of course, but I think it is a necessary ingredient for Ter-Petrosian’s recipe.
    Regarding everything else, I have the same concerns although for now we haven’t had any serious clashes. Still, I suspect all shit will hit the fan eventually, especially after the election. However, like Observer, I want to see a more democratic election. Then, it doesn’t matter who wins although I think people can still be happy or sad about the choice.
    The matter is that people accept it, move on, and struggle for more democracy and freedom to make the election and the choices on offer better. For me, that’s what democratization is. Anyway, for now at least, the presidential election appears a marked improvement over 2003, but let’s see.
    Whoever wins, let them do so with the majority support and let them understand that this time they are accountable for their time in power. At the end of the day this is all that matters.

  15. Still, I don’t like this polarization and I think most Armenians don’t either. It remains to be seen whether Vazgen Manukian’s warnings come true, but regardless, the hatred between the two candidates and the tendency to attack personally (although Serge not doing this directly — the pro-government media was and Kocharian) is not to be welcomed. Moreover, it is unfortunate that the pro-Levon media have also shown themselves to be as guilty of this — and not just with attacks on Serge, but also on any figure in the opposition who doesn’t support them.

  16. Hello, I was searching for the websites of candidates in google and found this very interesting post with links comments and coudn’t help adding my own comment. I am more an anti-government person than pro, I don’t support Serzh, but I don’t support Levon either. Actually I don’t like both of them.
    HAving said this, I would like to say WHAT everyone sees but due to political affiliations and bias no one actually states openly.
    The thing is that whether or not we like the candidates we can’t have see that both candidates are now leading very interesting and dynamic campaigns. And it’s very good I think that Armenia got such a tough and unforeseable presidential election.
    I think this is partly thanks to the work done by those young people present in both camps in quite a big numbers nowadays. Some of them obviously have key positions in terms of decision-making in Serzh’s and Levon’s headquarters respectively. This is especially true and more visible about Serzh’s camp probably because the young guys there control more resources than those in LTP’s camp. However the pro-LTP youths are doing a great work anyway and as an Armenian citizen I really appreciate their creativity and commitment. It remains to be seen how long they can keep working hard and be creative.
    And another observation – I have the feeling that none of the young people in either camp really feels ideologically attached to their candidates. I am sure all these miaks, sksela, alternative etc are ideologically much closer to each other rather than to who they now support. I have friends in sksela and miak. A friend of mine who’s a staunch member of MIAK told me recently that the atmosphere in the party is such that if they supported LTP the latter would have already committed a revolution. When I asked why they didn’t support LTP he said because LTP failed to negotiate a deal with them whereas Serzh’s camp was very quick and clever to do so. This might mean of course that MIAK might have had some links to Alternative before because at that point they were open to offers, though in terms of social status and origin of their members these 2 groups seem to be quite different.
    A final word about the websites – I like both sites (LTP’s and Serzh’s) and I think it’s good that they are exposing themselves to the public as much as possible to get votes, please let us encourage this and not hamper.

  17. Aram – thanx for the comment. Links to the presidential websites can be found on a different article in this same blog, try clicking this link here: http://ditord.wordpress.com/2008/01/11/internetisationof2008elections/

  18. The link to SS slide show is incorrect. The slideshow is hosted at: http://www.levonforpresident.com/am/160/
    Some more slide shows are in progress, for example one wil be related to the SS’s secret life in Casinos.
    And some other fun stuff to make the ellections more interesting.

  19. Հարգարժան դիտորդ,
    Եթե կարծում եք որ մենք թաքնվում ենք, կամ թաքցնում ենք մեր ինքնությունն ու հայացքնրը, ստօպված եմ լինելու Ձեզ հիասթափեցնել: Ոչ, թաքնվելու խնդիր չկա, ավելին իմաստ չկա, ումից, կամ ինչից թաքնվել: Իմ հայացքները պարզ արտահայտված են իմ բլոգում ու որևէ մեկի մոտ երկարի մեկնաբանությունների տեղիք չեն կարող տալ: Իմ ցանկացած գրած խոսք ու բառ բխում է իմ համոզմունքներից:
    Ես ուրախ եմ, որ ընդունել եք ձեր բացթողումը, ավելին, կարծում եմ, կարող ենք ժամանակի ընթացքում վերածվել բավական կառուցողական ու հետաքրքիր զրուցակիցների, հակառակորդների կամ համախոհների:
    Ես, իհարկե, շնորհակալ եմ, որ դուք, կամա թե ակամա գովազդեցիք իմ բլոգը, չնայած առավելապես սև ու անհաճո պիտակներով, բայց ամեն դեպքում, դա նշանակում է, որ շատ ավելի շատ մարդիկ հնարավորություն կունենան նրա բովանդակության հետ ծանոթանալու:
    Ձեր մյուս բլոգում ես արդեն արտահայտել եմ իմ կարծիքը, որը բնավ չի տարբերվում, իմ թեկուզ փոքր ինչ հուզականորեն արտահայտված տեսակետից, որը տեղ է գտել այստեղ: Հարկ չկա այն կրկնել կամ ապացուցել, որ իմ բլոգի հետևում ոչ թե ինչ որ ռոբոտներ են, այլ իրական մարդ:
    Ինչ վերաբերվում է իմ բլոգում տեղ գտած նյութերին, չկա որևէ բան, որ փաստերով հիմնավորված չլինի, փաստեր, որոնք մեծ սիրով կարող եմ տեղադրել իմ բլոգի էջերում:
    Իսկ արդեն քաղաքական դիրքորոշումներ ունենալն իմ, ձեր, անգամ ppmv-ի)))) սահմանադրական իրավունքն է: Ի դեպ, անգամ վերջինիս հետ ես աշխատում եմ անձնական հարթություն չտեղափոխել քաղաքական հակասությունները: Չեմ անվանարկում կամ պիտակավորում նրան, /գոնե վերջերս/:
    Կարծում եմ, ձեր կողմից ամենաճիշտ քայլը կլիներ այլ քննարկում նախաձեռնել, որտեղ Ձեր իսկ կողմից կշտապբանքի արժանացած օրագրերի հեղինակները կներկայացնեին, թե ինչու են որդեգրել այս կամ այն դիրքորոշումը:
    Այդ ու ցանկացած այլ հարցող, կարող եք վստահաբար հենվել իմ անշահախնդիր ու բարեկամական աջակցության վրա:

  20. Bolor tesaki qnnarkumnerin misht patrast em! Karcum em – aroxj arajark e, yev sirov knaxadzernem.

  21. As she lowered her head, her inefficient blond valentine fell against my thigh. Her unrecognizable tales whomping towards the earth, her plain distractions like grimy pins!

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