The Carousel of elections that have followed one after the other in Armenia came to an end on Sunday, 5 May with the holding of municipal elections to elect the City Council of the Armenian Capital, Yerevan. The election came closely on the heels of Parliamentary elections a year ago and Presidential elections in February. Observers noted that Sunday’s elections were unusually tense for local elections which often attract much less interest and are less hardly fought than the national elections. This time round, a number of opposition forces determined to break the monopoly of power of the ruling party put considerable effort in trying to obtain a majority on the city council.
The governing Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) of President Serzh Sargsyan however put up a spirited defence and gained a large absolute majority on the city council. Of the six parties represented in the Armenian Parliament only three managed to pass the 6% threshold and gain seats on the City Council: the RPA, as well as Prosperous Armenia and the Barev Bloc led by Raffi Hovannesian.
According to Dennis Sammut, Director of LINKS Analysis, “the victory of his party in the Yerevan election is an important psychological moment for the Armenian President.” More…
The ruling Republican Party of Armenia has registered an overwhelming victory in elections for Yerevan City Council amidst allegations of widespread irregularities in a hardly fought contest.
Three parties passed the 6% threshhold and will be represented on the City Council of the Armenian Capital – the Republican Party of Armenia, the Prosperous Armenia Party and the Barev Bloc led by Heritage leader, Raffi Hovannesian. More…
The US Department of State last week released its annual publication “Country reports on human rights practices” which reviews the global human rights situation throughout the world.. The report highlights serious problems in the field of human rights in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia and a systematic democratic deficit in the governance of the three countries. Many of the issues raised in the report have been reported on by Caucasus Elections Watch throughout last year, including the situation in prisons, problems with the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, harassment of opposition activists and problems with the electoral process.
“It is in our interest to promote the universal rights of all persons. Governments that respect human rights are more peaceful and more prosperous. They are better neighbours, stronger allies, and better economic partners. Governments that enforce safe workplaces, prohibit exploitative child and forced labour, and educate their citizens create a more level playing field and broader customer base for the global marketplace. Conversely, governments that threaten regional and global peace, from Iran to North Korea, are also egregious human rights abusers, with citizens trapped in the grip of domestic repression, economic deprivation, and international isolation.”
US Secretary of State, John Kerry
We reproduce here the Executive Summaries of the report with regards to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The full report can be accessed at http://www.state.gov. More…
The Armenian opposition activists that rallied around defeated presidential candidate Raffi Hovannesian in the aftermath of the 18 February Presidential elections have been faced with a common dilemma – their protests are large, but not as yet large enough to force the government’s hand. In political events in the South Caucasus this has proved a critical factor before. More…
Serzh Sargsyan was sworn in as President of Armenia for his second term at a ceremony held on the 9th April, despite protests by opposition activists who claim that the 18 February elections were flawed and that there should have been a run-off between him and the runner-up.
As opposition supporters clashed with police outside the Presidential Palace in Yerevan the President was telling an audience of 2000 VIP guests at the City’s Sport and Concert complex of how he proposed to deal with Armenia’s challenging problems in the next five years.
Without making a direct reference to the elections controversy Sargsyan said that ‘Elections do not mark a destination; they signify a new phase. This is the phase for unrelenting and persistent work. The time has come to move from words to work, to reinforce words with work.” The President highlighted three main areas of priorities in domestic politics, namely economic development, rule of law and what he called “the deepening of democracy”.
Observers consider that Sargsyan will need to impliment serious changes, particularly in personnel, in order to be able to cope with the serious political and economic problems that his country faces. However he is a conservative person by nature and will not find this easy.
source: CEW with agencies
photo: President Sargsyan arriving for his swearing-in as President of Armenia at a ceremony held on 9 April in Yerevan. (picture courtesy of the press office of the President of Armenia.)
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
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.
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…
Raffi Hovhannessian was the only mainstream Armenian opposition politician who at the end of last year decided to throw his hat into the election ring. He conducted a campaign that verged on the surreal – avoiding controversy, shaking hands, talking of serenity and unity. Some said that fools rush in where angels fear to tread; others accused him of legitimising with his candidature a flawed process; others dismissed him as irrelevant. He could have been any of these three things, or even all of them, but in any case it now does not matter. Whether the 539,691 Armenians who voted for him did so because they liked him or his programme, or because they were voting against the incumbent, we will never quite know. The issue now is not the election (if it ever was) but the political process, and Hovhanessian has emerged much stronger than any of the other opposition political leaders to play the leading role. After the election results were announced he was smart enough to understand that this was Raffi’s moment and he grabbed it with both hands, leaving both the government and the other opposition leaders confused and disorientated. More…
The decision of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Mission monitoring the Armenian Presidential Election last week to issue a separate statement at a separate Press conference from the rest of the joint international monitoring effort raised speculation about differences in the conclusions of the two groups. Asked about this during their Press Conference, the representatives of OSCE/ODIHR downplayed the issue and presented it as more of a technical decision rather than a political one. But was it? A few days later at the General Assembly of the OSCE PA in Vienna it was announced that “a committee of parliamentarians headed by Francois-Xavier de Donnea (MP, Belgium) will have the mandate to negotiate on behalf of the Assembly with the OSCE ODIHR regarding improved co-operation in future election observation missions.”
A statement on the OSCE PA website added: “The OSCE PA and the OSCE/ODIHR previously co-operated under a 1997 agreement that laid out the respective roles for the institutions and clarified that a parliamentarian appointed as special co-ordinator for the election observation mission would deliver the preliminary post-election statement on behalf of the OSCE. In December, after repeated challenges to that agreement that undermined appointed special co-ordinators, President Riccardo Migliori with support of the OSCE PA Bureau, declared the agreement no longer operable.”
There have been rumors for a number of years of problems between OSCE ODIHR and OSCE PA on election monitoring. For the sake of the credibility of the process this discussion now needs to be conducted with maximum transparency. More…
Unofficial results in the Armenian Elections show a victory for the incumbent Serzh Sargsyan, with around 59% of the votes cast. Raffi Hovhanessian is runner up with around 37%
The 6th presidential Election of independent Armenia was held on Monday 18th February 2013. There was never any doubt who was going to win this election, but candidates, voters, election officials, journalists and observers – local and international, went through the necessary motions to conduct what technically was a good election ritual. A few of the seven candidates did not play the game according to the established rules and there was, a still unexplained, attempt on the life of another. One of the original eight candidates registered pulled out completely. The process was calm, peaceful, efficient and largely transparent. But while we always knew who the winner of this election was going to be, the question of who were going to be the losers was not always that clear. More…
Soviet Leader Leonid Brezhnev signing the Helsinki Final Act in August 1975. The Act made the subject of human rights a matter of legitimate concern to all.
Over the last few weeks it has become common to hear officials in Azerbaijan, and to a lesser extent in Armenia, complaining that the European Union is interfering in the internal affairs of their countries. This happens whenever EU officials or diplomats raise issues connected with human rights, rule of law and free elections. The chorus started first with some pro government journalists and commentators, but by last week senior officials in the two countries had joined the fray.
These officials clearly do not understand the processes that have been going on in Europe in the last forty years. The historic Helsinki Final Act adopted by all the European states (with the exception of Albania) in 1975 laid the foundation of a new European order which recognised the indivisibility of security and that human rights on the continent were not simply an internal matter but a matter of legitimate concern for all. More…
The European Union has few tools at its disposal when responding to threats to freedom of speech in the South Caucasus, except for its moral authority. The institution and its member states are not perfect by far, but together they represent the best practise on issues related to human rights and democratic traditions. Governments and people in the South Caucasus recognise this even if they do not always admit it.
The events of the last few days in the three South Caucasus countries caused concern. None was serious enough to trigger a crisis but all were serious enough to raise alarm bells and to highlight the question as to what is the end game of the EU with regards to the region on this issue. The soul searching has started and it will continue, probably until November or thereabouts when the EU expects either to welcome Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia closer to it through Association Agreements, or relegate all or some of them to the status of trade partners. More…
Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian.
The Foreign Minister of Armenia, Edward Nalbandian led a chorus of criticism against views expressed by diplomats from EU member states ahead of the presidential elections. The diplomats, namely British Ambassador Katharine Leach and Polish Ambassador Zdzisław Raczyski’s had made mild criticisms and expressed hope for free and fair elections. Pro government politicians lined up to criticise the two Ambassadors and accusing them of interfering in internal affairs. The Foreign Minister then weighed in suggesting that the two Ambassadors had crossed the boundaries of diplomatic practise, with Nalbandian citing his experience as long time Armenian Ambassador to France to show how diplomacy should be done. Diplomatic circles in Yerevan are surprised by the audacity of this criticism given that Armenian diplomats in France, the United States and other countries are often involved in supporting candidates who are sympathetic to pro Armenian issues in the countries they are accredited to, whilst the Polish and British diplomats in Tbilisi were simply making comments about how the democratic process could be consolidated. More…
The OSCE/ODIHR Election Monitoring Mission issued an interim report on 7 February in which it described the first two weeks of the presidential Election Campaign in Armenia as “low-key and of limited visibility”. The Mission has strived to go through the motions of monitoring the campaign despite the somewhat bizarre circumstances that have surrounded this election.
One of the eight candidates in the election formally withdrew from the race on 8 February. The Central Elections Commission duly accepted his withdrawal and cancelled his candidature. Aram Harutyunyan call for the other six candidates challenging incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan to withdraw from the race has so far been unheeded. Another Presidential candidate Andreas Ghukasyan has been on hunger strike since the campaign started on 21 January. Speaking to journalists two weeks later Ghukasyan lambasted the OSCE/ODIHR Election Mission which he said was there to legitimise a fraudulent election. He accused the mission of misleading the Armenian people and called on them to pack up their bags and leave. More…