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The political atmosphere in the country remains charged with uncertainty, week after week are passing without bringing any substantial change or relief.
Looking at the overall picture, I see more attempts by the government to look good and innovative in the eyes of general public: by holding a government session outside of Yerevan – in Gyumri, continuing to push for the vague idea of public council – which was finally established today by a presidential decree and pumping up the word-flow about anti-corruption fight and education reform. All that is potentially good and interesting – however, the trials and strange verdicts against opposition activists continue, neither the newly created special committee nor the newly adopted amendments to the “RA Law on Rallies, Protests and Demonstrations” seem to go beyond mere imitations of addressing the recommendations of PACE Resolution 1609; there are still no real attempts of dialog between the the authorities and opposition. Here are some highlights:
Jirayr Sefilyan, the commander of Shoushi battalion, was released from Vardashen prison after an 18 month prison term for a charge of “possessing an illegal firearm”, which was largely seen as a politically motivated and fabricated conviction, designed to calm down Jirayr Sefilyan – a hardliner in Karabakh resolution issue. Upon release, the Karabakh war veteran made a couple of loud statements, saying that Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan are among the first in his list to be punished, followed by a number of judicial officials, and saying, that despite divergence of his views with opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrossian on Karabakh resolution issue, he will support the opposition on their quest to oust current leadership of the country and turn to the issue of Karabakh resolution only after that.
Levon Ter-Petrossian is said to have spent several days in France – the gossip is, he has met with President Nicolas Sarkozy, while his supporters back in Yerevan kept inviting everyone to the opposition rally on June 20th, despite the fact, that the Yerevan Municipality has twice already declined their applications to allow a rally in Yerevan’s Liberty square or in front of Matenadaran – the manuscript museum. The municipality has suggested the rally to be held in the area adjacent to “Hrazdan” stadium, which is something the opposition clearly dislikes. Many pro-opposition people seem to think, that there’s something very significant going to happen on June 20th, and indeed, the political atmosphere is in part charged with that anticipation of something big to be happening that day. In fact, even president Serzh Sargsyan spoke last week (on June 13) addressing this “expectation” and saying “Don’t panic. Everything will pass normally and well. We, as government understand, that there is opposition in our country.” While I’d be interested to know, who exactly Serzh Sargsyan was urging not to panic, one thing that he said in the same interview, which I have to agree with. He urged the opposition to take part in the local self-government elections, a bulk of which are due this autumn, and to prove, that they indeed have the confidence of the people in this country. Let me remind you, that there will be elections of Gyumri, Vanadzor mayors in October, and there will possibly also be elections for the position of Yerevan Mayor this autumn.
Meanwhile, John Prescott (UK) and Georges Colombier (France), rapporteurs on monitoring of Armenia’s obligations per PACE resolution 1609, are due in Yerevan today, to hold meetings with the authorities, opposition, civil society, to determine, ahead of the PACE Summer session launching on June 23rd, where the issue of suspending Armenia’s voting rights will be discussed. What will be the outcome of this visit? Clearly, the rapporteurs have already been informed, that no real steps have been done so far to address the recommendations of Resolution 1609 – so is this visit a simple formality?