Reading Armenian blogs last week one would get the impression, that Armenia is a complete idiocracy, and that Armenians should be given the handbook “Armenia for Dummies” to make sense of their own country. Listen to this 5 minute podcast of the Armenian blog roundup in Armenian or read the full post here.
Quite predictably, the internet discussions over the past several days focused primarily on the congress held by opposition forces and the first public speech made by the opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrossian since the post-election violence on March 1st.
Opposition Congress, May 2, 2008 | Source: Unzipped
While speculating, that anyone “who made claims that they received 65% of the votes, accuses the present government of being murderers  but is not presenting evidence to back his claims, can not be taken seriously“, Martuni or Bust!!! looks at the overall context of the opposition congress, concluding:
It looks as if things have not really settled down since the fraudulent elections and the killing of March 1st. The noticeable unrest is going longer than I was expecting and who knows, maybe this time around the truth really will come out and those who need to be put in their place will finally get what they have coming.
Bringing a more comprehensive analysis, the Caucasus Knot speculates, that “the radical opposition appears ready to negotiate with the authorities in order to prevent a repeat of the post-election violence which left at least 10 dead“, and concludes, that this first public speech by Ter-Petrossian since the March 1 disturbances “certainly represents a more conciliatory line“:
Interestingly, Ter-Petrossian was reportedly more conciliatory towards the new president, Serge Sargsyan.  Ter-Petrossian instead directed his main attack on the former president, Robert Kocharian. Whether his words mark a realization from Ter-Petrossian that the radical opposition is unable to contest the outcome of the vote on the streets is a moot point.
Whatever the view, however, and whatever the numbers, there is the basis for discussion and negotiations in the form of Council of Europe Resolution 1609. In particular, it calls on the radical opposition to recognize the constitutional court ruling confirming the results of the presidential election as well as on the government to release those detained on purely political grounds. Another demand is for an independent inquiry into the 1 March riot to be held.
Marking the fact, that Levon Ter-Petrossian has “effectively expressed readiness for a dialogue based on PACE recommendations”, pro-opposition blogger Unzipped disagrees with the statement, “directly accepting PACE call to opposition to recognise the Constitutional Court’s decision which approved the election results” in the opposition leader’s speech, speculating, that:
“Fraud in elections was the main reason which sparked the protests, and ‘acceptance’ of its results for practical reasons to move forward cannot be considered as a precondition (and never presented as such by PACE) but rather a part of a final outcome of negotiations (with a package of measures aimed at democratisation of Armenian society).”
Known for his outspoken dislike of the first president, Pigh has singled out some soundbites in Ter-Petrossian’s speech, hinting, that such approaches are inconsistent with the “role” of the opposition leader, and are making him a “tool”, which works more in favor of the ruling Republican and ARF-Dashnaktsutyun parties:
One [of the soundbites] was directed at the US Government and the “Millenium Challanges” corporation, calling upon them to abstain from cutting aid to Armenia, as it will hurt the people, not the authorities.. Dashnak-Tool
Secondly – the first president spoke about the neighboring Azerbaijan in particular, noting, that Baku has to finally realize, that regardless the internal political situation in Armenia, “it would meet with a united resistance of the Armenian people in the event of unleashing a military aggression against Karabakh”
Interestingly, the issue of US assitance to Armenia has also drawn criticism from the highly pro-Ter-Petrossian blogger, Nazarian:
In the speech below, Levon Ter-Petrosian is against some of the things I have been advocating such as the stopping of the US economic aid to Armenia. I disagree with him and will continue to push for the (hopefully short term) halt of American taxpayer money propping up the banditocracy in Armenia. One of the best ways to modify someone’s behavior is through financial (dis)incentives.
And while Uzogh wonders, what has really triggered such a drastic change in LTP’s perceptions of current political realities, Unzipped on his turn, highlights the importance of the authorities’ response to opposition leaders apparent call for dialogue based on Counil of Europe Parliamentary Assembley recommendations:
How serious is Armenian government in terms of making necessary reforms and changes in accordance with the PACE recommendations, and engaging in a dialogue with the opposition, will be known on 10 May when a committee created by a decree of Serj Sargsyan will present its action plan.
“Sksela” civil youth movement periodically came into the attention of bloggers throughout the past year. The situation might be changing though, with the sudden entry of “Hima” youth movement into the Armenian blogosphere. The group has already staged a range of small protest actions, they now have a song (the YouTube video of the song is posted above) and all the other attributes of a revolutionary movement: heroes, symbols, martyrs, etc. The Armenian version of this blog has a roundup of what Armenian bloggers are saying about this new movement. The Podcast – a 1.3 Megabyte MP3 audio file is also available.
To summerize the contents of the Armenian language entry – from what Armenian bloggers have written about “Hima” movement so far we can conclude, that they haven’t quite figured out yet, where this new youth group is coming from, and where it is heading. Some information can be obtained through their 3 new blogs, opened by the movement: 1) http://ymhima.blogspot.com, 2) http://qbhima.blogspot.com and 3) http://xahima.blogspot.com.
“This day, 93 years ago, by detaining (and later shooting) the top Armenian intellectuals and politicians in Istanbul, the Ottoman government started the massive effort to uproot its entire Armenian population ordering it to march from the historic Armenian lands into the Syrian desert. The result was the mass killings, rapes, death by starvation, and exodus of survivors. The Armenian Genocide was accomplished. Practically no Armenians live now on the lands populated by their ancestors for at least two millennia…
Boycott blog – set up a couple of weeks ago to promote the concept of civil-boycott of various things – boycottable, in sign of protest of the 2008 Presidential election results and the reaction of authorities that followed opposition protests, has now come up with a discussion, whether it is acceptable to boycott the Eurovision song contest and Armenian representative – Sirusho. While I see some logic in that – I just watched the “Qele, qele” song – Armenian Eurovision entry, and felt, that it would be unjust towards the artist – Sirusho, who is basically still just a kid, especially as the song sounds like a winning one to me. Moreover, considering the fact, that this year is Azerbaijan’s first entry into the Eurovision contest, I have that little twitch of pride inside me, telling we have to do everything to make sure the Armenian artist wins. On the other hand, it is not just about Sirusho – it is the Armenian Public TV – that is taking part in the contest – and if this boycott could serve to teach a lesson of public mistrust towards the Public TV – for all the disgraceful media coverage of the election process over the past several months, maybe it is a justified more? I really don’t know. What do you think?
Here’s a Podcast of the Armenian Blog roundup made about this topic.
‘”Many things happened yesterday. Among those probably the most important was Serzh Sargsyan’s inauguration. For a lot of people though the important was that 40 days have passed since the deaths of 1 March riots.” – Armenian Patchwork
While it depended on the political orintation of the bloggers, to decide which of the events taking place yesterday was the most important for them, with the area around Yerevan’s Opera in almost total lock down, prime minister Serge Sargsyan was inaugurated as president in a ceremony and military parade that few citizens could even remotely get close to – so many of them were only able to cover the protest actions, rather then the grand inauguration ceremony. Raffi N at “Life in Armenia” has more:
Today was the official swearing in of Mr. Serge Sarksian as the new President of the Republic of Armenia. It really felt like an important event because ALL the streets were blocked… lots of police escorts…
Prevented from covering that event, as was the case for almost every other photographer in Yerevan, there was always the opposition memorial to the eight killed during post-election clashes on 1 March occurring adjacent to the French Embassy. Somewhat unfortunately for Sargsyan, not only did 9 April mark the day of the start of his presidency, but it was also the traditionally observed 40th day after the deaths.
It is natural, that celebrations are held on the day of president’s inauguration.
It is also quite frequent, that the opposition uses that day to stage protest actions and bring to the attention of the international community the problems of the country.
All of this happened today in Armenia. News agencies are reporting, that protest actions took place also outside of Armenia.
The protests, however, are not likely to affect the situation anymore, Mark Grigoryan writes in this analytical piece(ru), Serzh Sargsyan has become the President of Armenia, and that is now a fact. Nevertheless, there were 8 simulteneous protest actions in Yerevan, Bekaisa(ru) reports, including actions in front of the 1) RA Constitutional Court 2) Central Electoral Commission 3) OSCE office in Yerevan 4) European Union 5) US Embassy 6) Russian Embassy 7) French Embassy 8) Prosecutor’s office. Protests took place also in Kapan, Syunic region, as well as Kiyev, Ukraine and Moscow, Russia – in front of the RA Embassies. Ahousekeeper also reports, that opposition candidate Levon Ter-Petrossian supporters attempted to disrupt the baloon festival staged in the Republic square this evening, but were prevented from doing so by police forces, who quickly rounded them up. The blue sky festival did take place, and the Armenian Patchwork has photos to prove it.
President Sargsyan has a lot to do in a short amount of time. He has to win over the confidence of the vast number of citizens who have no faith in him whatsoever and who regard him as being a petty oligarchic-tyrant.
he has to prove that he can surpass in leaps and bounds everyone’s expectations and, most noteworthy, ensure that the downtrodden—namely those living in far-off rural parts of Armenia—start living better, fruitful lives. Cracking down on corruption is something that is high on most everyone’s list of things for him to do. But seeing as the mayor of Yerevan—the one who has thrown the city into transportation mayhem with ludicrous, ill-planned road projects that are rumored to be money-laundering schemes—will apparently remain in office there is already cause for suspicion.
F5 blog(am) is even more sceptical – the new president won’t be able to change anything it speculates, while Unzipped is finding it even hard to beleive, that Serzh Sargsyan will be able to stay in power for long:
You just can’t stick to the power relying on a physical force. Well, you may for a while, but only for a while. No lasting solution could be based on force and violence. There is no alternative to democracy in Armenia.
Some bloggers are more pragmatic though – Martuni or Bust!!! is quite sure of the opposite:
Though there are still many unanswered questions regarding the legitimacy of the election which landed him the post of President and the events that followed that he was directly behind, I really believe that as usual and in a very short period of time, most will forget what happened and it will be business as usual.
The announcement of “popular walks” started a chain-discussion of usual vs political everything – bloggers discussed things like usual cats and chess and “shaurmas” (eastern dish: grilled meat rolled in pita bread, similar to Donner Kebab), contrasting them with their political alternatives.
The attempts by mk.am to find 8 differences between the two cats in the picture (the regular cat on the right and the politically motivated one on the left) were certainly entertaining, although quite unproductive – which is, in part, what the blogger was trying to prove.
The ‘draft legislation for all things walking’, proposed by the Zbosanq blog, found the sympathy of RA former president Levon Ter-Petrossian supporter blogs. Here are a couple of articles from this mock-law (unofficial translation):
Article 2. General points
The people have the right to walk solely in the cases stipulated by this law. […]
The location of the walk, the maximum radius of departing from the starting point of the walk, the direction of the walk as well as the hour designated for the walk are approved by the RA president as presented by the RA prime-minister […] Article 3. The guidelines for implementing a walk
Walks should be attended alone.
Those attending the walk should carry a passport at all times. The passport must be valid for a duration, which is three months longer then the duration of the intended walk.
Speaking of the ‘draft law’ Unzipped writes:”I am telling you – this is just fantastic. You have to read it! 🙂 Creativity without limits!”
As to the whole concept of ‘political walking’, Onnik Krikorian comments on Unzipped’s blog: “Might sound like a fun idea, but it won’t achieve anything, in my opinion, but anyway. Again, the problem is that a) the actions are either a) too subliminal or b) considered too pro-Levon.” Pigh writes about political chess and Levon Ter-Petrossian’s supporters: “Looks like when they start chanting ‘Levon, Levon’, it will turn out that they meant Aronyan 🙂 Also, on March 21 they were carrying a poster with Sasun Mikayelyan’s photo. To the question of the policeman, who that was, a lady replied: ‘My grandpa’.”
As to eating “Political shaurma” on the Northern Avenue, Uzogh is laconic:”Is it just me, or has marasm surpassed all limits?”. Later on the same entry, responding to Yaloona’s question, why is it, that the Ter-Petrossian supporters are not doing any “political garbage collection”, Uzogh explains: “Everything’s simple Mam. You can’t have lot’s of people willing to collect garbage, whereas in the case of shaurma eating, a crowd will come running.”
All in all it is clear, that the blogosphere has adopted a waiting stance, rather then a happy-mocking one. Most are limiting themselves to rather surfaced discussions. Mark Grigorian is exploring the reasons for this, suggesting, that either bloggers have nothing to say, or are scared to speak, whearas, according to him, this is the time, that the heated debates would have been most useful. A1plus blog on its turn, has a rather grim depiction of the developments around the ‘political walks’, portreying its vision in the post, entitled – “brave steps to dictatorship”:
The state of emergency announced in Yerevan was also emergency for the Armenian bloggers. For 20 days when many newspapers and online publications were not being published, blogosphere had turned into the main territory for searching and disseminating alternative information. After a long interruption due to the state of emergency situation, the Internews Armenia team have put together another radio program covering the Armenian blogosphere during the state of emergency. The podcast of the program is also available. Continue reading “Podcast: Armenian blogosphere under the state of emergency”
On November 14th, 2007 Public TV Company of Armenia officially announced, that Sirusho, a young Armenian singer, who has won the Best Female Singer nomination at Armenian National Music Awards 2005, has been selected to represent Armenia at Eurovision 2008. I have to say, that Eurovision has become a big deal in Armenia, and this year is also important, because, Azerbaijan will be entering the contest for the first time, and there is this feeling, that we have to at least be better then them, especially having ensured 8th place in both previous Eurovision finals, with Andre and Hayko representing Armenia in 2006 and 2007 repsectively.
Yesterday, Harmick at Blogrel posted links to 4 songs that Sirusho, noting, that “we have a potential Eurovision winner on our hands!”.
However, it turns out the venue for the Eurovision final was changed yesterday. Looking around the web I couldn’t quite understand what has happened in the end anyway, but one thing that I could see on the Public TV website, is that the song “Qele, qele” was selected, despite cancellation of the finals. Now I’m not quite sure, if this is official or no, and here in UK I have no access to the Armenian Public TV(not that I’m particularly concerned for not watching all the propaganda crap they broadcast). None of the still functional news resources in the web seemed to report anything about Sirusho and Eurovision, probably the news is too political and can’t be published? My journalism students had made some paparazzi photos of Sirusho dating with Robert Kocharyan’s son, perhaps that has something to do with cancellation of the finals in this tense period? I hopes the internal politics is not involved at least in something as simple as the Eurovision song contest!
Despite rapid political developments and political campaign pouring onto the Armenian voter from all sides, many people haven’t yet made up their mind about which presidential candidate to support. The situation is similar offline – that is to say in real life, as well as online – in the virtual reality of Internet diaries. «Which is the right thing – having a stance, or not?», Christina is asking in her «One day…» blog, further explaining:
I can’t decide on my stance for the upcoming presidential elections. I want a change – but I don’t see anyone, who could show me – a regular person with mediocre abilities and feelings, the way to those changes.
Artashes Boyajyan has written a couple of really interesting posts, asking why would anybody want to vote for either Levon Ter-Petrossian or Serzh Sargsyan, after taking an unbiased look at the failures of both candidates during their time in power, when it comes to key state-building issues like:
building a democratic state, with institutional separation of powers and functional checks and balances;
establishing (in reality, not on paper) a basically fair and transparent system of economic regulations;
promoting the rule of law and the respect for dignity and essential rights of Armenian citizens.
An interesting attempt at portraying the pre-election scene in Armenia was undertaken by the Armenian Patchwork blog – publishing photos of various candidates’ posted political posters:
Baghdasaryan’s campaign is rather colorful, he speaks a lot, although often on unrelated issues, keeps promising growth in pensions, incomes and other material goods.  The fact, that such announcements are simply absurd, are perceived perhaps by only a few people. Geghamyan keeps throwing dirt at Ter-Petrossian, at the same time advertising his glorious anti-crises program less and less. Vahan Hovhannisyan’s speeches are boring, but perhaps some people find them interesting?  Vazgen Manukyan’s speeches are very interesting, but obviously more then half of the voters do not understand him.
The coverage of Ter-Petrossian’s campaign sounds more like а criminal newsreel. First some freedom-fighter was beaten, yesterday was an even bigger brawl in Artashat with a rather contradictory coverage as to who initiated and who suffered from the fight.
I don’t know, really don’t know… hatred and evil are clashing like waves in this little piece of land, and their rage is acquiring the force of a tempest. Hatred closes you eyes, puts your target in front of you and all your creative talents are wasted on efforts to destroy it. Spare those efforts…