Armenian politician Raffi Hovannesian has ended his hunger strike which he had started on 9 March to bring to attention his rejection of the results of the 18 February Presidential election in which he was declared the runner-up
On Easter Sunday morning the leader of the Heritage party, went out of his tent, which he had set up in Liberty Square in the center of Yerevan, and said he was grateful to all those who supported him in his protest. “I want to thank my family members who supported me during these days. I’m also grateful to all policemen who, with the exception of some minor incidents, performed their duty well,” Hovannesian said, adding he would continue his political struggle the next day.
Observers consider that the end of the hunger strike might indicate that Hovannesian will now enter into negotiations with the incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan over some kind of power sharing. Hovannesian has repeatedly stated that any negotiations will have to be conducted transparently and that he himself was not seeking any post in any power-sharing arrangement.
Over the last weeks Hovannesian has also called for either new Presidential or new Parliamentary elections. Whilst this demand is unlikely to be satisified Armenia is likely to embark on the search for a new constitution which may bring an end the current impasse in Armenian politics.
source: CEW staff with RIA Novosti and other agency reports.
“Megaphone” horse-trading on Yerevan’s Liberty Square.
Political horse-trading before, after and in between elections is a common feature of politics in many countries, but none more so than in the South Caucasus were deals are cut behind the scenes, usually by leaders of parties or groups, without any reference to their political supporters, let alone the voters. It is one of the features that has helped discredit politics in the region. Often political support is traded for government positions, on some occasions in the past it is alleged that also big sums of money were involved. Despite their totalitarian streaks governments in the region have in the past found it useful to engage in such practices as a means of widening their support, and sometimes to isolate political opponents who refused to be bought and had become difficult.
Armenia has been particularly vulnerable to this sort of murky politics and most political forces had been engaged with it one way or the other. Events of the last few weeks, in the immediate aftermath of the 18 February Presidential election, have therefore come as a welcome change. Following that election the runner-up, Raffi Hovannesian has contested the result, even though it seems it has been endorsed by the international community and has survived a legal challenge. Hovannesian has taken his protest to the streets. He has held one meeting with the current Presidential incumbent, who was declared the winner on this occasion too, but nothing much seems to have come out of that. After a brief tour of Armenia’s regions he has for the last days camped on Armenia’s main square, Liberty Square, has gone on hunger strike, and has by and large conducted negotiations with the government on the issue “by megaphone”. More…
The Constitutional Court of Armenia
The Armenian Constitutional Court on 13 March rejected a request by Raffi Hovannesian, one of the candidates in last month’s presidential election, to annul the vote and call for new elections. The decision, although hardly surprising, added to an already tense situation in the Armenian capital Yerevan as Hovannesian continued his hunger strike, which he promises will only end on 9 April. Various political personalities from both government and opposition have visited Hovannesian in the last days, and there has been a call on Hovannesian to end the hunger strike from Armenia’s spiritual centre Echmiazin. Hovhannesian however continues to call on President Serzh Sargsyan to visit him on Liberty Square where he has been camping out and negotiate with him directly for a way out of the impasse.
Sargsyan himself was last week in Moscow and Brussels where he received the endorsements of the Russian President Vladimir Putin,. and of the President of the European People’s Party, Martens. Political observers say that the situation remains fragile because a number of important political forces, although not necessarily sympathetic to Havhannesian, might use the current impasse to weaken President Sargsyan. There are also concerns about Hovhannesian’s health.
source CEW staff team
A protestor being detained in Baku on 10 March 2013. (Picture courtesy of RFE/RL)
Police tactics in dealing with street protests are often subject to criticism, in democratic countries as much as in totalitarian ones. The use of water cannon and rubber bullets is allowed under standard operating procedures in many countries. Usually it means that either the number of demonstrators was so huge that the police felt that they were losing control and that there was a threat to public order, or that the protest had become violent and there was danger to safety of citizens or property. It could also mean that the police were unprofessional or under instructions to use heavy handed tactics.
The protest held in Baku on 10 March was neither huge nor violent yet the police responded with tear gas, water-canon and rubber bullets, and arrested around eighty protestors.. The use of overwhelming force to break up a protest mainly by young people angry at the number of deaths in the Azerbaijani Army as a result of abuse by senior officers is a sign of the jittery mood in the Azerbaijani leadership ahead of presidential elections in October. The protestors were calling for the resignation of the Defence Minister. Amongst them were relatives of some of the hundreds soldiers who died in the Azerbaijani military in non combat situations over the last years.
Azerbaijan is at a crossroads. The government has a choice: dialogue and reform or confrontation. It seems it has opted for the latter. If things do not change very fast the October election will be an irrelevance. The squeeze on the opposition continues; a leading Presidential contender, Ilgar Mammedov, is in jail; and the space for peaceful dissent shrinking by the minute. More…
Raffi Hovannisian on hunger strike in Yerevan’s main square on 11 March 2013.
Raffi Hovannisian who claims that he has won the Presidential Elections held in Armenia on 18 February, on Sunday 10 March started a hunger strike in the main square of the Armenian Capital Yerevan.
Hovannisian has called for the incumbent President, Serzh Sargsyan, who intends to be sworn in for a second term as president on April 9th to step down. “As long as Mr. Sargsyan has not stepped down, I will stay at Liberty Square and will not eat food,” he noted.
Meanwhile the next rally of Hovannisian’s supporters will be held on March 15 at 5pm. “On that day we will discuss the future courses of action, the Constitutional Court’s ruling [on whether or not the presidential should be declared null and void], and together we will start the matter of [taking] actions, [making] decisions, and consolidate the triumph,” stated the Presidential contender. More…
The Armenian Constitutional Court in session. (picture courtesy of news.am).
The Armenian Constitutional Court has started considering an appeal by Raffi Hovannisian and other contestants in last months’ presidential election to annul the result because of election fraud.
The Constitutional Court
is expected to give its judgment to the challenge to the election results by Thursday, 15 March when Hovannisian plans to hold another rally in Yerevan’s Liberty Square.
The Elections Observation Missions of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (ODIHR) have become a regular feature of the electoral process on the European continent, and a model for others world-wide. The Missions, consisting of a core team and a handful of long term observers deploy a month ahead of the poll and are joined for election-day by several hundred short term observers and delegations from the Parliamentary Assemblies of the continent’s leading institutions. Whilst not perfect, the ODIHR model remains the best.
One feature that has often caused concern is the way that these missions report their findings. It has now been a long standing habit (it would be wrong to call it anything else), for the Election Observation Missions to issue two interim reports prior to election-day. They are often very technical in nature. On election day the Mission then joins up with the parliamentary delegations from the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, sometimes the NATO PA and until recently with the OSCE’s own Parliamentary Assembly, for the day-after Press Conference, usually held at 3.00 or 4.00 in the afternoon. This has traditionally been the most high profile part of the process. The atmosphere is usually highly charged, the journalists coming from overseas to cover the election would still be around, and everybody is waiting for the key phrase or phrases which would indicate that the election has been deemed free and/or fair, although in recent years the wording has become increasingly more ambiguous. The Parliamentarians then leave as quickly as they had arrived, and the ODIHR mission lingers on in-country for a while to observe the post-election environment. Rarely, as was the case in Armenia after the 2008 Presidential election and again this month, it issues a third interim report. The Mission then departs and two months after the Mission issues a final report.
Many feel that these habits are due for review. ODIHR, in an effort one suspects to insulate itself from the pressures of its political masters – the OSCE member states represented by the Permanent Council in Vienna, increasingly depicts its work and its reports as “technical”, checking performance against compliance. They may very well be, but there is no denying that the consequences of the reports are political, and the way that ODIHR is communicating its findings is, in that sense, not very efficient. More…
For the fourth time in 17 years, a defeated Armenian presidential candidate has openly denounced the outcome of the ballot in a presidential election as rigged and declared himself the legitimately elected president. Raffi Hovhannessian last week took his campaign to overturn the result of the 18 February Presidential election to the regions of Armenia where he was given an enthusiastic welcome.(picture courtesy of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty).
The ODIHR Election Observation Mission monitoring the Armenian Presidential Elections took pundits by surprise by issuing a third interim report before they packed their bags and left Yerevan on 4 March. ODIHR Missions do not always issue third reports, although as was the case with the previous Presidential election in Armenia in 2008, they sometimes do.
Armenian political analysts detected a change of tone in the 3rd ODIHR interim report – a somewhat more critical appraisal of the 18 February Presidential Election than the more upbeat assessment emerging from the Press Conference of the international observation missions on 19th February, which triggered a flood of congratulatory messages to the incumbent Armenian President from world leaders.
The 3rd monitoring report for example states that, “An OSCE/ODIHR EOM analysis of official results shows a correlation between very high turnout and the number of votes for the incumbent. This raises concerns regarding the confidence over the integrity of the electoral process”, which is diplomatic parlance for saying that they suspect that there was ballot stuffing on an industrial scale.
The report also politely reminds readers that the interim statement made on 19 February “noted that the final assessment of the election would depend, in part, on the conduct of the remaining stages of the electoral process, including the tabulation and announcement of final results and the handling of possible post-election day complaints or appeals.” This small print was unfortunately missed amid all the excitement of the Press Conference and the events around it. More…