Richard Giragosian on post-election situation in Armenia

Here are some extracts from the interview with political analyst Richard Giragosian published on Zhamanak.com:

(Zhamanak) Mr. Giragosian, how would you evaluate the February 19th Presidential elections in Armenia, the post election developments, particularly the tragic events of March 1?

(Giragosian) In my opinion, it was not the election itself that was the most important development for Armenia. It was not the process of the election vote that was significant, but rather the process of the election campaign that was more revealing because the unlevel playing field and the closed political system were much more serious problems than the one-day problems with voter fraud and other irregularities.

And for me, as someone who has moved from the Diaspora to Armenia, the real test for Armenia is not about personalities, but is about policies. And this is not about Levon Ter-Petrosian. It is not about Serzh Sarkisian. It is about what kind of country Armenia is set to become and what kind of Armenia its people want for their children and grandchildren. And policies are more important than people to building a new and better Armenia.

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Big challanges to be faced by the new coalition government

Five out of seventeen ministerial posts have already been appointed, only two of which are new faces:   Foreign minister Eduard Nalbandian, former ambassador to France, and Defense minister Seyran Ohanian, the former head of armed forces. Three ministers retained the positions they held in the outgoing government. Gevorg Danielian (Republican Party) will stay on as justice minister, while Armen Grigorian (Prosperous Armenia) will continue as minister of sport and youth affairs and David Lokian (Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun) as agriculture minister. Interestingly, as this ArmeniaNow analyses points out, despite the landslide victory achieved by the Republicans in 2007 parliamentary elections, the government formed after the elections was a coalition one.

When the non-partisan head of Central Bank Tigran Sargsyan was appointed Premier, after Serzh Sargsyan’s 53% victory, disputed as it may be, it seemed for a moment, that leaning on heavy Republican majority in Parliament and control over the executive branch, Serzh Sargsyan might attempt to form a merit based, professional government. Still, the developments are indicating the opposite. So far the weight of coalition is prevailing, and it seems more coalition appointments are to be expected.

While this is not necessarily a bad thing, I find it strange, that four political forces, with distincltly different political agendas are working in a coalition government. Moreover, with Republicans being strong enough to rule on their own, it is clear, that their political line will be dictating everything, so it looks, as though Bargavach Hayastan, ARF-Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir party won’t be able to push any of their appraches through, and have joined the government only to retain some administrative levers and ensure better life for some of their top party officials.

Meanwhile, the new government faces the challanges of strengthening its legitimacy in Armenia and restoring country’s image in the international community. “The Monitoring Commission of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution on April 17 urging the Armenian authorities to implement a number of reforms aimed at improving the situation in the country. PACE suggests launching an independent inquiry into the clashes, releasing all prisoners who did not commit crimes, amending the law on public rallies, and engaging in a dialogue with the opposition. PACE warns that, unless those conditions are met, it will consider suspending the voting rights of Armenia during its next session, which takes place in June.” (April 17, 2008 | RFE/RL)

The expected sharp rise of prices following the rise of natural gas price doesn’t help much with raising the government’s profile. Instead, it gives the opposition more facts to build their struggle – which has been generally a destructive one so far. Seems like the internal situation will remain tense over the next month or two, possibly with the influence of opposition gradually declining, although – if the government keeps the policies observed over the past week – price-rises, which should have been avoided at all costs in this tentative and tense political period, we might just as well see the opposite.

No changes are expected in the foreign policy sphere either. “In his first major foreign-policy speech on April 16, Armenia’s president was uncompromising. “Azerbaijan must understand the simple reality that the existence of the republic of Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence is irreversible,”Sarkisian said. “The people of Nagorno-Karabakh have won their right to a free and independent life. And through our efforts, that right must be recognized by the international community.” (April 17, 2008 | RFE/RL)

For all the optimists out there – gather as much of it as you can, ‘couse looks like you will badly need it.

Police are protecting Armenian citizens from Serzh Sargsyan

Passage on vehicles as well as on foot are restricted in the center of Yerevan. The Opera theatre and virtually all length of Mashtots avenue are blocked within a semi-triangle: police are prohibiting pedastrians and vehicles from entering the restricted are from Pushkin, Abovyan, Moskovyan, Tumanyan and Parpetsi streets.

According to the official note sent out by the Yerevan municipality yesterday, the area will be blocked from 10:30 to 16:00 today, while the presidential inauguration ceremony takes place in the Opera house.

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Special conditions for the deputies participating in the special session

Serzh Sargsyan’s inauguration ceremony will take place on April 9, at a special NA session.

Tomorrow there will be special conditions at Serzh Sargsyan’s inauguration ceremony at the special session of NA, to be held at the Opera building.

NA deputies have received special invitations to take part in that session, sent by the NA chairman Tigran Torosyan.

“RA NA chairman Tigran Torosyan invites you to participate in the special session of NA. The deputies are asked to be present 45 minutes prior to the beginning of the session,” is mentioned in the invitation.

Also, there is a special note in the envelopes of Tigran Torosyan’s invitations, stating, “Please switch off your cell phones and don’t use your cameras during the session.”

It is also mentioned in the note that the deputies must present an ID to participate in the special session of NA.

The NA deputies have also been warned to notify the NA management in case of not attending the special session.

The special session of National Assembly to be convened on the pretext of Serzh Sargsyan’s inauguration will start on April 9, at 14:00 and will last for 45 minutes.

Via E-channel

Important questions on March 1 and an interesting analyses

E-channel has posted an analyses of March 1 events. There are a couple of key points in the analyses, which I want to draw your attention to:

  1. Actually, in the silent, uncompromising psychological struggle conducted between the authorities and fundamental opposition on February 20-29, the nerves of the authorities were the first to give out, on which the whole strategy of the opposition had been built.
  2. The authorities did not notice [] the appeal of Ter-Petrossian towards the international public, according to which he was giving a ten-day period to Western democracies in order to define the future of Armenia. [] Therefore, he had already defined a ten-day period for the movement led by him, which could be hardly interpreted as anything but a confession of actual failure.
  3. Actually, no facts or irrefutable proofs have been presented to date, confirming the statement or justification of the authorities that on March 1 the opposition was going to start wide-scope actions of protest, full of provocations. To date, the only justification has been the statement of law enforcement bodies, claiming that the disorders near the embassy of France after the noon were those very provocations, planned in advance. If it was really like that, it turns out that the measures of cleaning the Freedom Square were completely useless. Moreover, it was a most serious tactical blunder because with that the law enforcement bodies have instilled the opposition with new charges and pretexts, contributing further to heating up the atmosphere.
  4. Actually, if the blunder of the authorities were related to the measures taken at the Freedom square, the serious mistake of the opposition was not predicting the consequences of the spontaneous (according to them) gathering near the embassy to France. Taking into account the fact that a part of the members of Yerkrapah Volunteers union and almost the whole Trial of Spirit organization were with them, in case of demonstrating sufficient organizational skills, it would, perhaps, be possible and necessary to suppress or isolate the active participants of disorders, with the help of the above-mentioned resources. It did not happen, and it allowed the authorities to develop and, with the help of the further preliminary investigation, to support the approach that the disorders had been organized by one center. And it became a basis for presenting it as a coup d’Etat – that is, a danger immediately threatening the constitutional order.

The author of the analyses also suggests a very valid topic for discussion:

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