PACE pre-electoral delegation concerned about a general lack of interest and trust in the election process ahead of Armenian Presidential Poll.

coeA delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has raised concerns ahead of the 18 February Presidential Elections in Armenia.

The PACE pre-electoral delegation was in Yerevan last week at the invitation of the President of the National assembly of Armenia. The delegation of parliamentarians, headed by Karen Woldseth (Norway, EDG), and including Luca Volontè (Italy, EPP/CD), Stefan Schennach (Austria, Soc), and Mailis Reps (Estonia, ALDE) met with presidential candidates, including the incumbent President, leaders of factions in the Parliament, the Minister of Foreign affairs, the President of the National assembly, the chairman of the Central Electoral Commission, the Head of the National Police, the General Prosecutor, NGO and media representatives, the head of the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission and diplomats in Yerevan.

A full 22-member delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly will arrive in Yerevan in mid-February to observe the vote. The PACE delegation will present its findings and recommendations to the assembly during its april session in Strasbourg.

In statement posted on the Council of Europe website ( the delegation welcomed “the intention of the Armenian authorities to organise an election fully in line with international standards”. the statement adds: “however, a crucial matter of concern for the delegation is the continuing substantial inaccuracies in the voter list, since an accurate list is a prerequisite for any proper election. there is still confusion about the right to vote for Armenians living abroad. the delegation was also disappointed to note that previous recommendations on urgently dealing with these issues have not been implemented.   More…

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).

An odd affair: Armenia’s Presidential election needs to be more than about ticking boxes.

On 18 February 2013 Armenians go to the polls to elect their President for the next five years. All three South Caucasus countries will have presidential elections this year, but in Georgia and Azerbaijan polling is expected to be in October.

Armenia held parliamentary elections not so long ago, in May 2012. These elections were considered a step forward in the country’s transition to democracy. Some aspects of the poll were problematic, but a result which enabled all the main political forces in the country to enter parliament was positively assessed. February’s Presidential election was considered the logical next step forward. The stakes here are however higher.

Unlike in the Parliamentary elections this time the winner takes all, and in the circumstances that have developed since May, there is little doubt who that winner is going to be.

So far everybody has been going through the motions. The Central Elections Commission worked through the New Year and Christmas holidays to accept the nominations. It then went through the process of weeding out those of the 15 candidates who were initially registered but who could not make the approximately 20,000 USD deposit that is required by law (and which will be forfeited if the candidate does not get 5% of the vote). Seven of the fifteen candidates did not, and have been eliminated leaving eight: incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan and seven others. It is difficult to describe the seven others as non-entities, since they are not that. Some have long and distinguished political careers, such as former Foreign Ministers Raffi Hovhanessian and former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratian. Others also are recognisable personalities due to their political activity (Melikyan ) or civil society or patriotic work (Harutyunyan, Hayrikyan, Sedrakyan and Ghukasyan). More…


cew collageIn an end of year essay on the state of play in the South Caucasus, long time regional analyst Dennis Sammut says that democrats in the South Caucasus, and their friends, need not be ecstatic about the achievements of 2012. But they can allow themselves a moment of optimism and satisfaction.

Fragile gains give hope

There has not been a single revolution. The three Presidents who held office at the beginning of the year were still sitting in their palaces as the year end approached. Yet in many respects 2012 has been an unprecedented and momentous year for the countries of the South Caucasus and one that is bound to leave its mark on the future politics of the region.

By and large democracy has won. An opposition party thrashed the ruling party in parliamentary  elections in Georgia. Parliamentary elections in Armenia were deemed better than previous ones and five political forces gained seats in the new National Assembly, and in Azerbaijan pro-democracy activists carved a larger space for their activity through clever use of new media, whilst a much predicted post Eurovision crack-down on dissent failed to materialise.

The fragile gains of 2012 give hope that the region has turned the corner in its efforts towards democratic state-building, but democracy is far from secure. There remains a serious democratic deficit and none of this year’s gains are as yet consolidated, so they can easily be swept away. But for once, it does no harm to be optimistic. More…

Republican Party of Armenia boycotts special session in National Assembly, possibly driving opposition parties closer together.

“We need to put aside our narrow party and personal interests, consolidate and with a united agenda – and, why not, with a single candidate – contest the presidential election,” said Vartan Oskanian, former Foreign Minister and a leading Member of Parliament with the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), to a crowd of supporters that had gathered outside the Armenian parliamentary buildings on Wednesday 21 November. More…


Azerbaijani and Armenian political parties discover their “Asian side”.

Whilst Armenia and Azerbaijan emphatically insist that they are European countries representatives of some of their leading political parties last week participated in the 7th General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) which was hosted in Baku by Azerbaijan’s ruling party YAP and was attended by a number of other Azerbaijani parties, both pro government and opposition, as well as by the leader of Armenia’s Heritage Party, and Presidential candidate, Raffi Hovhanessian.

The participation of Armenian and Azerbaijani political parties in this event has caused some amused bewilderment since both countries, as well as their political elites, have for the last two decades since they attained their independence, insisted very emphatically that they were European countries, and both countries are now full members of the Council of Europe.

Unlike Turkey and Russia, whose geography puts them part in Europe and part in Asia, Armenia and Azerbaijan have traditionally been categorised in either one or the other. Whilst some still put them as Asian countries, since their admission to the Council of Europe in the late 1990s they are generally defined as European. Political observers question if ICAPP was worth paying the prize of opening once more the discussion on this issue. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have in recent years been criticised in European political frameworks for their human rights record, and their democratic credentials questioned. More…

The Parliament building in Yerevan.

Armenian opposition parties contemplate co-operation ahead of presidential elections in 2013.

Opposition legislators in Armenia have called for a special session of parliament to discuss possible amendments to the Electoral Code, the Criminal Code and the Law on the State Registration of the Population.

The amendments, hopes the opposition, will be “instrumental in preventing fraud” in the upcoming Presidential election in February 2013. Of particular salience is the proposed amendment to exclude Armenian citizens who have lived outside of Armenia for more than six month from the electoral lists. “We suggest that from now on only citizens who are in the territory of Armenia should be included in the electoral roll. All those who are absent from Armenia for more than six months must be excluded from this roll,” said Levon Zurabian, the leader of the Armenian National Congress (ANC) representatives in the National Assembly. More…