Armenia’s Presidential candidates: Top row from left to right: Serzh Sargsyan, Raffi Hovhannisyan, Hrant Bagratyan, Paruyr Hayrikyan; Second row from left to right: Arman Melikyan, Andrias Ghukasyan, Vardan Sedrakyan, Aram Harutyunyan (picture courtesy of ArmeniaNow news portal).

Armenian elections: one out, and seven left (but one is on hunger strike and another in hospital recovering from an assassination attempt).

One of the candidates in the Armenian presidential elections 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 not so far been heeded.

However the situation is far from usual. One other Presidential contender Andreas Ghukasyan has been on hunger strike since the election campaign formally kicked off. Attempts to get him to stop the hunger strike have so far failed. Ghukasyan is protesting against the electoral process which he says is flawed and is asking the Central Elections Commission to bar Sargsyan from the poll.

A third presidential candidate, Pruyur Hayrikyan is in hospital recovering from an assissantation attempt on him a week ago. His medical situation was reported to have deteriorated in the last days and he has been asked by doctors not to leave the hospital bed despite successful surgery on him on Saturday. The Armenian Ministry of National Security has reported that it has arrested two suspects in connection with the assassination attempt. More…

Assassination attempt casts shadow over Armenian election.


President Serzh Sargsyan visiting Paruyr Hayrikyan in hospital on 2 February 2013.

President Serzh Sargsyan visiting Paruyr Hayrikyan in hospital on 2 February 2013.

On Friday evening, 1 February a gunmen shot and wounded Armenian Presidential candidate Paruyr Hayrikyan casting a shadow on what had so far been a lacklustre election campaign. Hayrikyan is not one of the front runners in the campaign, but is a respected and recognised figure in Armenian society. He was a dissident in Soviet times and served time in prison for his political views. Hayrikyan was operated on the following day and a bullet removed from his shoulder and is now recovering satisfactorily.

The assassination attempt however reminded Armenians of the level of violence in their political life in recent years. In October 1999 several senior members of the Armenian government were killed in cold blood in an incident inside the Armenian Parliament. They included the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Parliament. In 2008 eleven people died in incidents on the streets of Yerevan as protestors questioned the results of the last Presidential election which brought the current incumbent Serzh Sargsyan to power. Such violence in a country of such a small size and which is monoethnic is unprecedented and has left the Armenian body politic scarred. Big questions remain around both the 1999 incident in the Armenian parliament and the 2008 street protests, and the assassination attempt against Hayrikyan is likely to be added to the list adding to speculation of sinister forces at work. More…

Armenian Presidential candidate shot and wounded

Payrur Hayrikyan

Payrur Hayrikyan

Paruyr Hayrikyan, one of the eight candidates in the forthcoming Presidential election in Armenia was shot and wounded this evening in the centre of Yerevan. Armenian media is reporting that the incident took place around midnight Yerevan time. The candidate was taken to a nearby hospital and is reported to be in intensive care. Early reports say that his condition is serious.

No information is yet available regarding the circumstances of the shooting.

Whilst Hayrikyan is not a serious contender for the Presidency he is a well known public personality having been a dissident in Soviet times.

source: CEW with Armenian media

Azerbaijan: testing the boundaries of the political space.

Five young activists were jailed on 26 January for protesting peacefully in the centre of Baku.

Five young activists were jailed on 26 January for protesting peacefully in the centre of Baku.

Azerbaijan imprisoned five young activists over the weekend and heavily fined several dozen others, after they participated in an unsanctioned public protest in the centre of Baku on Saturday, (26 January 2013).

Those arrested included the well-known blogger and dissident Emin Milli who a few years ago was imprisoned for seventeen months on trumped up charges of hooliganism, who was sentenced for fifteen days. Abdulfaz Gurbanli, Rufat Abdullaev, Turkal Azerturk and Tuncal Guliyev were sentenced for thirteen days each. Several other protestors were given heavy fines. They were part of a crowd of several hundred that converged on Baku’s Fountain Square in solidarity with protests that had been held in previous days in the town of Ismaili, 150 kilometers northwest of Baku. More…

Profile: SERZH SARGSYAN, a reluctant reformer.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, (centre), in military fatigues on the Nagorno-Karabakh frontline in 2012.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, (centre), in military fatigues on the Nagorno-Karabakh frontline in 2012.

The incumbent Armenian President and favorite in next month’s Presidential election, Serzh Sargsyan, was born on 30 June 1954 in the then-Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, where he was an active member of the Komsomol Communist Youth organisation and Secretary of its local branch and later became Assistant to Genrikh Poghosyan, the First Secretary of the Nagorno-Karabakh Communist Party Regional Committee.

During 1972-1974, he served in the USSR armed forces. In 1979, he graduated from the Philological Department of Yerevan State University.

As Head of the Nagorno-Karabakh  self-defence forces Committee  from 1989-93 he was an active participant in the fighting with Azerbaijani forces that led to the region’s separation from Azerbaijan. In 1990, Serzh Sargsyan was elected as a deputy to the Supreme Council of Armenia. From 1993 to 1995, he was the Minister of Defence of the Republic of Armenia. From 1995 to 1996, he was the Head of the Republic of Armenia State Security Department and, later, the Minister of National Security. From 1996 to 1999, he was the Republic of Armenia Minister of Interior and National Security. In this position he was instrumental in helping his old friend from Nagorno-Karabakh, Robert Kocharian, who was then the President of the territory, to move to Yerevan where he eventually became President after President Levon Ter Petrosyan was forced to resign.

Under Kocharian, Sargsyan served as Minister of Defence and Secretary of the National Security Council and was appointed Prime Minister in 2007. After Kocharian second term ended Sargsyan contested the 2008 election which he won in the second round, amidst opposition claims of election fraud.

Those who have observed Serzh Sargsyan political career over the last two decades say that he is essentially a “soviet style military man who has understood the need for reform”.  He has been able to manage expertly the rough and tumble of Armenia political life, managing first the transition from Ter Petrosyan to Kocharian, and later his own transition to the Presidency. He is well aware of Armenia’s challenges and limitations and is subsequently a pragmatist. When in 2007 he emerged from the relative shadow of appointments in the military and security sides of government to become Prime Minister, he embraced reform as a necessity. He pursued it cautiously but not without vigor. This has also been the hallmark of his presidency since 2008. More…

The credibility of Armenia’s Presidential election is still in the balance.

Presidential candidate starts his campaign with a hunger strike.

Presidential candidate starts his campaign with a hunger strike.

With less than four weeks left before the Presidential Election in Armenia on February 18th the credibility of the whole process remains in the balance as an unusual situation develops with several of the eight candidates refusing to campaign, or announcing their withdrawal.

This election from the start did not look as if it was going to proceed according to normal practices. A number of leading contenders and key political forces declared their non-participation some time ago. Some hoped that this will open the way for new faces. But those that emerged do not seem to be playing by the traditional rules. More…