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Envíos 10057

Enviado - 25 diciembre 2006 :  23:34:13  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Armenian women and politics

This week's issue of Armenia Now [http://www.armenianow.com/] is a special on Women and Politics. I am about halfway through the articles and there are two things that strike me.

The first is that on the one hand the women interviewed all say that of course women can participate in politics and occupy high posts that involve decision making and big finances etc. etc., but when it really matters, they too settle into the image of women as subordinate to men, of the nice, quiet woman. A quote from one of the female members of parliament:

I recently asked a question to the Minister of Finance and Economics Vardan Khachatryan and got a rude and impertinent answer [...] He was so rude that I, as a woman, couldn't manage a response to him. Someone else might be able to, but I was not.

Second, though all of the women state that women can and should play a bigger role in politics and in society in general, none of them even remotely touches on the other side of the coin: challenging the role of men in the family and in society or questioning their (the women's) own obvious double burden of housewife/mother and working woman. Not really surprising, though, because I am rather sure this is still a couple of bridges too far for Armenian society.

The Armenia Now issue can be found here [http://www.armenianow.com/women/index.html?].

Update 13 december: Open Democracy published an essay on Armenian women in politics as well. You can find it here [http://www.opendemocracy.net/debates/article.jsp?id=3&debateId=136&articleId=4176]. And a while ago, IWPR also published an article on the same topic here [http://www.iwpr.net/?s=f&p=crs&l=EN&o=324711].

(Myrthe, 11.12.2006, in http://armenianodar.blogspot.com/)


Envíos 10057

Enviado - 05 enero 2007 :  13:56:42  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Politicians' charitable activities - which include handing out potatoes - are dismissed by some as attempts to win over voters

By Marianna Grigorian and Gayane Abrahamian in Yerevan

Armenia is due to hold parliamentary elections this spring and political parties have already begun a series of public relations activities that they describe as "charity" but their opponents say amounts to buying votes.

The committee of the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly monitoring Armenia's compliance with council standards has drafted a resolution, to be put to the assembly in January, warning the Armenian government that it will be paying close attention to the coming poll.

The proposed resolution says that the assembly is "disappointed that, since Armenia's accession to the Council of Europe in 2001, not a single election held there has been deemed fully free and fair".

"It is essential that the next ballot should at last comply with European standards for free and fair elections, as proof of Armenia's progress along the road to democracy and European integration," continues the text.

In Armenia itself, however, accusations of malpractice are already beginning, several months ahead of polling day. In past elections candidates were accused of buying votes by distributing sugar, flour or money to voters, but this time a much more sophisticated campaign is taking place.

In October, the Bargavach Hayastan (Flourishing Armenia) party led by Gagik Tsarukian, a member of parliament and one of the richest and most powerful men in Armenia, announced it was launching a programme for developing villages.

On the grounds that drought had prevented peasants from storing seeds, Tsarukian's party began distributing winter wheat and potatoes in ten regions of Armenia. Bargavach Hayastan also launched a programme of providing free medical services for the residents of these regions.

Pensioner Marusya Karapetian who lives in Aparan 60 kilometres northwest of Yerevan is delighted.

"Neither my husband nor I have seen a doctor for 15 years," she said excitedly. "We were dying of pain but we did not have enough money to visit a doctor. Tsarukian is a good man. He is treating us medically and he is giving out potatoes so at least we have something to plant."

Tsarukisan's political opponents are already attacking his initiatives. Member of parliament Shavarsh Kocharian charged, "Hungry people will swear by the name of the person who helps them. Of course, they will vote for the man who helps them. Everything has been very well thought out."

Tsarukian responded in an interview on public television, "They are just condemning a person who is getting things done. You need to work, to present your programme to voters, learn their opinion and only then can you start counting how many votes you'll get."

His other initiatives have included sowing wheat and the setting up of a fund for impoverished students. And all his charitable activities are getting generous television coverage

Other political leaders have been employing their own television channels to whip up support.

Tigran Karapetian, chairman of ALM holding company and chairman of the People's Party, has been using ALM television for four years to promote his own charitable initiatives. The slogan "Be good to people at all cost" sounds out from television screens with an image of Karapetian and soulful music. The channel declares that his activities are private and not political.

In a programme entitled Music Box and funded by Karapetian, children from villages are given the opportunity to perform on television, irrespective of their singing or reading abilities.

Karapetian has also been organising trips for provincial residents, mainly pensioners and the poor, in minibuses to visit Lake Sevan and other sights. All the excursions are scrupulously covered by the television station, which presents Karapetian as a "saviour with a big heart and a kind person".

"As a private person, I have given 3,000 dentures to pensioners and spectacles for those with poor eyesight," declared Karapetian.

Stepan Zakarian, a member of the Justice faction in parliament, roundly condemns Karapetian's activities.

"Tigran Karapetian has transformed the whole election process into a farce," he said.

Zakarian has also criticised defence minister - and possible future president - Serzh Sarkisian for his involvement in opening a water supply system in the village of Tsakhkahovit last November instead of dealing with his defence portfolio.

"Instead of thinking day and night about how to increase our country's military budget, the defence minister opened this water system. In the meantime, Azerbaijan's military budget is ten times as large as ours," he said.

The governing Republican Party of Armenia has also been engaged in controversial charitable initiatives, presenting provincial educational centres with computers and laboratory equipment.

But the party spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov denies it has anything to do with the election campaign.
"This programme is just aimed at improving the quality of education. We started it in 2006," he said.

It is hard to distinguish between genuine charity and political exploitation of voters. Armenian political figures have begun their charitable efforts six months before campaigning is allowed officially, enabling them to present it as not being connected to the coming poll.

Samvel Nikoyan, a leading member of the Republican Party, said that he disapproves of the charitable initiatives, in particular the distribution of potatoes and wheat, but there is no way of legally preventing it.

"I am afraid that a political and ideological contest will become one for the distribution of seeds," he said.

Armen Rustamian, a leading member of the Dashnaktsutiun party, said, "If people get potatoes and go to the elections with them, these people will have a potato government and a potato democracy."

Marianna Grigorian and Gayane Abrahamian are reporters for Armenianow.com in Yerevan.

(IWPR'S CAUCASUS REPORTING SERVICE, No. 372, January 4, 2007.)
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Envíos 10057

Enviado - 14 enero 2007 :  22:29:44  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita

By Astghik Bedevian and Liz Fuller

Armenia's leading opposition forces are holding negotiations on the possibility of forming new alliances ahead of the parliamentary elections due in May, opposition leaders told RFE/RL's Armenian Service on January 8.

National Unity Party (AMK) leader Artashes Geghamian indicated that he is considering ways of teaming up with another opposition heavyweight, Stepan Demirchian and his People's Party of Armenia (HZhK). Former Prime Minister and Hanrapetutiun party Chairman Aram Sargsian is also involved in ongoing talks with fellow opposition parties.

Geghamian told RFE/RL he has held "some discussions" with the HZhk. "We have primarily talked about doing everything to ensure that the upcoming elections are democratic and preventing falsifications," he said, but declined to divulge further details. HZhK leaders could not be immediately reached for comment.

Geghamian and Demirchian have had an uneasy personal rapport, falling out during the presidential elections of February-March 2003 when they were President Robert Kocharian's main opposition challengers.

The two men joined forces a year later to lead an ill-fated opposition attempt to force Kocharian into resignation with a campaign of street protests. The failure of the campaign opened a new rift between them that appeared to have deepened in May 2006 when Demirchian accused Geghamian of lying about his late father, HZhK founder Karen Demirchian. Geghamian was quick to try to mend fences with Demirchian at the time.

Hanrapetutiun leader Sargsian reportedly is also participating in the current talks, which he described as encouraging. "Formation of alliances is always much easier ahead of elections," he told RFE/RL. "I am really delighted with the current negotiations in terms of their quality and responses of opposition leaders."

He added that the talks have so far focused on the nomination of single opposition candidates in all of Yerevan's 15 electoral districts. But he would not comment on the chances of a new broad-based opposition alliance emerging in place of the largely moribund Artarutiun (Justice) bloc led by Demirchian.

It is also unclear whether Geghamian and Demirchian are prepared to conclude a formal election alliance with the more radical Sargsian. Sargsian for his part "unequivocally" does not rule out cooperation with the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), according to Noyan Tapan on January 9.

Meanwhile, there is also growing talk of another major electoral alliance that could be led by former parliament speaker and Orinats Yerkir party head Artur Baghdasarian and Samvel Babayan, the former commander of the armed forces of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

Babayan launched his Dashink party in late 2005, and told RFE/RL's Armenian Service in June 2006 that he was confident it will win representation in the new parliament to be elected this year. He also said he would not form an electoral alliance with any other party. Among their potential allies is the Union for Constitutional Rights (SIM), a small opposition party currently affiliated with Artarutiun. Hayk Babukhanian, who replaced Hrant Khachatrian as SIM's leader late last summer, in early January did not rule out the possibility of the SIM joining forces with Orinats Yerkir and Dashink.

Babukhanian dismissed speculation that Baghdasarian's and Babayan's ambitious parties maintain secret ties with President Robert Kocharian. "If they don't support the current authorities, then they are in opposition," he said.

Yet another possible election alliance would bring together the small opposition Union of National Democrats headed by Arshak Sadoyan and the Democratic Path party headed by independent parliamentarian Manuk Gasparian, Noyan Tapan reported on January 9, quoting the independent daily "Aravot."

Gasparian said he is holding talks with "two or three" individual political figures who have expressed an interest in running on the bloc's joint list, but declined to name them.

(RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 7, Part I, 12 January 2007.)
Copyright (c) 2007 RFE/RL, Inc.
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Envíos 10057

Enviado - 19 enero 2007 :  20:53:27  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Asesinado en Turquía un intelectual juzgado por defender a la comunidad armenia
Hrant Dink era director del único semanario destinado a ese grupo, y había sido procesado en tres ocasiones por sus ideas

REUTERS / ELPAIS.com - Estambul / Madrid - 19/01/2007

El intelectual turco Hrant Dink, juzgado en su país en varias ocasiones por hacer referencia al genocidio armenio (la muerte de más de un millón de miembros de esta comunidad a manos de las tropas otomanas durante la I Guerra Mundial), ha sido asesinado a tiros, según informa la televisión turca. Dink fue víctima de las leyes contra la libertad de expresión de su país, uno de los baldones que se interponen en el camino de Turquía hacia la Unión Europea.

Dink, de 53 años, era escritor y director del semanario Agos, la única revista armenia de Turquía (con una tirada de 6.000 ejemplares). Había tenido que afrontar tres procesos judiciales, entre otras cosas por declarar: “No soy turco; soy armenio de Turquía”. Hoy ha recibido cuatro tiros en Estambul; la policía ha detenido a dos sospechosos a pocos kilómetros del lugar del crimen, según ha anuncido el primer ministro, Tayyip Erdogan. El gobernante ha asegurado que este asesinato constituye un ataque contra la paz y estabilidad del país.

En Turquía viven unos 60.000 ciudadanos de origen armenio, la mayoría de ellos en Estambul. En los últimos meses, una quincena de intelectuales de esta comunidad habían roto el tabú que rodea la matanza de armenios y se enfrentaban por ello al peligro de ir a la cárcel. “Aún no hay libertad total -decía Dink en diciembre-, pero el tabú se está resquebrajando”. “Hay progreso gracias a las negociaciones con la UE”, añadía.

Turquía es un país musulman; los armenios son cristianos. El artículo 301 del Código Penal turco, aprobado en junio del año pasado, castiga con cárcel los “insultos a la identidad nacional”. Entre los intelectuales perseguidos por este delito se encontraba el escritor Orhan Pamuk, uno de los más respetados en su país y ganador el año pasado del Premio Nobel de Literatura. ¿Su crimen? Afirmar en un periódico suizo: “30.000 kurdos y un millón de armenios fueron asesinados y nadie se atreve a hablar de ello”. La Unión Europea ha protestado contra esta ley y contra los procesos judiciales, pues deja en manos de los tribunales cuál es el límite de la libertad de expresión.

En 1915 Europa estaba inmersa en la I Guerra Mundial y el Imperio Otomano se encontraba en proceso de descomposición. Un grupo de militares quiso entonces cortar de raíz la colaboración de los armenios con Rusia, y durante ocho años les sometieron a una persecución que acabó con la vida o provocó la huida de 1,5 millones de personas. El proceso fue tan brutal que hay historiadores que hablan de genocidio; las autoridades turcas lo niegan, mientras que Armenia (cuya frontera con el país vecino sigue cerrada) habla de un millón de muertos.

Aunque Pamuk fue exculpado merced a una argucia legal, quedan casi dos centenares de causas abiertas por delitos de opinión contra intelectuales turcos. El Gobierno ha dicho que nadie irá a la cárcel por expresar su opinión. Pero el año pasado la escritora Perihan Magden, también absuelta, señalaba: “Estamos sometidos a tortura psicológica. Antes de quedar exculpados en el interior de los juzgados, se nos da un escarmiento en la calle”. Magden fue juzgada por “denigrar a las Fuerzas Armadas” turcas en un diario; la escritora defendió el derecho a la objeción de conciencia de un joven pacifista.

EL PAÍS, 19.1.2007. - http://www.elpais.com/articulo/internacional/Asesinado/Turquia/intelectual/juzgado/defender/comunidad/armenia/elpepuint/20070119elpepuint_9/Tes)
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Envíos 10057

Enviado - 27 enero 2007 :  14:49:54  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Siamo tutti armeni

scrive Fabio Salomoni

Una folla imponente ha accompagnato martedì a Istanbul Hrant Dink nel suo ultimo viaggio. Assente Erdogan. L'inchiesta della polizia, tra gaffe e dubbi sulle indagini di Trabzon seguite all'omicidio Santoro. La Turchia tra società civile e forze oscure

Forse erano 100.000 le persone che martedì ad Istanbul hanno sfilato per 8 chilometri, dalla sede del settimanale Agos al cimitero armeno di Yenikapi, per accompagnare per l'ultima volta Hrant Dink. Hanno marciato silenziosamente, come aveva chiesto la vedova Rakel, senza slogan e striscioni tranne uno: "Siamo tutti Hrant. Siamo tutti armeni" in turco, curdo ed armeno. C'erano tutti, comuni cittadini, alcuni rappresentanti politici, delegazioni straniere, rappresentanti della diaspora armena.

Mancava solamente il presidente Erdogan. In quelle ore era al volante di una Mercedes presidenziale, accanto a lui Romano Prodi, per l'inaugurazione di un tunnel autostradale realizzato da una società italiana. Erdogan ha annunciato per i prossimi giorni una visita al patriarca armeno ma nessun accenno ad un eventuale incontro con la famiglia Dink*.

Un funerale "come non se ne erano mai visti prima ad Istanbul", ma soprattutto una straordinaria manifestazione di affetto e di solidarietà, uno scatto di orgoglio per quella parte della società turca che ha voluto far sentire la propria voce in favore della convivenza pacifica e della democrazia.

Il silenzio assordante della folla ha fatto da contraltare a molta retorica verbosa che ha invaso il paese nei giorni scorsi. Fatta di dichiarazioni di sdegno e di condanna per l'omicidio condite però da un gran numero di ma... Ma si è trattato di un complotto internazionale... Ma si è trattato di un "gioco" della diaspora armena... Ma l'immagine del nostro paese viene di nuovo macchiata... Ma adesso sarà impossibile fermare il riconoscimento del genocidio armeno da parte del Congresso americano... Ma non si può condannare un intero paese per il gesto dello squilibrato...

La preoccupazione per l'immagine del paese, la paranoia complottista, la ricerca dell'Altro, interno od esterno, sul quale scaricare la responsabilità per i mali del paese. E' un vecchio ritornello che ha fatto la storia della cultura politica e della psicologia collettiva turca per decenni. Le tribolate e faticose trasformazioni innescate negli ultimi anni avevano cominciato ad incrinare una ad una queste abitudini, facendo lentamente emergere la prospettiva di una società pluralista, democratica, rispettosa, aperta. Da circa un anno però il vento aveva cominciato a cambiare. E molti di coloro che ora si sdegnano e si stupiscono per l'assassinio di Hrant Dink fingono di dimenticare il loro contributo alla grancassa nazionalista che da tempo aveva ripreso a sputare gli slogan di sempre, gli appelli a serrare i ranghi, la diffidenza verso il mondo esterno, le accuse di tradimento, le minacce e la violenza.

Di questo ritorno di fiamma del nazionalismo paranoico Dink era divenuto un bersaglio privilegiato. Era stato additato al pubblico ludibrio come traditore della patria, nemico dei turchi e della turchità, indicato come obbiettivo sul quale scatenare la rabbia.

Un dirigente dell'MHP (Partito di Azione Nazionalista) al termine di una manifestazione sotto le finestre della rivista Agos era stato sufficientemente chiaro: "Faremo di Dink il bersaglio del nostro odio”.

E questo clima clima di odio e di caccia alle streghe ha dato i suoi frutti, ha prodotto quello che Ismet Berkan, direttore di Radikal, da qualche giorno protetto dalla polizia, ha definito un omicidio razzista. Ad eseguirlo un ragazzino di 17 anni, Ogun Samast, di Trabzon [Trebisonda], studente mancato, disoccupato, accanito frequentatore di campi di calcio ed internet caffè. Ogun ha raccontato di aver letto alcune dichiarazioni di Dink in internet e di essersi sentito ribollire il sangue: "Ho deciso di ucciderlo".

Lo ha aiutato un oscuro personaggio, Yasin Hayal, da poco uscito dal carcere dove aveva scontato 11 mesi per aver lanciato una bomba nel Mc Donalds della sua città (“Era aperto durante il Ramadan”). Dopo aver addestrato lui ed altri coetanei all'uso della pistola, ha detto ad Ogun: "Offendono il nostro stato e nessuno fa niente, tocca a noi fare qualcosa". Poi, dopo avergli consegnato un po' di soldi e una pistola, lo ha spedito a fare il giustiziere per le strade di Istanbul.

Nei due nessun segno di debolezza. Ogun, al momento dell'arresto, ha dichiarato di non essersi pentito ed Hayal, mentre veniva condotto dal giudice, ha trovato il tempo per lanciare un avvertimento minaccioso ad Orhan Pamuk.

In queste ore due sono le domande più urgenti.

La prima riguarda i mandanti dell'omicidio, quali ombre si agitino alle spalle di un personaggio come Hayal. Il questore di Istanbul ha però esordito con una gaffe: "La vicenda non ha risvolti politici, si è realizzata sotto gli effetti di sentimenti nazionalisti", provocando dopo qualche ora dopo l'imbarazzata smentita della prefettura: "Stiamo indagando".

L'anziano scrittore Yasar Kemal ha commentato sconsolato la notizia: "Se un dirigente della polizia ha fatto una dichiarazione simile siamo perduti".

Per il momento una serie di indizi sembrano indicare legami tra Hayal ed il Partito della Grande Unità (BBP), di estrema destra, nato una decina di anni fa da una scissione con l'MHP. Il segretario del partito, Yazicioglu, commentando le immagini dei funerali, dopo aver condannato l'omicidio, ha tenuto a precisare che lo striscione - Siamo tutti armeni - è da considerarsi inaccettabile.

La seconda domanda riguarda la città di Trabzon, da tempo alla ribalta della cronaca nera-politica. Di Trabzon era anche il giovane assassino di padre Santoro, così come sempre nella città del Mar Nero nell'ultimo anno in due occasioni migliaia di persone avevano cercato di linciare alcuni membri della associazione TAYAD (Associazione dei familiari dei carcerati), colpevoli solamente di aver distribuito volantini che richiamavano l'attenzione sulle drammatiche condizioni delle carceri speciali di tipo F.

Depressione economica, una cultura locale che esalta l'uso delle armi, conservatorismo politico, effervescenza sociale dovuta alla particolare storia della città ed alla vicinanza con i confini caucasici, rappresentano una miscela in grado di spiegare i recenti episodi.

Resta la domanda di Murat Yetkin di Radikal: "Forse se le indagini sull'omicidio di padre Santoro fossero state più approfondite non saremmo arrivati all'omicidio Dink".

"L'omicidio di Hrant costituisce un esame per la Turchia". Lo ha scritto in un commosso articolo Etiyen Mahcupiyan, intellettuale armeno, fraterno amico di Dink e da qualche ora nuovo direttore di Agos. E' tempo di verificare se la nuova Turchia sarà in grado di resistere alle tentazioni di far un passo indietro, di lasciarsi risucchiare da un passato che sembra non voler passare mai, nell'isolazionismo paranoico dello slogan "Per un turco non c'è migliore amico di un turco".

I 100.000 di martedì dimostrano che esiste una società civile forte pronta a raccogliere la sfida. A sostenerla però non ci saranno più il volto e la voce di Hrant Dink, un grande uomo ed un intellettuale coraggioso. Che riposi nella luce.

[* Nella serata di mercoledì a sorpresa Erdogan è andato dalla famiglia Dink per le condoglianze, nda]

(Da OSSERVATORIO SUI BALCANI, Newsletter n° 3 /2007. - http://www.osservatoriobalcani.org/article/articleview/6712/1/167/)
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Envíos 10057

Enviado - 31 enero 2007 :  22:13:13  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita

Emil Danielyan

Armenia has received plaudits for possessing the most liberal and open economy in the Commonwealth of Independent States, as the country ranked a highly respectable 32nd in a recent survey on economic freedom. However, government critics and a few independent economists contend that the study does not accurately represent the country’s economic conditions.

The survey, prepared by The Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation and released January 16, covered 157 countries. It found an "impressive amount of freedom" in the Armenian economy, which is still recovering from the Soviet collapse and remains hamstrung by the unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Index of Economic Freedom rated economies in 10 areas, including the extent of government involvement in economic affairs, trade and monetary policy, property rights and business regulations. Armenia received high scores in most of these categories, surpassing all other non-Baltic ex-Soviet states in recent years’ rankings. WSJ/Heritage researchers went farther this year, putting it ahead of economic powers like France, Italy and South Korea.

"Armenia is ranked 19th freest among the 41 countries in the European region," concluded the study. "Armenia’s score puts it above Europe’s average -- an impressive feat for an impoverished landlocked country." It cited, among other things, low tax rates, modest government expenditures, a fully private banking sector, and tight government monetary policies.

The WSJ/Heritage appraisal is largely in tune with the findings of similar studies. Armenia, for example, was judged to have the most investor-friendly business environment in the CIS in a 2005 World Bank survey that assessed "the ease of doing business" around the world. Also in 2005 the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said in a report that it leads the way in the CIS transition to a market economy.

Armenia launched its reform efforts amid adverse circumstances. The conflicts in Karabakh and elsewhere in the South Caucasus effectively cut off the country from the outside world, causing its Gross Domestic Product to shrink by half from 1992-1993. The Armenian economy began its slow but steady recovery after a Russian-mediated truce stopped the Armenian-Azerbaijani war for Karabakh in 1994. According to government statistics, it grew in 2006 at a double-digit rate for a sixth consecutive year. Official figures also suggest that the poverty rate in the country fell from 56 percent to 35 percent between 1999 and 2005.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund say Armenians are finally reaping the benefits of free-market economics. "Armenia’s economic performance has been impressive in recent years," the IMF’s managing director, Rodrigo de Rato, said during a June 2006 visit to Yerevan.

The Armenian government is certain to seize upon the WSJ/Heritage survey as vindication of its economic policies. Meanwhile, government critics, along with some independent experts, say that economic appearances are deceiving in Armenia’s case. The country’s economic environment is not as liberal as it is portrayed, due to weak rule of law, endemic corruption, and a lack of judicial independence, they contend. Government connections are still essential for doing business, and virtually all local millionaire businessmen operate with the support and protection of various government factions and pro-establishment parties. The richest of them are believed to have close ties with the country’s two most powerful men, President Robert Kocharian and Defense Minister Serge Sarkisian.

"Armenia is the most centralized state in the region," said Hrant Bagratian, a liberal economist who served as prime minister in 1993-1996. "Forty or so families control 58 percent of our GDP."

A controversy surrounding the redevelopment of Yerevan underscores the weak protections for private property. Hundreds of city residents were forcibly evicted and their homes bulldozed so that expensive residential and office buildings could be built. The process has been regulated by a 2002 government directive, despite a constitutional provision requiring that urban renewal be governed by parliamentary approved legislation. Armenia’s Constitutional Court declared the redevelopment process unconstitutional in April 2006, but stopped short of ordering the state to pay additional compensation to the evicted families.

Government corruption is another serious problem hampering economic activity and competition in the country. Armenia ranked 93rd out of 163 countries in the Berlin-based Transparency International’s most recent Corruption Perception Index. Fearing retribution, local entrepreneurs rarely challenge bribe solicitations by government officials. One of them who did, the owner of a coffee importing company, is currently standing trial on tax evasion charges that were leveled after his public allegations of high-level corruption in the Armenian customs service.

The Index of Economic Freedom acknowledges these problems, putting Armenia’s scores in the Property Rights and Freedom from Corruption categories well below the world’s average. But its authors’ assertion that the low level of Armenian public spending is a blessing will be dismissed by many local and Western economists. The Armenian government’s 2006 tax revenues accounted for less than 16 percent of GDP, an extremely low proportion even by ex-Soviet standards that highlights the scale of tax evasion among the local rich. Consequently, the government’s 2007 budget, projected at a record-high $1.5 billion, will still be insufficient for meeting the basic needs of the country’s public sector.

The World Bank and the IMF regard tax evasion as a key economic challenge facing Armenia, pressing the authorities in Yerevan to tackle the problem in earnest. Kocharian admitted its gravity at an extraordinary meeting on January 10 with top government officials. "I don’t see in the [tax collection] services sufficient energy to fight against the shadow economy," he told them. "There is improvement, but it can not be considered satisfactory in the existing situation."

Editor’s Note: Emil Danielyan is a Yerevan-based journalist and political analyst.

Posted January 24, 2007 © Eurasianet
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Envíos 10057

Enviado - 25 febrero 2007 :  00:29:01  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita

In Armenia, the authorities have amended the Constitution to provide for equality before the law for everyone under Armenian jurisdiction. But no comprehensive body of civil and administrative anti-discrimination provisions has been passed. The Yezidi minority continues to face problems with regard to land, water and grazing issues and some members of this community have still not acquired property titles for their land.


ECRI <Combat.Racism@coe.int>

Editado por - alazaro a las 25 febrero 2007 00:29:31
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Enviado - 25 febrero 2007 :  22:28:17  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Government sees drop in population as a threat to national security

By Naira Melkumian in Yerevan

In a bid to curb a steep demographic decline, the Armenian government has produced a strategy to boost the population - but many have criticised the move as cosmetic.

"You can observe a negative trend in the reduction in the number of people of reproductive age, which, alongside the overall ageing of the nation, may lead us into serious problems in the labour market and for our plans to secure steady economic growth," the deputy minister of labour and social affairs, Artsvik Minasian, one of the architects of the new strategy, told IWPR.

The past ten years have seen the country's official population dwindle by 500,000 people. According to government statistics, Armenia currently has around 3.2 million inhabitants.

However, most experts say these figures are exaggerated. The US government's CIA Factbook lists the population as being 2,976,372 in 2006, while some say it is even lower than that.

The United Nations Population Fund predicts that if current trends continue, the population will shrink to 2.33 million by 2050, while that of Azerbaijan - with which Armenia remains in a state of frozen conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorny Karabakh - will exceed 11 million.

"With the Karabakh conflict still unresolved and the real prospect of renewed fighting with Azerbaijan, the demographic crisis could become a serious threat to security," said Aram Sarkisian, member of parliament and leader of the opposition Democratic Party.

The main reasons for the decline are a haemorrhage of people through emigration, plummeting birth rates, an ageing nation, high mortality and increased incidence of disease among people of reproductive age. All of which are linked.

Ruben Yeganian, a researcher at Yerevan State University, estimated emigration numbers at 800,000 since independence, or close to a quarter of the population.

"The lower birth rates are partly due to the emigration-caused imbalance of the ratio of sexes at reproductive age," said Suzanna Barseghian, demography expert at the Armenian Centre for National and Strategic Research.

One result of this is that in the 20-24 age group, there are more women than men, meaning that many women who would otherwise bear children, do not.

Work done by researchers at Yerevan State University says that a low birth rate, far more than increased mortality, is the main factor inhibiting a natural growth in the population. Armenian parents tend to have only one or two children.

On average, 36,000 babies are now born in Armenia every year - less than half of the number of several years ago. In order to encourage fertility, the government has decided to provide a one-off allowance of 200,000 drams (around 500 dollars) to mothers giving birth to a third child. Only socially vulnerable families will qualify for the grant. The labour ministry says some 3,000 families will receive the money.

Deputy Minister Artsvik Minasian told IWPR that the government planned to increase the maternity allowance for all women giving birth in future, but for the time being state resources were limited.

Armenian mothers currently receive a one-off allowance of 35,000 drams (100 dollars), while needy families get 70,000 (200 dollars) per child.

As part of the new demographic strategy, the government also says it aims to provide free medical examinations for women, especially those in rural areas, to launch employment programmes as an incentive to bring male migrants back to the country and even to introduce a course of lectures on demography in universities.

Minasian says he believes the new demographic strategy will help improve the situation in Armenia by 2009.

However, the plan already has many critics, amongst them Stepan Safarian, a senior expert at the Armenian Centre for National and Strategic Research, who called the proposals "cosmetic".

"What are these 200,000 drams gong to give?" he asked. "It's just one-off help and it won't change the difficult social conditions, in which a majority of the population lives."

Aram Sarkisian said the "the government's steps looked like more like a pre-election stunt than a serious concept".

"We need fundamental changes, we need a special state fund to support young families," he said. "But I don't think that our government of ultra-liberals is capable of making this kind of move, which need to be made by Social Democrats."

Yerevan resident Anna Harutyunian, 30, said she was not encouraged by the new government plans. "Look, Russia provides mothers with a benefit for a second child, here we are offered help only for a third child and even this is not for all families, but only for the most needy," she said. "I have one child and will think twice before I decide to give birth to another. You've got to put them on their feet, give them am education."

Naira Melkumian is a freelance journalist based in Yerevan.

(IWPR'S CAUCASUS REPORTING SERVICE, No. 378, February 16, 2007.)
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Enviado - 22 marzo 2007 :  20:44:07  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita


Haroutiun Khachatrian

Fears are growing in Armenia that a military conflict between the United States and Iran could materialize, forcing Yerevan to choose between the two sides. Both Washington and Tehran are presently key political and economic partners for the South Caucasus state.

Iran is probably the most important country among Armenia’s neighbors, a position encouraged by Turkey and Azerbaijan’s blockade of Armenia’s borders for over a decade. Despite the differences in their political systems, Western-oriented Armenia and the Islamic Republic of Iran have maintained a steady friendship and have expanded their economic cooperation in recent years.

Against this backdrop, belligerent rhetoric used by Bush administration officials when discussing Iran’s controversial nuclear research program has prompted serious concern in Yerevan. Although US officials insist that Washington has no intention of launching a preemptive strike against Iran, local media throughout the South Caucasus presented such a scenario as a very real possibility. For example, the March 8 issue of the Armenian daily Zhamanak Yerevan pondered "Will Armenia be included in the Iranian turbulence?"

A recent statement of Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, head of the US Missile Defense Agency, that an anti-missile radar defense system in the South Caucasus would be "useful, but not essential" has fueled these concerns. The Armenian public has largely interpreted Obering’s words as another sign of increasing tensions in the region, and a tip-off that Washington intends to counter not only Iran, but also Russia.

Of all three South Caucasus states, Armenia alone has clearly expressed opposition to the prospect of such a deployment. "Armenia, as a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, does not want an increase of armament[s] in the region," Gen. Mikael Haroutiunian, chief of staff of the Armenian Armed Forces, told reporters on March 5.

Analysts and politicians alike share the opinion that a military response to Iran would be highly dangerous for Armenia. "Iran has a very important stabilizing role in the region, including in the relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan," Armen Ashotian, a member of the parliamentary faction of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, told the Noyan Tapan news agency on March 6. He expressed a concern that preparations for Armenia’s May 12 parliamentary elections may distract its political elite from preparing to face the danger of such a conflict.

Like officials in Georgia and Azerbaijan, political leaders in Yerevan have given no sign that it believes a conflict between the US and Iran is possible. Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told reporters on March 9 that the Iranian issue was not discussed during his March 5 meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington DC. Oskanian also reaffirmed the commitment of his government to the foreign policy of "complementarity," the attempt to remain on good terms with all three regional powers – the US, Russia and Iran.

Meanwhile, one political scientist, Levon Melik-Shahnazarian, has already come up with likely scenarios for what he sees as an inevitable US attack against Iran. Among the options, according to Melik-Shahnazarian, recently named the director of the DeFacto news agency, are "pinpoint hits" on Iranian nuclear facilities (a scenario, he warns, that could pose "a new Chernobyl" for Armenia), and land invasion and domestic uprisings using Iran’s large ethnic Azeri population.

Not all Armenian analysts share this widespread pessimism about how US-Iran relations could affect Armenia, however. A US attack on Iran would do little to change Iranian policy on nuclear development or decrease the Islamic Republic’s influence on the region, noted Aleksander Iskandarian, director of the Caucasus Media Institute in Yerevan, in a March 13 interview with Noyan Tapan. "It seems to me that the role of rational thinking is not small in American politics," Iskandarian added.

Nonetheless, defining Armenia’s alliances in such a tangle is a problem whose existence few analysts dispute. The policy of "complementarity" must be abandoned as "no longer suitable" for the current situation in the South Caucasus, argued political scientist Melik-Shahnazarian. Andranik Migranian, a Moscow-based political scientist, shares this view, telling Shant TV on March 5 that Armenia cannot continue to keep silent, "hoping that the problems may be resolved by themselves."

Abandoning the policy, though, could force a clear-cut choice to be made about where Armenia’s sympathies lie, observers say. The pro-Western Zhamanak Yerevan daily has posited that Armenia should side with the West, or risk losing to Azerbaijan territories that it controls south of the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Aleksander Iskandarian of the Caucasus Media Institute, however, contends that another consideration should come into play. Washington understands, he said, that Armenia has no other option but to cooperate with Iran, and does not wish to reinforce the country’s traditional dependence on Russia.

"If Armenia hangs on one thread only, the Russian one, it will have much less room for maneuver than in case of having any second thread to hang on," Iskandarian commented. "With more freedom, Armenia will have a better opportunity to follow its natural path of development, to the West."

Editor’s Note: Haroutiun Khachatrian is a Yerevan-based writer specializing in economic and political affairs.

(Posted March 14, 2007 © Eurasianet. - http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav031407.shtml)
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Enviado - 01 abril 2007 :  23:36:06  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita

Marianna Grigoryan

The sudden death of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian on March 25 from heart failure has sparked considerable political unease in Armenia, with residents expressing concern over what implications it could have for parliamentary elections just a month and a half away.

"We have lost a statesman, a colleague, a friend who headed the government for nearly seven years in the 15-and-a-half year history of our independence, and those seven years have been the best years of our state," President Robert Kocharian told cabinet members on March 26, local media outlets reported.

As dictated by the Constitution, the Armenian government resigned on March 26, to be reformed under a new premier. A new prime minister will be appointed within 10 days and a new government will be set up within 20 days. President Kocharian has asked ministers to continue their work until then and directed that Markarian’s funeral be held on March 28, which has been designated as an official day of mourning.

Already speculation has begun about who will likely succeed the 55-year-old Markarian, Armenia’s longest serving prime minister and president of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA). Most observers see Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, arguably the former cabinet’s most influential member, as the frontrunner for the post. [For details, see the Eurasia Insight archive]. The defense minister, who served as chairman of the board of the ruling Republican Party, was named the party’s acting chairman following Markarian’s death.

In a March 26 statement, Armen Rustamian, a representative of the Supreme Council of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Party, a fellow member of Armenia’s ruling coalition with the Republican Party, affirmed that his party would support Sarkisian for prime minister, the Regnum news agency reported.

"According to the 2003 agreement, the prime minister’s portfolio belongs to the RPA, and for this reason the head of the government must be a representative of the Republican Party," Rustamian said, in reference to the coalition formed following Armenia’s last parliamentary elections. "If the government decides to nominate Serzh Sarkisian for this post, then the ARF will support this candidacy."

Inside Republican Party headquarters, the atmosphere has been tense since Markarian’s death was announced. Flowers surround a photograph of the late prime minister placed in the center of the party’s office. In a televised speech to party members, Parliament Speaker and Republican Party Deputy Chairman Tigran Torosian called Markarian’s death "a huge loss for all of us."

"He was not only a great political figure and statesman, but also a person who was always ready to listen even to his opponent, even to an ordinary person, a passerby, a man who was always the embodiment of tolerance and care for people," Torosian said.

In comments to the government, Kocharian, who has no official party affiliation, appeared to echo those concerns. Markarian, he told cabinet members, "left us at a very crucial time, and as the authorities, we must provide the correct solutions for finding a way to get out of the current situation."

Particular attention has already begun to focus on how the appointment of Markarian’s successor will influence relations between the Republican Party and the increasingly popular Prosperous Armenia party, already cited as the frontrunner for the May 12 parliamentary vote in some public opinion polls. [For details, see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Opposition and pro-government political parties, however, have refrained from official comments on the matter.

Ordinary Yerevan residents, however, are split in their opinions. "I think Markarian’s death will cause big disturbances in the upcoming elections," commented 66-year-old pensioner Hakob Muradian. Other city residents disputed that view, saying that the event will bring no changes in the near future.

A computer engineer by education, Markarian, a longtime Republican Party member, was named prime minister in May 2000, just months after the October 1999 assassination of Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, Parliamentary Speaker Karen Demirchian and several other senior officials. [For details, see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Prime Minister Markarian, who suffered from obesity and was a smoker, died from cardiac failure at his Yerevan apartment on March 25, at about 1.20 pm local time, according to official reports.

A close friend of the late prime minister, who asked to remain anonymous, told EurasiaNet that Markarian’s health conditions had been deteriorating for the past several days. According to the source, a high fever, elevated blood pressure and a general sense of ill health had already prompted Markarian to cancel an earlier scheduled trip to France.

Editor’s Note: Marianna Grigoryan is a reporter for the Armenianow.com weekly in Yerevan.

(© Eurasianet. - http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav032607a.shtml)
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Enviado - 09 abril 2007 :  20:58:34  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita

In a statement issued by the presidential press service in Yerevan, it was announced that Armenian President Robert Kocharian issued a decree on April 4 appointing Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian as the new prime minister, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. According to the presidential decree, by assuming the premiership, Sarkisian is thereby removed from his positions as both acting defense minister and head of the National Security Council, leaving the post of defense minister at least temporarily vacant. Sarkisian was nominated on April 2 as prime minister by the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which he now heads.

The 53-year old Sarkisian was Armenia's fourth defense minister, having served from 1993-95 before being reappointed in 2000, and has headed the National Security Council since 1999. The appointment was widely expected and Sarkisian will assume his new duties upon his return from a NATO meeting in Brussels. Sarkisian replaces the late Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, who died unexpectedly of heart failure on March 25.


(RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 64, Part I, 5 April 2007.)
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Enviado - 22 abril 2007 :  13:39:06  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Shootings, arson and political machinations undermine what has been billed as a free and fair ballot

By Gohar Mkrtchian in Echmiadzin

Within days of its launch, campaigning for the Armenian parliamentary election has been tarnished by violence, feuding between candidates, and an apparent attempt to oust one candidate by bringing in another with the same name.

April 8 marked the start of the official campaign for the May 12 poll. Two parties, the Republican Party, which currently has the largest number of seats in the national assembly, and the recently-established Prosperous Armenia are dominating the campaign. Both have support from leading government officials.

Just five days before the campaign launch, the political temperature increased with an assassination attempt against Vardan Ghukasian, the mayor of the country's second largest city Gyumri. Ghukasyan is a member of the Republican Party.

Police said Ghukasian's Mercedes and other cars accompanying it were sprayed with gunfire on the Yerevan-Gyumri highway, and were hit by 77 bullets. Four bodyguards died in the attack, while Ghukasian and his deputy mayor Gagik Manukian were hospitalised with serious gunshot wounds.

Ghukasian had been on his way back to Gyumri after attending a meeting of the Republican Party's ruling council in Yerevan, at which Defence Minister Serge Sarkisian was formally nominated for the post of prime minister.

A politician from the party, Ashot Aghababian, said, "These shots were aimed at the Republican Party of Armenia. The incident came immediately after a party meeting rather than at any other time".

The head of Ghukasian's office, Artyom Mazmanian, said the mayor had no enemies, nor had he received death threats.

Local media reported that Ghukasian was planning to switch allegiance to the rival Prosperous Armenia party, led by wealthy businessman Gagik Tsarukian. The party is the Republicans' main challenger in the forthcoming election, and is widely believed to enjoy the backing of President Robert Kocharian.

Republican Party spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov flatly denied the rumour, saying, "That's out of the question. It's a flight of fancy."

The town of Echmiadzin - a town best known as the seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church, but which has a heavy military presence - has also been hit by election-related violence.

At about midnight on April 8, Hakob Hakobian, the incumbent member of parliament who is running again in the constituency, came under attack. Hakobian is a member of the governing Republican Party but has a reputation for independence.

He recalled, "I was with a friend, and as we were leaving our car we saw a BMW in the street, but we couldn't read the number plate in the dark. We had moved about six metres away from our car when the shots rang out. We barely managed to take refuge in [our] office nearby and lock the iron doors."

The same night, a fire broke out at a precision instruments factory owned by another candidate, Susanna Harutyunian, whose headquarters was located on the premises of the plant.

Hakobian and Harutyunian blamed another candidate, Sedrak Saroyan (also known as Seyran Saroyan), a retired major-general in the Armenian army, for what happened to them.

"If Hakobian and Harutyunian are eliminated, Saroyan will become a member of parliament [even] if turnout is only 30 per cent," said Karlen Khachatrian, who is running Hakobian's campaign

Harutyunian is certain the factory was set on fire to scare her off. "I've been repeatedly terrorised, and even offered a lot of money, to get me to withdraw from the campaign. But when they realise that isn't working, they resort to such measures," she said.

Saroyan denied the allegations, saying his rivals were "stirring things up with the sole aim of creating a fuss and promoting themselves."

A spokesman for Saroyan's campaign, Hakob Martuni, said his candidate was a man of strict military discipline who would never stoop to such tactics. Instead, Martuni suggested that the attacks had been staged by the other candidates themselves.

"They saw they were losing and they panicked," he said. "They're shooting at themselves."

Simon Mkrtchian, a 43-year-old resident of the town's Zvartnots district, commented, "It's no surprise that the campaign in Echmiadzin kicked off with gunfire - it's what we were expecting. That's the way problems are resolved in this town; it's [like] a real military dictatorship here."

The Echmiadzin campaign has been made even more complex because there are not three but four candidates - as well as the local Hakobian, there is another candidate who is not only from the same Republican Party but bears exactly the same name.

This second Hakob Hakobian was brought in from Yerevan in what some say was a deliberate attempt to confuse voters. The new arrival proceeded to accuse his namesake and the two other candidates of forging some of the signatures a candidate needs to gather in order to be allowed to stand.

Graphologists were brought in to analyse the disputed signatures, and on April 10 a court in the town of Armavir disqualified both Harutyunian and the original Hakobian from standing.

Neither attended the hearing. According to Harutyunian, "It was obvious how it was going to end, so there was no point in my going there."

She said the verdict was bad news for democracy in Armenia, "What it means is that everything in this country is organised from the top down. How can we talk about democracy and fair elections?"

In a further blow to the local Hakobian, three of his supporters were arrested in a police search of the homes of friends and relatives that involved up to 80 officers and lasted from April 9 to 10.

Events in Echmiadzin caused a stir in political circles in Yerevan, only 20 kilometres away. Opposition member of parliament Shavarsh Kocharian described them as "a shameful episode".

"None of it serves our country's stated aim of moving towards fair and democratic elections," he said.

One of the leaders of the Republican Party in parliament, Galust Sahakian, tried to play down the incident, saying that the court's ruling must be respected.

"Hakobian is my friend and... quite an important political player and a serious businessman," he said.

But Sahakian added, "You can be involved in politics outside parliament as well. Let's not judge the overall standard and substance of the election campaign solely by the shots fired in the [Echmiadzin] constituency."

The disqualified Hakobian then played an unexpected card - offering to back the incomer from Yerevan, whom he believes is merely a stalking-horse for Saroyan and may pull out before the election takes place.

"Since I blame Saroyan for all this, and the Yerevan candidate is merely obeying orders, I have decided to support him [the other Hakobian] by campaigning against the person who gave him his orders," he said.

If the outsider does pull out, Hakobian urged his supporters not to vote for Saroyan.

The signs are that violence will continue to plague the election campaign. Early on April 12, an office belonging to the Prosperous Armenia party in Yerevan was hit by an explosion, apparently caused by a bomb placed outside the door. The party office was destroyed, as was a nearby shop. RFE/RL reported that a second office belonging to the same party was also hit by a blast in the capital. There were no casualties in either incident.

Gohar Mkrtchian is a pseudonym used by a freelance reporter in Echmiadzin.

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Enviado - 01 mayo 2007 :  18:08:35  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Ritorno ad Akdamar

Da Istanbul, scrive Fabio Salomoni

Inaugurata al termine di un lungo restauro la chiesa della Santa Croce, gioiello dell'architettura armena al centro del lago di Van. L'importanza di questo “splendido passo in avanti” nelle relazioni turco-armene. I limiti e retroscena, la cerimonia ufficiale

La chiesa della Santa Croce, costruita tra il 915 ed il 921 d.C. per volere del re armeno Gagik, sorge sull’isola di Akdamar, al centro del lago di Van, nell’Anatolia orientale. A lungo dimenticato e condannato ad un progressivo deterioramento, questo gioiello dell’architettura armena è tornato nei giorni scorsi ai suoi antichi splendori. Dopo un lungo lavoro di restauro coordinato da un architetto turco di origini armene, Zakaryan Mildanoglu, che ha comportato un investimento superiore al milione di euro, la rinnovata chiesa di Akdamar è stata ufficialmente inaugurata lo scorso 29 marzo. Un gesto importante, “uno splendido passo in avanti” nelle relazioni bilaterali, come lo hanno definito i giornali turchi, ed il tentativo di migliorare l’immagine internazionale della Turchia incalzata dalle accuse di genocidio. Come spesso accade però, quando si tratta delle relazioni turco-armene, anche il restauro di Akdamar non ha fatto mancare piccole polemiche, ritorsioni e dibattiti.

Prima vi erano state in Turchia le proteste degli ambienti che non avevano apprezzato la decisione del governo di realizzare il restauro. Una volta terminati i lavori si era assistito poi al valzer dei ripetuti spostamenti della data della cerimonia di inaugurazione. Anche dopo la scelta della data del 29 marzo non sono mancati gli scontenti. Paradossalmente le proteste per la cerimonia di Akdamar hanno avuto tra i risultati quello di far trovare sulle stesse posizioni gli elementi più radicali dei due schieramenti.

Per prime le autorità dell’Azerbaijan, che hanno declinato l’invito a partecipare alla cerimonia per protesta contro l’occupazione armena del Nagorno Karabakh. Dopo le proteste azere quelle della diaspora armena i cui rappresentanti, invitati ad Akdamar, non si sono presentati in segno di protesta contro la decisione delle autorità turche di concedere alla chiesa lo status di museo e non quello di luogo di culto. Poi è toccato alle autorità della repubblica armena che hanno risposto positivamente all’invito inviando però una delegazione di basso profilo, in risposta alla decisione delle autorità turche di non riaprire nemmeno per questa occasione i confini tra i due paesi, chiusi dal 1992.

La delegazione armena, composta da venti persone guidate dal vice ministro della cultura Gagik Gyuriyan, ha raggiunto la Turchia via terra passando dalla Georgia. Prima di arrivare a Van, la delegazione ha visitato la città di Kars e le chiese di Ani, che sorgono in territorio turco a ridosso della frontiera armena e che rappresentano uno dei luoghi simbolo della storia e della cultura armena.

Anche la corretta trascrizione del nome dell’isola su cui sorge la chiesa è stata oggetto di discussione sulle pagine di alcuni quotidiani turchi. Alcuni lettori armeni hanno infatti fatto notare come secondo le regole della fonetica armena la trascrizione corretta del nome non è Akdamar ma Akhtamar oppure in alternativa Aghtamar.

Seppur ridotta dalle polemiche della vigilia, la presenza alla cerimonia di inaugurazione è stata importante. Assente il premier Erdogan, a rappresentare il governo turco c’era il ministro della cultura Atilla Koç. Accanto a lui il patriarca armeno di Istanbul Mesrob II, giunto nell’isola con una delegazione di 25 persone, la delegazione dall’Armenia, i rappresentanti diplomatici di 45 paesi, la stampa turca e straniera.

Nel suo discorso Mesrob II ha tenuto innanzitutto a ringraziare il governo turco che nel volere fortemente il restauro “ha mostrato coraggio nell’affrontare dure critiche provenienti da ambienti diversi”. Il patriarca ha poi ricordato che la chiesa è prima di tutto un luogo di culto chiedendo alle autorità di poter celebrare una volta l’anno una messa e accennando alla possibilità di organizzare in quell’occasione un festival di Akdamar. Mesrob II si è detto convinto che Akdamar potrebbe diventare in questo modo un importante centro per il turismo religioso, creando anche “condizioni favorevoli per un dialogo tra le comunità turca e armena”.

Un altro particolare che aveva fatto scorrere molto inchiostro, e velate polemiche alla vigilia, era stata l’assenza dalla cupola della chiesa della croce. Su questo punto il patriarca ha preferito non rispondere alle domande dei giornalisti. Il ministro della cultura Koç ha ricordato che sulla questione si attendeva il parere del ministero degli esteri turco. La risposta, negativa, è arrivata nei giorni successivi. Il rapporto del ministero motiva il parere negativo citando l’esempio di Santa Sofia ad Istanbul. Quella che era stata una basilica bizantina, trasformata poi in moschea dagli ottomani, è attualmente aperta al pubblico come museo nel quale “non è possibile tenere cerimonie religiose” e sulla cui cupola non compaiono “simboli religiosi islamici”. Poichè la chiesa di Akdamar si trova nella stessa condizione “non è opportuna la collocazione di una croce”.

Al termine della cerimonia il viceministro armeno ha espresso la sua soddisfazione per la qualità del restauro, sottolineando che iniziative di questo genere rappresentano “un passo positivo importante nelle relazioni tra i due popoli”. Il viceministro ha poi rivelato che il ministero della Cultura sta studiando la possibilità di restaurare una delle moschee “turco-islamiche” presenti sul territorio armeno. Anche i rappresentanti diplomatici stranieri hanno sottolineato l’importanza dell’occasione. Per l’ambasciatore tedesco Cuntz, “tutto il mondo è interessato a questa cerimonia che rappresenta un segnale importante per la comprensione turco-armena”.

Praticamente nelle stesse ore in cui si inaugurava la chiesa di Akdamar, dall’altro capo della Turchia, dal tribunale penale di #350;i#351;li ad Istanbul, lo stesso che aveva condannato Hrant Dink per violazione dell’articolo 301, è arrivata la notizia dell’assoluzione per il professor Taner Akçam.

Akçam è uno storico che lavora negli Stati Uniti, autore tra gli altri del libro “La questione armena e l’identità nazionale turca”, e rappresenta una delle voci più critiche rispetto alla versione ufficiale turca sui “fatti del 1915”. Un suo articolo apparso sulla rivista armena AGOS nel quale sosteneva la tesi del genocidio gli aveva procurato l’accusa di vilipendio alla turchità. Il giudice di #350;i#351;li ha deciso per l’assoluzione motivandola con il fatto che le parole di Akçam costituiscono un’opinione scientifica che deve essere interpretata nel quadro della libertà di espressione.

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Enviado - 06 mayo 2007 :  01:24:55  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita

Addressing students at Yerevan State University on April 27, President Robert Kocharian described as an "ugly manifestation" of "treason" comments made by former parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian during a February meeting with a British diplomat, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. That conversation was clandestinely recorded, and the pro-Kocharian Russian-language daily "Golos Armenii" published on April 20 what it claimed were excerpts from it in which Baghdasarian complained that the authorities were already taking steps to rig the outcome of the May 12 parliamentary ballot and asked whether the EU could issue "some signal of alarm" before the vote. Kocharian added that he does not "think it would be right" to take "tough action" against Baghdasarian, presumably meaning bringing criminal charges against him, but he made clear that anyone who votes for Baghdasarian's Orinats Yerkir party will be considered as lacking patriotism and dignity.

Baghdasarian, who resigned as parliament speaker one year ago after a public disagreement with Kocharian over whether Armenia should join NATO, condemned the publication of the transcript in a written statement on April 23 and in a telephone conversation with RFE/RL's Armenian Service on April 27 as "a violation not only of the constitution and laws but also of moral norms." The British Embassy in Yerevan confirmed on April 26 that one of its staff met with Baghdasarian, but similarly condemned as "dishonest" the taping of the conversation and subsequent publication of what it termed "a gross misrepresentation" of what the two men actually said, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported.

Kocharian also assured Yerevan State University students on April 27 that the authorities will do all in their power to ensure that the May 12 election is free, fair, and democratic, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. He predicted that opposition parties are already planning to protest the election results should their "unrealistic" estimates of their popularity prove to be wrong, and he warned that the authorities will act "appropriately" to quash any attempt to mobilize dissatisfied voters and "undermine...political stability." Kocharian assessed the election campaign to date as proceeding in a calm and civilized manner, which he construed as evidence that the Armenian electorate has no interest in a "colored revolution," Noyan Tapan reported. Also on April 27, veteran oppositionist and National Self-Determination Union head Paruyr Hairikian appealed to all voters who want free and fair elections to select the "against all" option on the ballot paper, Noyan Tapan reported. On April 28, the opposition Armenian Pan-National Movement asked the Central Election Commission to annul its registration to participate in the ballot under the proportional system, Noyan Tapan reported.


(From RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 79, Part I, 30 April 2007.)
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Enviado - 08 mayo 2007 :  16:44:26  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita

Former parliamentary speaker and opposition Orinats Yerkir party leader Artur Baghdasarian denounced the Armenian authorities on May 1 for resorting to "lies" and "slander" and vowed to seek "an Armenia of law and justice," RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Baghdasarian was responding to a recent statement by Armenian President Robert Kocharian accusing him of "treason" in connection with secretly recorded comments to a Yerevan-based British diplomat in February.

Addressing a crowd of about 1,000 supporters, Baghdasarian accused the Armenian government of corruption, adding that he resigned as parliament speaker in May 2006 because he was "fighting against injustice and illegalities". He also vowed to triple modest pensions and double public-sector salaries if elected, explaining that he would finance such measures by cracking down on government corruption and tax evasion.

Campaigning in a southern Armenian district, Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian called on May 1 for voters to demonstrate patience and "realism" in their expectations for the country's May 12 parliamentary elections, according to RFE/RL's Armenian Service. Sarkisian further cautioned against excessive socioeconomic expectations from his governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), saying that "we are a realistic party" that will not give "excessive promises." Locals called on the premier to address their needs, urging him "to provide financial assistance to rebuild our streets" and demanding state action to restore natural-gas supplies to the area.



Armenian opposition Hanrapetutiun (Republic) party leader Aram Sargsian denounced fellow opposition leaders on April 30, accusing them of disrupting his attempt to unite the country's fractured political opposition, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Sargsian specifically blamed opposition leaders Stepan Demirchian and Artashes Geghamian, the two main challengers in the last presidential election, for placing their "personal ambitions" above a unified opposition and claimed they would be content with "a handful of seats" in the new parliament. For his part, Demirchian, the leader of the opposition People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), said that the main issue is not a lack of unity among the opposition but voter apathy, pointing to widespread voter cynicism. He also charged that the Armenian authorities and the ruling pro-government parties are engaged in massive "vote buying."

Negotiations between the various opposition parties on forming an electoral alliance for the May 12 parliamentary ballot broke down in late February.


(RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 80, Part I, 2 May 2007.)
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Enviado - 09 mayo 2007 :  16:56:08  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
May 12 Parliamentary elections in Armenia

Two pro-government parties in uneasy truce ahead of crucial parliamentary election

By Rita Karapetian in Yerevan

Two contrasting parties linked to the governing elite are dominating Armenia's parliamentary elections, with much of the drama being provided by the awkward rivalry between them. The polls are widely being seen as a dress rehearsal for next year's presidential election.

"On May 12 the main fight will be between political forces within the system of power," said Samvel Nikoyan, a parliamentary deputy from the Republican Party - one of the two parties dominating the pre-election period. He dismissed the chances of the opposition wining a majority in parliament.

The Republican Party currently comprises the main group in parliament and is led by Serzh Sarkisian, who recently became prime minister after many years serving as defence minister. Sarkisian is also the favourite to succeed Robert Kocharian when his second and final term as president ends next year.

The party's main rival is Prosperous Armenia, an electoral movement founded by the man frequently said to be the country's richest businessman, former champion wrestler Gagik Tsarukian. Prosperous Armenia is closely linked to President Kocharian.

The leaders of the two parties, which get the lion's share of television news coverage, do not criticise one another, but observers see tensions underneath.

Of the 131 seats in parliament, 41 will be elected from constituencies and 90 proportionally from lists of parties, which collect more than five per cent of the overall vote. The battle in the 41 constituencies that cover the country will not only between party candidates but candidates nominated by groups of voters.

The two parties' programmes are similar. Tsarukian said that the Republican Party had achieved high levels of economic growth, which his party wanted to see continue.

Vardan Bostanjian, one of the leaders of Prosperous Armenia, said that he "feels love towards the Republican Party of Armenia which he regards not as an enemy but as a rival".

The parliamentary leader of the Republican Party Galust Sahakian has said that he thinks it possible that the two parties will collaborate in the next parliament.

The rivalry between the two parties is mostly hidden from view and the subject of rumour and speculation. Two of the Yerevan offices of Prosperous Armenia were blown up in explosions in April. According to one press report, Republican Party activists were behind the blasts while another report blamed Prosperous Armenia itself.

Following the explosions, Prosperous Armenia issued a call for the election campaign to remain a civilised struggle, while the Republican Party made a statement saying that certain forces were trying to destabilise the situation. Many observers saw these statements by the two favourites in the parliamentary poll as being aimed at one another - although no names were named.

Political commentator Vahan Vardanian said that whatever deal had been struck at the top, there was no agreement on the division of roles amongst second-tier figures after the elections.

A leading opposition politician, Suren Sureniants, said neither of the two should be called proper parties.

"There is the quasi Republican Party which serves the interests of the clan of Serzh Sarkisian and the quasi Prosperous Armenia party which serves the interest of the oligarchs who have gathered round Robert Kocharian," said Sureniants.

The friendship and political alliance of Kocharian and Sarkisian, who both come from Nagorny Karabakh, dates back more than 20 years. Some are predicting that after he steps down, Kocharian will aim to become prime minister if Sarkisian becomes president.

Sarkisian has said he will make his intentions clear on May 13, the day after the parliamentary poll. He has already begun making high-profile trips around the country and is leading the Republican Party's election campaign virtually single-handed, holding meetings with voters and appearing on television. He not only appears in the party's electoral advertisements, but is seen constantly in television news reports.

Edvard Antinian, deputy chairman of the Liberal Progressive Party of Armenia, said that the appointment of Sarkisian to the post of prime minister to succeed Andranik Margarian, who died in March unexpectedly of a heart attack, had damaged Sarkisian's chances of becoming president.

"It would have been better for Sarkisian if he had continued to be the 'grey cardinal' who ran the government from behind the scenes," Antinian told IWPR, arguing that Sarkisian's presidential ambitions had been revealed too early.

Antinian said that Sarkisian's elevation to head the Republican Party had strengthened the position of the military and security faction in the party, making it more aggressive towards Prosperous Armenia.

"Until recently the parties coordinated their actions with one another, but that's no longer happening," said Antinian.

The governing coalition formed after the last parliamentary elections in 2003 between the Republican Party, the veteran nationalist party Dashnaktsutiun and the Orinats Yerkir party has broken up. Dashnaktsutiun is now critical of the government, while Orinats Yerkir and its leader, former parliamentary speaker Artur Baghdasarian, has gone into open opposition.

One of the leaders of Dashnaktsutiun, Hrant Margarian, announced that they would not be supporting Sarkisian in the presidential election but would nominate their own candidate.

Baghdasarian also has presidential ambitions and has set himself up as a leading critic of the governing elite - which has recently landed him in trouble.

The Russian-language newspaper Golos Armenii recently published the transcript of a taped conversation that allegedly took place in a Yerevan restaurant between Baghdasarian and British diplomat Richard Hyde.

In the conversation, Baghdasarian is heard to argue that international observers must come out with a forceful denunciation of the outcome of the parliamentary elections.

President Kocharian called Baghdasarian a traitor. "It's hard to imagine that a former speaker could fall so low," he said."Someone who has betrayed once is capable of doing it again."

Baghdasarian said the publication was a "provocation" designed to discredit him ahead of the presidential elections, in which he plans to stand.

As well as the Republican Party and Prosperous Armenia and the two former members of the governing coalition, observers see two other opposition parties as having a good chance of winning seats in parliament - National Unity of former Yerevan mayor Artashes Geghamian and Heritage of former foreign minister Raffi Hovanissian.

Rita Karapetian is a correspondent with Noyan Tapan news agency in Yerevan.

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Enviado - 15 mayo 2007 :  13:28:29  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita

Police used truncheons and tear gas on May 9 against some of the several thousand participants in an election rally in Yerevan jointly convened by former Prime Minister Aram Sargsian's Hanrapetutiun, Aram Karapetian's Nor Zhamanakner, and Aylentrank (Alternative), Noyan Tapan reported the following day. Some demonstrators were detained briefly but then released. Former Yerevan Mayor Vahagn Khachatrian told the gathering that there is no longer any alternative to the impeachment of the current leadership. Sargsian warned that if the May 12 parliamentary elections are falsified, the bloc will convene a mass demonstration on May 13 on Freedom Square in Yerevan "to decide what to do next," Interfax reported. Demonstration participants marched to the National Security Ministry building to protest the detention of Karabakh war veterans Zhirayr Sefilian and Vartan Malkhasian and of former Foreign Minister Alexander Arzoumanian. Also on May 9, Arzoumanian's lawyer Hovik Arsenian told RFE/RL's Armenian Service that the authorities do not have sufficient evidence to substantiate the charges of money laundering against Arzoumanian and will probably release him from detention later this week.


(RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 85, Part I, 10 May 2007.)
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Enviado - 20 mayo 2007 :  20:30:27  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Armenia repubblicana

scrive Maura Morandi

Il partito repubblicano del Primo Ministro Sarksyan si aggiudica il 40% dei seggi nelle prime elezioni politiche giudicate democratiche dalla comunità internazionale. Dubbi americani

Secondo i risultati del lavoro di monitoraggio svolto dagli osservatori, le elezioni per il rinnovo del parlamento armeno tenutesi sabato 12 maggio hanno soddisfatto gli standard democratici internazionali.

Gli aventi diritto al voto erano più di due milioni e l’affluenza alle urne è stata del 60% circa. 1.364 candidati hanno concorso per 131 seggi, 41 dei quali sono stati assegnati nelle circoscrizioni e 90 con un sistema proporzionale basato sul voto di lista.

Solo 5 partiti politici su 23 hanno superato lo sbarramento del 5% ed hanno così potuto essere rappresentati nel nuovo parlamento. Una coalizione di partiti filo-governativi ha ottenuto la grande maggioranza dei 131 seggi. Il partito Repubblicano, infatti, ha ricevuto il 32.8% dei voti ed ora controllerà il 40% circa dei seggi parlamentari, confermando in questo modo il sostegno al Primo ministro in carica e leader del partito, Serzh Sarksyan.

Il partito Armenia Prospera, fondato e guidato da Gagik Tsarukyan, ex lottatore e uno degli uomini più ricchi e potenti dell’Armenia, ha ottenuto il 14.7% ed il partito Dashnaktsutiun (Federazione Rivoluzionaria Armena) ha raggiunto un consenso pari al 12,72%.

Anche il partito Orinats Yekis (Stato di diritto), guidato da Artur Baghdasaryan, ex alleato del Presidente Kocharyan, ed il partito Eredità hanno superato lo sbarramento del 5%, acquisendo in questo modo il diritto di avere propri deputati nell’assemblea legislativa.

Quella del 12 maggio è stata la quarta tornata elettorale per l’Armenia dalla sua indipendenza dall’Unione Sovietica del 1991, e l’unica ad aver ottenuto una valutazione positiva dagli osservatori internazionali.

Tutte le precedenti elezioni erano state infatti giudicate “manipolate” e le ultime votazioni del 2003 erano state definite ancora “sotto gli standard democratici”. Nel corso dell’ultima campagna elettorale sono state fatte intense pressioni diplomatiche internazionali sulle autorità armene affinché fosse evitato un altro suffragio viziato. Nei mesi scorsi, infatti, gli Stati Uniti avevano minacciato di bloccare gli aiuti destinati a progetti di sviluppo del Paese, che ammonterebbero a circa 200 milioni di dollari, nel caso in cui si fossero verificate serie irregolarità. Anche l’Unione Europea aveva richiamato le autorità armene a rispettare gli standard democratici per le consultazioni elettorali, asserendo che, in caso contrario, ci sarebbero state conseguenze nelle relazioni con il Paese.

In una prima relazione dell’Organizzazione per la Sicurezza e la Cooperazione in Europa (OSCE), forte di 400 osservatori internazionali che hanno monitorato le consultazioni elettorali, è stato dichiarato che le elezioni sono state condotte “ampiamente in conformità con gli standard internazionali per le elezioni democratiche”.

Boris Frlec, Capo della missione elettorale a lungo termine dell’OSCE/ODIHR, ha messo in evidenza che l’aspetto più importante di queste elezioni è che hanno aiutato a ridare fiducia ai cittadini armeni, “fiducia che era stata seriamente minata dalle irregolarità nelle precedenti elezioni e dal fatto che i responsabili erano rimasti impuniti”.

Anche dall’Unione Europea sono arrivati segnali di soddisfazione per il modo con il quale si sono svolte elezioni ritenute “nell’insieme libere e giuste”, che “rappresentano un significativo progresso democratico, sebbene ci sia ancora del lavoro da fare”. Da Bruxelles, inoltre, la Presidenza tedesca di turno all’UE ha fatto sapere alle autorità armene che da parte sua “è molto favorevole ad intensificare la cooperazione con l’Armenia”, rimarcando però che “alla luce delle elezioni presidenziali che si terranno all’inizio del 2008, la Presidenza chiede all’Armenia di investigare e risolvere i problemi procedurali che ancora esistono”. Javier Solana, Alto Rappresentante per la Politica Estera e di Sicurezza Comune dell’Unione Europea, ha commentato il voto dicendo che attraverso queste elezioni gli armeni “hanno dimostrato una maggiore maturità politica rispetto al passato” e hanno lanciato “un segnale positivo agli altri paesi nella regione”.

Gli Stati Uniti hanno mostrato una maggiore cautela nel commentare in modo del tutto positivo la tornata elettorale in Armenia ed hanno esortato le autorità di Yerevan ad “indagare sulle infrazioni commesse e perseguire i responsabili secondo la legge armena”. Tome Casey, portavoce del Dipartimento di Stato americano, ha affermato che le elezioni parlamentari in Armenia sono state “un passo nella giusta direzione”, ma diversamente dagli osservatori elettorali dell’OSCE e dell’UE non le ha descritte come ampiamente democratiche. Da Washington, infatti, Casey ha affermato che “c’è stato un miglioramento rispetto alle precedenti elezioni, ma ancora non rispondono completamente agli standard internazionali”.

Se da una parte gli osservatori internazionali hanno accolto con favore il miglioramento in senso democratico rispetto alle precedenti votazioni, dall’altra hanno rimarcato il fatto che permangono alcuni problemi sulle procedure di consultazione ed hanno segnalato alcuni casi “isolati” di violazioni e doppio voto. Tone Tingsgaard, uno dei capi della missione elettorale dell’Assemblea Parlamentare dell’OSCE, ha però spiegato che “le irregolarità riportate dagli osservatori non sono state così serie da mettere in discussione i risultati elettorali”.

Non sono della stessa opinione i partiti di opposizione che hanno dichiarato “falso” il voto di sabato ed hanno organizzato per domenica scorsa una protesta nella capitale, alla quale hanno partecipato un migliaio di persone.

Durante la dimostrazione, Nikol Pashinyan, uno dei leader del partito “Impeachment”, che non ha raggiunto la soglia del 5%, ha dichiarato alla folla che “non c’è stata alcuna elezione ieri, è stato solo un colpo di Stato. Gli organizzatori delle elezioni dovrebbero essere puniti”. I leader d’opposizione, inoltre, sostengono di avere le prove delle irregolarità commesse durante la consultazione elettorale e di voler intraprendere azioni legali.

Nonostante il clima teso della campagna elettorale e delle violenze nei giorni precedenti al voto [vedi “Una tranquilla campagna elettorale di violenza”, Osservatorio sui Balcani 24.04.2007], la protesta è scemata spontaneamente e si è conclusa senza scontri.

Le elezioni, inoltre, sono state considerate dalle autorità armene come una prova generale del voto presidenziale che si terrà il prossimo anno. In questo senso, la vittoria del Partito Repubblicano ha mostrato l’ampio consenso del paese all’attuale Primo ministro Serzh Sarksyan, ritenuto il possibile futuro presidente dell’Armenia [vedi “L’Armenia secondo Sarksyan”, Osservatorio sui Balcani 11.05.2007]. Sarksyan ha ricoperto varie posizioni ministeriali dal 1991 prima di essere nominato primo ministro lo scorso marzo, quando il suo predecessore è morto di un attacco cardiaco. Sarksyan ha accolto con favore il giudizio degli inviati internazionali dicendosi “felice che gli osservatori abbiano riconosciuto che queste sono state le migliori elezioni mai tenute in Armenia nei 15 anni dalla sua indipendenza”.

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Enviado - 20 mayo 2007 :  21:03:45  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita

By Liz Fuller and Richard Giragosian

The May 12 Armenian parliamentary elections resulted in a victory for Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian's Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and the eclipse of two opposition parties represented in the outgoing parliament. But the division of mandates raises questions about the composition of a new coalition government, which may hinge on the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun, a junior coalition partner since 2003.

The May 12 vote was hailed by international election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as a "clear improvement" demonstrating "progress" compared with earlier ballots, and as largely meeting international standards for democratic elections. That evaluation both conveys a heightened degree of legitimacy on the new legislature and suggests a break with Armenia's dubious legacy of tainted elections.

The election results largely confirmed general expectations, with Prime Minister Sarkisian's HHK the overall winner, followed by the new Bargavach Hayastan (Prosperous Armenia, BH) party and the HHD. Yet the election was not without some surprises. First, the scale of the HHK victory surpassed nearly all preelection estimates, while votes for Prosperous Armenia were surprisingly fewer than expected. The HHK garnered nearly one-third of the party-list vote, which together with the seats it won in single-mandate constituencies will ensure it 64 or 65 seats in the new 131-seat parliament, endowing the party with an outright majority. Bolstered by its strong position, the HHK now offers Prime Minister Sarkisian both a firm platform for dominating the legislative agenda of the new parliament and a strong position for his candidacy in the February 2008 presidential election.

Coming in a distant second, Prosperous Armenia polled a mere 14.7 percent of the vote, less than half that cast for the HHK, and which will translate into 25 or 26 parliamentary seats. That modest showing surprised many, as the party steadily acquired political standing and seeming popularity in the preelection period thanks primarily to the mass-scale distribution of "charity" and "benevolent aid" throughout the rural areas of Armenia by party founder and wealthy businessman Gagik Tsarukian. The party's poor showing underscores the extent of political apathy and cynicism in Armenia, marked by the ordinary voter's inclination to accept both bribes and promises prior to an election, but to ignore both once in the voting booth.

Prosperous Armenia was established primarily to provide President Kocharian with the political power base he has never had before, rather than from any ideology or political platform. Yet even despite garnering fewer votes than it hoped for, and in stark contrast to its preelection boast of over 400,000 members nationwide, the election outcome does not necessarily mark Prosperous Armenia's premature eclipse.

On the contrary, the results actually fulfill the party's stated primary goals -- simply to emerge as a new political force and to enter parliament. Tasked with a novel political role as more a pro-presidential than a pro-government party, the future of Prosperous Armenia will be closely aligned with that of Kocharian, whether he opts for a Boris Yeltsin model of secure presidential retirement or some Vladimir Putin-style political future.

The third pro-establishment party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD), the long-serving junior partner in the ruling coalition government, improved its position by securing 16 seats (compared with 11 in the outgoing parliament) and slightly more than 13 percent of the vote. But reflecting the intricacies of true parliamentary politics, the HHD has simultaneously emerged as a potential kingmaker in the new parliament, and as a broker in the formation of a new pro-government coalition in light of Sarkisian's stated preference for the broadest possible coalition, rather than relying on his parliamentary majority for a HHK-only government. Sarkisian's rationale is presumably that a broader coalition would expand support for his presidential bid next year, while at the same time preventing any potential alliance between the HHD and Prosperous Armenia that could pose a challenge to the HHK.

The election also resulted in significant shifts within the parliamentary opposition, notably the weakening of the opposition Orinats Yerkir party of former parliament Chairman Artur Baghdasarian. With less than 7 percent of the vote, the onetime member of the pro-government coalition will have only 10 deputies in the new parliament, but Baghdasarian has nonetheless made it clear that he intends to discard the opposition's traditional tactics of boycott and abstention, vowing to embark instead on a bold strategy of legislative confrontation.

Second, if the sidelining of Orinats Yerkir was generally expected, the failure of longtime opposition leader Stepan Demirchian and his People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) to surmount the 5 percent threshold for returning to parliament was not. The failure of both Demirchian -- whom Kocharian defeated in presidential runoffs in 1998 and 2003 -- and his opposition party to win reelection, and the HZhK's dismal 1.7 percent of the party-list vote, may reflect his erstwhile supporters' unhappiness at his refusal to sacrifice his personal ambition for the sake of creating a unified opposition bloc.

The third significant development was the emergence of a new dynamic political actor in the form of the Zharangutiun (Heritage) party of U.S.-born former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian. Official election results gave the party only 6 percent of the vote and a total of six parliament mandates, although many Armenians believe that the popular Hovannisian received a far greater number of votes, especially in Yerevan. The well-liked Hovannisian is hailed as a new opposition force, capable of injecting a new sense of optimism and integrity into Armenian politics.

As the country's uncrowned new opposition leader, Hovannisian will most likely eclipse Baghdasarian in terms of both political prowess and popular appeal, thanks largely to his personal record. He is seen as untainted by corruption and, unlike Baghdasarian, free from the constraints of past association with the ruling elite. Most importantly, Hovannisian, who first moved to Armenia 16 years ago and served as its foreign minister in 1992, offers something new for Armenian politics, while still maintaining an established record of principled opposition and standing. He has waged a long battle with the Armenian authorities, beginning with the controversial rejection of his candidacy in the 2003 presidential election and culminating in the eviction of his party last year from the building housing its Yerevan headquarters. This dual record of political persecution and opposition has only endeared him to ordinary Armenians.

In this reconfigured political landscape, the main players now face the task of forming first a new coalition, and then a cabinet. Here too, the HHD will exert its newfound political power, demanding not only the retention of its existing ministerial portfolios (agriculture, education and social welfare), but also seeking the defense minister position for one of its members, former Deputy Defense Minister General Artur Aghabekian. Aghabekian, a leading reformer within the Armenian military who served as deputy to Prime Minister Sarkisian during the latter's tenure as defense minister, may also bring a new vitality to the post now held by the retirement-aged Colonel General Mikheil Harutiunian.

Still unclear is whether and how the reconfigured political landscape will impact the relationship -- and the rumored rivalry -- between Sarkisian and Kocharian. Over the medium term, politics will be driven by Sarkisian's clearly stated aspiration to succeed the outgoing president. But will Kocharian readily accept a passive role as a lame-duck president? Crucially, will Kocharian choose to ease Sarkisian's path to the presidency or to hinder it, possibly by backing a rival candidate?

(RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 91, Part I, 18 May 2007.)
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Enviado - 09 junio 2007 :  15:27:41  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita

Addressing a May 30 session of the Atomic Energy Security Council, Robert Kocharian said that plans to build a new nuclear power station to replace the Soviet-era facility at Medzamor are "justified both in terms of energy security and economically," Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported.

Kocharian predicted that the Energy Ministry will present to the government within two months a program for decommissioning Medzamor, to be followed by a second program on disposal of radioactive waste. He said that "active work" on the new plant could begin in 2012-13.

The EU insists that Medzamor be decommissioned by 2016, but environmentalists in the Turkish town of Igdir, 16 kilometers from the Armenian-Turkish border, have begun collecting signatures to a petition demanding its immediate closure, according to Noyan Tapan on May 26. The cost of the new nuclear plant is estimated at $1 billion, which the Armenian government hopes foreign investors will provide.

Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia's Federal Agency for Atomic Energy (Rosatom), signed an intergovernmental agreement with Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian during a visit to Yerevan in late April on the joint exploitation of extensive uranium reserves in southern Armenia, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on April 23.

Kiriyenko said Armenia could then become one of the few countries with a full uranium production cycle, from extraction to enrichment for use in generating nuclear power. But Kocharian said on May 30 that "we will not enrich uranium in Armenia," Noyan Tapan reported.

He said that Armenia will join international programs monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and that an agreement on enrichment has already been signed with Russia.


(RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 99, Part I, 31 May 2007)
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Enviado - 13 junio 2007 :  17:11:19  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita

The parliament elected on May 12 convened on June 7 in Yerevan for its first session in the presence of President Robert Kocharian and of Catholicos Karekin II, who pronounced his blessing on the assembled deputies, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The eight deputies representing the opposition Orinats Yerkir party headed by former parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian and the seven representing the Zharangutiun (Heritage) party of U.S.-born former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian boycotted the opening session to protest the Constitutional Court's failure to respond to formal requests by four separate opposition parties to probe allegations of vote rigging during the May 12 ballot. Tigran Torosian, a member of the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) that has the largest parliament faction, was again elected parliament speaker, having held that post in the outgoing parliament after Baghdasarian resigned in May 2006.

Vahan Hovannisian (no relation to Raffi) of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun was similarly reelected a deputy parliament speaker; the second deputy speaker's post went to Ishkhan Zakarian of the pro-presidential Bargavach Hayastan (Prosperous Armenia, BH) party. Prosperous Armenia has the second-largest parliament faction (25 deputies) and on June 6 signed a formal memorandum with the HHK on creating a coalition government.



President Kocharian signed decrees on June 7 dismissing the outgoing government, which will nonetheless continue to function until a new cabinet is selected, and naming outgoing Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian to head the new government, Noyan Tapan reported. On June 6, Kocharian accepted the resignation of three ministers, including Justice Minister David Harutiunian, who won election to parliament and intend to take up their respective mandates.


(RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 105, Part I, 8 June 2007.)
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Enviado - 03 julio 2007 :  18:28:16  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Armenia: New Threat on the Horizon
Armenian conservationists fear a northern copper mine will lead to further ecological degradation

by Jeff Masarjian
27 June 2007

Armenia is located in the southern Caucasus, at the convergence of three major bio-geographic regions, and has within it seven of the world’s nine climate zones. Although it is a small country of 29,000 square kilometers, it is home to 40 percent of all landscape types found in the Northern Hemisphere.

But the mountainous country with its once-abundant forests is also home to sought-after resources, including gold, copper, and timber. War, poverty, and economic isolation have created conflict between efforts to protect the nation’s ecological wealth with the need to create jobs.

Armenia’s enormous biological diversity includes 8,800 plant species, half of which are at risk of extinction; 13 species and 360 varieties of wheat, which was first cultivated there 10,000 years ago; 260 species of trees and bushes; 17,500 invertebrate and 500 vertebrate species of animals, of which 346 species are birds; and one-third of the 156 reptile species found in the former Soviet Union. Of the 500 vertebrate species, 300 are rare or declining, and 18 are at risk of extinction. Many of these species are in peril due to the effects of deforestation.

In 1900, 25 percent of Armenia was covered with forests. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the regional conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh led to an economic blockade of the country which prevented the import of heating and cooking fuel. The widescale cutting of trees for fuel during the next several years left the Armenia with approximately 12 percent forest cover.

The Armenian government is considering a request to turn part of the pristine Teghut forest into a copper mine.

Today, according to government statistics, forests now cover approximately 11 percent of the land surface of Armenia, while others have estimated forest cover at less than 8 percent. The United Nations has reported that 80 percent of Armenia is at risk of becoming desert. The loss of the forests is caused by poverty and unemployment, a lack of alternate fuel sources, legal and illegal cutting and export of wood, and improper management.


In Armenia, as in many developing countries, people often think that short-term economic opportunities should take priority over long-term environmental considerations. A case in point is Teghut, an agrarian village (population 850), located in a mountainous region more than 200 kilometers north of Yerevan. Decades ago deposits of copper and molybdenum ore were identified lying deep in the forested mountains, but were never exploited.

An international company called the Armenian Copper Program (ACP) is seeking final approval by the government to begin the process of clear-cutting over 600 hectares of forests on the mountain. Although the company has offered to replant trees in other areas of Armenia, small saplings can never replace the habitats and ecosystems that will be destroyed in Teghut, or the plants and animals that will surely perish if the mine proceeds.

The company plans to create an open-pit strip mine to remove the ore, which is estimated to consist of 2 percent of all the soil which will be removed. The waste from the chemical processing of the soil will be deposited into a new tailing dump in a nearby pristine gorge. As evidenced by other copper tailing dumps in Armenia, such as the one in another northern village, Aghtala, toxic chemicals and heavy metals from the dump will leach into the soil and ground water, eventually finding their way into nearby rivers and creating a permanent death zone in the area.

Forests perform important environmental and socioeconomic functions, and when they disappear, long-term consequences result, such as erosion, flooding and landslides, climate extremes, loss of water supply, reduction of topsoil fertility, loss of plant and animal biodiversity, and severe air pollution. The harsh reality is that all of Armenia’s forests may be gone in as little as 20 years at the current rate of deforestation, leading to irreversible environmental damage.


Recently, 26 organizations in Armenia formed the SOS Teghut Coalition to raise public awareness and lobby government officials to reconsider what appears to be a likely and final approval of ACP's mining plans. Many of the local residents, who struggle with grinding poverty, are understandably in favor of the mining project because of the jobs it will bring, despite the permanent damage that will be wrought upon their land and the health of their families – and others in neighboring regions.

The Armenian government does not have a good track record of protecting the environment from exploitation by special interests. There is rampant illegal logging for both domestic commercial use and foreign export, which operates under the cloak of legally purchased sanitary cutting permits to remove dead or diseased timber. Large areas of publicly owned park land in Yerevan have been leased to individuals who cut down trees and build outdoor cafes.

Despite this, conservationists are hopeful that the government will respond positively to public opinion on the issue. In 2005, many of the same organizations involved in SOS Teghut was formed to save the Shikahogh Nature Reserve in southern Armenia from the government's plans to build a highway through it. Shortly after hundreds of e-mails were sent to President Robert Kocharian by individuals from around the world, the government changed the route of the highway and left the integrity of the reserve intact.

The Teghut coalition, of which my organization is a member, is using a similar strategy to encourage the government to pursue an alternative form of sustainable economic development for the area. Within five days of the coalition's call to supporters to e-mail the president and other government officials requesting that the forest be declared a permanent nature reserve, more than 1,000 messages went out.

Time is quickly running out for Armenia's environment. Jobs and economic development are a necessity, but a long-term, balanced perspective is needed to ensure that the best interests of the public and the nation are best served. It is the responsibility of any government to provide stewardship of a nation's natural resources and protect the land and public health, while encouraging sustainable development. We are hopeful that Armenia, with support and encouragement from the global community, will do just that.

Jeff Masarjian is executive director of the Armenia Tree Project, an association with offices in Yerevan and Watertown, Massachusetts.

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Enviado - 28 julio 2007 :  14:07:46  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Armenia: Free and fair?
A leading Armenian opposition figure stands by accusations that the parliamentary election process was flawed

by Irina Ghaplanyan
23 July 2007

YEREVAN, Armenia | Political parties allied to President Robert Kocharian won a commanding majority in parliamentary elections this spring, an outcome upheld by the nation’s highest court. But a leading opposition figure continues to argue that the election process was unfair.

Kocharian's ruling Republican Party and its allies have been accused of vote-buying and coercion, among other violations, adding to the former Soviet republic’s years of electoral woes. Kocharian gave a positive assessment of the elections – an unsurprising response to a process that proved fruitful for the president – and international observers gave cautious praise for improvements over previous elections.

Raffi Hovhannisian, the U.S.-born former foreign secretary of Armenia and head of the opposition Heritage (Zharangutyun) party, thinks otherwise.

“No European country, regardless of how its representatives might assess the May 12 elections, would have allowed such conduct of parliamentary elections in their own countries,” he said.

Heritage joined with other opposition forces in alleging that the May election was marred by problems and irregularities, but such charges were dismissed by the Constitutional Court. “The elections did not meet international standards, EU benchmarks, and even Armenian election requirements, but most importantly they did not satisfy Armenia’s population at large,“ Hovhannisian told Transitions Online.

Hovhannisian, 48, was born in Fresno, California. He moved to Armenia and became the independent country's first foreign minister from 1991 to 1992, after which he founded the Armenian Center for National and International Studies. A political force to be reckoned with, Hovhannisian has been seen as a threat to the ruling party for more than a decade. Granted Armenian citizenship only in 2001, Hovhannisian was prevented from running for president in 2003 because the national constitution stipulates that candidates have a 10-year citizenship status.

Rumors are circulating now that he will try to enter the presidential race in 2008.


In their initial reports after the May election, foreign observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM), and the U.S. State Department played up the positive. They pointed to modest but noteworthy progress, lauding the vote as a step in the country’s democratic development. Party programs and campaigns, the observers noted, proved more sophisticated and transparent than ever.

Armenian authorities did show greater willingness to conduct clean elections than they have since Armenia gained independence in 1991. They enhanced transparency of some election procedures, provided both training for election officials and voter education, and unveiled a new centralized computer-based voter registry. Many candidates campaigned dynamically and visibly –- with vital media coverage –- and women made gains, winning 12 seats, up from seven.

In a joint statement the day after elections, the IEOM and OSCE-ODIHR “congratulated the Armenian people on showing the will to hold democratic elections” and for “making a further step towards European democratic values.”

Many critics, however, say violations also may have grown more sophisticated. “The elections were falsified with such surgical precision that I cannot stop admiring the level of sophistication behind the whole affair,” said Tevan Poghosyan, director of the International Center for Human Development, an Armenian think tank. “I just wish the actual politics and democratic reforms were done with so much precision and effort.”

In its initial findings, IEOM did note several problems, including “substantial gaps” in the election's regulatory framework.

“Existing regulations to address important areas of the electoral process, such as early campaigning and issues of possible vote-buying, were not implemented,” an IEOM statement said. “The intertwining at all levels of political and business interests was of concern, especially in view of relatively weak provisions and enforcement regarding transparency disclosure of campaign finances.”

The statement also noted that authorities generally failed to correct reported irregularities or act upon publicly identified concerns. Instead, they awaited any formal filing of complaints – which brought to light several inconsistencies with the law.

IEOM observers assessed vote-counting in 17 percent of polling stations as “bad” or “very bad.” They attributed this to numerous instances in which a voter’s ballot choice was either not declared or shown to local authorities. The IEOM also suggested that almost 8 percent of polling stations made significant procedural errors or omissions.

Moreover, calls to an election hotline alleged incidents of bribery – buying votes for bags of potatoes or crisp 5,000 dram notes (the equivalent of 10 euros) – and people voting twice. There were also reported instances of entire villages of voters arriving in buses and being told to vote for a particular person.


So when the Constitutional Court in early June ruled against a small number of opposition figures and said the election results were valid, Hovhannisian and other forces acted.

“By validating an election that does not meet international and Armenian standards, they thereby leave the administration and the public servants more vulnerable then they were previously,“ Hovhannisian said. “Armenia needs a leadership that is ethical and enjoys the public trust of being legitimately elected.“

While agreeing that some improvements in the electoral process were made, Heritage and the other main opposition party, Country of Law (Orinats Yerkir), still accuse the majority Republican Party of using its muscle to pull the strings necessary to win on election day. Hovhannisian alleges that two-thirds of Heritage‘s votes were mysteriously taken away.

He also argues that other “damage was done long before election day.“

“[There were] unequal conditions for participating parties in terms of media access, getting access to use of billboards, and other modes and ways of election campaigning. The government property was used by the ruling parties for their own purposes,“ he said. “The unequal application of campaign finance regulations resulted in Heritage and a few other parties being handicapped in terms of inability to appear on TV and radio.“

Armenia’s opposition parties have traditionally been small and largely ineffective. But Hovhannisian vows Heritage will work with the Country of Law deputies and independent deputies to promote “a new political culture of cooperation.“

“We will work to continuously remind our colleagues that under the new constitutional amendments, Parliament has a very pivotal role in the actual implementation of the principle of checks and balances,“ he said. “We will work to persuade them that every bill must be scrutinized and analyzed carefully; that we must continuously work towards increasing the rule of law, the dignity and standing of the Armenian Parliament; work towards creating a normal political process and certain political principles and priorities that define the government and the oppositional coalition and the political culture of cooperation between them.“

Tied closely with these plans is Hovhannisian’s goal of ensuring that electoral conditions improve drastically in the 2008 presidential race.

“That is a challenge for our society, our nation, the opposition, and the country at large,“ he said. “We must draw the lessons and make the proper judgments so that the parliamentary elections do not condition the upcoming presidential elections in 2008. A lot depends on what happens this year – as to whether we will be able to surmount the parochial, the short-sighted, and the small thinking in each of us and to create a new consolidation of ideas and forces between the civil society and the government.“

In the 131-member National Assembly that convened in early June, Country of Law controls 8 seats and Heritage 7 seats. Even if they can muster the support of independent deputies and smaller political groups, they cannot challenge the huge majority lead of the two parties aligned with Kocharian –- the Republicans have 64 seats, and their allied party, Prosperous Armenia, have 25.

Irina Ghaplanyan lives in Yerevan.

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Enviado - 04 agosto 2007 :  21:24:56  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita

A group of prominent scientists on August 2 urged the Armenian government to protect Lake Sevan and to reconsider a government proposal to stop raising the water level of the lake, warning of "irreversible" negative consequences for Armenia's ecosystem, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The Armenian government was set to discuss a plan drafted by the Ministry of Urban Development proposing ending efforts to restore the lake's water table, but the cabinet decided to postpone the discussion in response to the scientists' appeal. Lake Sevan, which occupies much of the northeastern Gegharkunik province, is the landlocked country's main water reservoir, but it suffered from a dramatic decline in its water table during the Soviet period as a result of heavy use of its waters for irrigation and power generation. A 2002 decision by the parliament established a new program to protect the lake by gradually increasing the water table by several meters through reduced power generation and by building a second mountain tunnel supplying water to the lake from a nearby river.


(RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 142, Part I, 3 August 2007.)
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Enviado - 19 agosto 2007 :  19:38:36  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Defence minister pledges to clean up poor practice, but conscripts say corruption and violence are still rife

By Gegham Vardanian in Yerevan

Arsen Karapetian served in the Armenian army for just over a year before he fell gravely ill and his parents bought him out in exchange for a bribe.

Karapetian recalled the incident which led to his illness. "It was early spring. Early in the morning, we were woken by an alarm call and they marched us out of the base. There was a heavy downpour and we were soaked to the skin within five minutes."

The soldiers returned to base and hung out their wet uniforms to dry, but their company commander ordered them to get dressed and go for a theory lesson. "We had to put on our wet clothes again and spend an hour and a half in a cold hall," he said.

Karapetian and more than a dozen other soldiers subsequently contracted pneumonia, which in his case developed into pleurisy. Some of them were kept at the base for two weeks before being taken to hospital.

"I grew terribly thin," he said. "Fluid was pumped from my lungs every day. I was supposed to be demobilised but they kept on postponing it. In the end, my parents gave a bribe of 500 [US] dollars to the 'right' officers to speed up my demobilisation."

On returning to civilian life, Arsen was registered as a disabled person.

The military has not taken any action against the officer involved in the incident.

The often appalling treatment meted out to conscript soldiers during their two years of military service is widely known about, but is still off-limits as subject for public debate. According to the Armenian Helsinki Committee, which monitors human rights in the armed forces, "The number of crimes is not getting any less, because the culture of permissiveness and impunity still prevails."

The head of the committee, Avetik Ishkhanian, believes there is an unwritten law that you cannot speak out publicly about abuses in the army.

"Soldiers are afraid of speaking the truth while they are serving," he said. "They avoid doing so after demobilisation too, and just try to forget the years they spent in the army."

According to Zhanna Aleksanian, a journalist and human rights activist who has extensively researched abuses in the military, "Bribery is commonplace in the army. Beatings and violence meted out by officers are not even discussed. Parents prefer to remain silent on this issue, as they do not want to harm their sons even more."

Armenian defence minister Mikael Harutiunian insisted that the military was tough on disciplining its commissioned officers.

"If officers are guilty and if they have committed a crime, they are punished," he told IWPR. "Many officers have been dismissed and prosecuted. Guilty officers are always punished."

However, according to the Armenian prosecutor general's office, of the 46 convictions of military officers last year, only one involved mistreatment of a soldier, and three were for taking bribes.

Many experts say that instances of abuse are often covered up.

Lawyer and member of parliament Zaruhi Postanjian said that in cases where soldiers are injured when the officer who ought to be on duty is absent from his post, no legal action is taken.

Before she was elected to parliament, Postanjian worked for many years to protect the rights of young soldiers from the rough rules of the army's unwritten code. She points to the informal system of "unit overseers" -men who impose order among their comrades and wield enormous power over junior conscripts.

Aleksanian explained how the system worked. "This 'unit overseer', a soldier or a sergeant, is usually chosen by the officer in command, and he enjoys certain privileges. Commanders manage their units through these overseers - it's easier for them that way. They can easily call the overseer to order. The soldiers fear and respect him and he decides everything and punishes those who don't obey."

She noted that the existence of these unofficial enforcers is now taken as a matter of fact. "The unit overseers... are often cited in court cases. That makes it sort of official," she said.

A conscript can pay off the network of platoon and battalion commanding officers, 'unit overseers" and their associates known as the "good lads" to win privileges, such as extended leave.

A recently demobilised soldier, Vahe Nikoghosian, said he took leave several times and paid a bribe of around 15 US dollars a day to the officer. After returning from leave, soldiers then have to bring gifts - money, food, cigarettes, and, these days, mobile phone credit cards - to the overseer and his "lads" who made it possible.

Nikoghosian argues that the overseers play a useful role. "Without them, the soldiers would be constantly fighting each other," he said. "In our unit, the overseer usually resolved arguments fairly, and someone who had been insulted could always appeal to him."

He said his parents constantly paid out bribes to make his army life easier. "They were always sending me food and clothes. When they came to see me, they'd always invite the officers to a restaurant. On three occasions, they gave me money to pay officers so I could take leave."

The defence minister says the officer class cannot be wholly blamed if illegal practices occur in the units under their command.

"It depends not just on the officers but also on the quality of soldiers coming into the army, what kind of upbringing they've had, where they grew up and which town of village they lived in before joining up," Harutiunian told IWPR. "The army can't call up only the well-disciplined and the properly brought-up."

He promised that "we will do all we can to reduce the number of negative incidents in the army. Of course, they won't disappear 100 per cent, but we have to work even harder."

Paying the right money or having the right contacts can ensure you are assigned to an easier posting.

"Parents pay at least 500 dollars to prevent their sons being sent to a regiment far away on the border," said Postanjian.

The ex-soldier Nikoghosian confirmed this from his own experience, saying, "Before I was drafted, they [parents] found an acquaintance who handed over a bribe of 700 dollars so that I would not be sent me to a regiment posted in a remote location."

The Helsinki Committee reports that there are "VIP units" based close to the capital Yerevan, which take the sons of government officials, or anyone willing to hand over between 3,000 and 5,000 dollars.

After IWPR contacted Harutiunian, he ordered the head of the defence ministry's personnel department, General Vardan Avetisian, to provide an interview. But in a telephone conversation, Avetisian categorically refused to be interviewed about corruption or other abuses.

"The army is a closed-in, armoured, invulnerable structure surrounded by an iron curtain," said Aleksanian. "Of course, hazing may disappear one day but I cannot see any progress towards making that happen."

(Arsen Karapetian and Vahe Nikoghosian are not the real names of the soldiers interviewed for this report.)

Gegham Vardanian is a correspondent with
Internews in Yerevan.

(IWPR'S CAUCASUS REPORTING SERVICE, No. 406, August 17, 2007.)
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Enviado - 11 septiembre 2007 :  15:54:36  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Armenian TV station to broadcast in Armenian only

Interfax, Moscow
Sept. 10, 2007

YEREVAN. - Armenia's Public Television Channel is to broadcast in Armenian only, the channel's Executive Director Armen Arzumanian said.

"There will be no return to the Russian language on air of the Public Television of Armenia," following the introduction of the laws "On language" and "On television and broadcasting". "I have not seen a national TV channel broadcasting in several languages," he said.

Meanwhile, all Russian films are broadcast in Russia with Armenian subtitles, he said.

"We do not exclude that we will make satellite broadcasts in Russian, English and French," he said.

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Enviado - 16 septiembre 2007 :  01:34:31  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
The first president of independent Armenia dips his toe in politics after a nine-year retirement

By Diana Markosian in Yerevan

Only a year ago, the idea that former Armenian president Levon Ter-Petrosian might be a serious candidate in next year's presidential election would have seemed incredible. Now, however, as the countdown to the poll begins, both the press and influential figures have begun actively discussing the possibility of a comeback.

Ter-Petrosian was one of the founders of the movement to have Nagorny Karabakh removed from what was then Soviet Azerbaijan in the late Eighties, and went on to become the independent Armenia's first president. He was first elected in October 1991, winning 83 per cent of the vote.

For many Armenians, the years of his presidency are associated with the hardships of the severe energy crisis which the country endured during the conflict over Karabakh.

"Under Levon we saw nothing but dark and cold years," Anahit Khachatrian, a 50-year-old unemployed resident of Yerevan, told IWPR. "Why should we elect Levon? I remember how my children went to school by candlelight and I don't want those years back again."

As a result of these problems, Ter-Petrosian's popularity plummeted, and his standing was further shaken by the presidential election in 1996, when he was elected for a second term despite a damning verdict on the poll from many international observers.

In 1998, he was forced to resign after top ministers, including the then prime minister Robert Kocharian, turned against him over a proposed peace plan for Nagorny Karabakh. Kocharian was subsequently elected president, and his second and final term is due to end next spring.

Since stepping down, Ter-Petrosian lived in semi-retirement until he made a return to public life in July this year, with a series of trips around Armenia on which he was accompanied by activists from the Alternative and Republic parties, as well as from his own Armenian National Movement.

"These are information-gathering visits," said Vahagn Khachatrian, a former mayor of Yerevan who has been travelling with the ex-president. "Ter-Petrosian wants to understand what people think about the situation that's developed in the country, to hear their ideas and find out whether some of them think the same way he does."

Ter-Petrosian has also held private meetings with opposition politicians.

An announcement on whether he will be nominated as a candidate is expected after Armenian independence day on September 21.

There is little reliable information on what kind of support the ex-president might get.

His supporters point to a number of internet surveys in which Ter-Petrosian tops the list of potential presidential candidates. But Gevorg Poghosian, head of the Armenian Sociological Association, cautioned that these surveys are not a good test of public opinion.

"In Armenia only certain sections of society use the internet, such as office workers and the staff of international organisations, who are not numerous," said Poghosian.

Political analyst Alexander Iskandarian said he believed Ter-Petrosian "is too shrewd and experienced to run as a candidate in an election which is only six months away."

Iskandarian suggested that such rumours were coming from people who wanted to see Ter-Petrosian run for their own purposes, rather than from the ex-president himself.

However, political analyst Aghasi Yenokian believes the times could be right for Ter-Petrosian to make a comeback, because the country is crying out for an "alternative."

"If he does run in the election, the political atmosphere in the country will change," said Yenokian.

The leading official candidate for the presidency at the moment is current prime minister Serzh Sarkisian, who is also head of the Republican Party (not to be confused with the Republic Party), which won a majority of seats in the parliamentary election held in May this year.

Sarkisian will not be the only candidate from within the governing elite. The nationalist Dashnaktsutiun ARF party, which has three ministers in the cabinet, has already announced that it will name a candidate of its own.

Among the declared opposition candidates are Vazgen Manukian, Ter-Petrosian's one-time ally and prime minister and subsequently his opponent; the leader of the New Times party Aram Karapetian; and the head of the People's Party, Tigran Karapetian. Another section of the opposition with a strongly pro-Russian orientation is reportedly trying to nominate former defence minister Vagharshak Harutiunian.

Nikol Pashinian, a newspaper editor and one of the leaders of the Alternative movement, believes that the opposition should be looking to Ter-Petrosian as a unifying leader.

"Today Ter-Petrosian possesses the greatest potential, as someone who can unify the opposition," he said. "No other candidate can bring the same level of unity. And without unity it is impossible to talk about a real victory in the presidential election. He has a very real chance of becoming the agreed [opposition] candidate."

On September 2, Ter-Petrosian met the two leading opposition candidates from the 2003 poll, Stepan Demirchian of the People's Party and former Yerevan mayor Artashes Geghamian.

"In Ter-Petrosian I saw genuine sense of concern and responsibility," Demirchian told IWPR after the meeting. "I believe that his intellect and experience are very much needed for our country. If he stands, Ter-Petrosian will undoubtedly have a strong chance of victory."

The pro-government media has already begun reminding Armenians of the energy crisis the country suffered when Ter-Petrosian was in power.

On August 20, the Hayots Ashkhar newspaper wrote, "We must warn you that if Ter-Petrosian is a candidate we should all be vigilant. We will all need to take precautions and fill our homes with firewood, kindling, candles and lighter fuel. If you were planning to throw out your old overcoat and woollen socks, don't! And - most important of all - remember to pass on to your friends that old recipe for fish cutlets for family celebrations."

But David Petrosian, political analyst with Noyan Tapan news agency, believes the governing elite is not as monolithic as it seems on the surface.

"The oligarchs who were protected by Robert Kocharian will not necessarily want to see Serzh Sarkisian as their new patron," said Petrosian. "It's quite possible the governing elite will split if the first president reappears, as Ter-Petrosian is an acceptable figure for some of these people."

Petrosian said that the public, too, might favour the former president, in large part because they had "no expectations" in the official favourite Sarkisian.

Armen Simonian, a 42-year-old taxi driver said, "The public hates the ruling regime and is disappointed in the opposition, so now is the time for Levon to come back."

Diana Markosian is a journalist with A1+ television in Yerevan.

(IWPR'S CAUCASUS REPORTING SERVICE, No. 410, September 13, 2007.)
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Enviado - 21 septiembre 2007 :  21:43:41  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita

In a statement released by the office of Armenian President Kocharian, it was announced late on September 17 that a new state commission has been formed specifically empowered to combat tax evasion and fraud, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The new interagency body, referred to in the statement as a mechanism to ensure that tax collection reaches the level of "civilized countries," is to be headed by Vahram Barseghian, the chief of the State Tax Service , and will also include members from the presidential administration and the State Customs Committee. Additionally, the commission is to be comprised of representatives from the police, the National Security Service, and the Prosecutor-General's Office. The announcement follows a stormy meeting only five days earlier in which Kocharian strongly criticized the performance of tax and customs officials, although tax collection actually increased by some 27 percent for the first half of the year, bringing in some 201 billion drams ($598 million) for state coffers, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on September 12. Nevertheless, with a tax-to-GDP ratio estimated at between 14 and 15 percent, Armenia is near the bottom of al former Soviet states in terms of overall tax collection.


(RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 174, Part I, 19 September 2007.)
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Enviado - 26 septiembre 2007 :  14:08:38  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita

Speaking in Yerevan on September 21 at a reception to mark the 16th anniversary of Armenia's declaration of independence from the USSR, President Robert Kocharian declared that "contemporary Armenia is on the path of sustainable development," RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. "It can be said with certitude that the economy is developing rapidly, thousands of jobs are being created, the population's incomes are growing considerably, poverty is declining, and the quality of life is improving," he added. Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian similarly noted Armenia's "triumphant victory" and "high economic growth," admitting at the same time that "we have encountered and still encounter difficulties on our way -- misery, corruption, and violated rights," according to the A1+ website. Former President Levon Ter-Petrossian, however, offered a radically different assessment, telling supporters in Yerevan in his first major address since resigning nine years ago that Kocharian heads a "criminal regime" that has turned Armenia into a "third-world country," rigs elections, tramples on the law, extorts bribes from businessmen, and restricts press freedom.


(RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 177, Part I, 24 September 2007.)
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Enviado - 17 octubre 2007 :  00:07:42  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita

Activists from the three leading civil-society groups in Armenia decried on October 10 the "lack of human-rights protection" in the country and warned that freedom of speech is under threat, according to RFE/RL's Armenian Service.

The chairman of the Armenian Helsinki Committee, Avetik Ishkhanian, said that over the past five years, Armenia was in fact moving backward in terms of respecting the freedom of speech, adding that the country continues to be plagued by deficiencies in "many spheres related to human rights and democracy."

Amalia Kostanian, the head of the Armenian branch of the global corruption watchdog Transparency International, also warned that Armenia is only "a step away" from devolving into "an outright authoritarian regime."

A third prominent activist, Artur Sakunts, the head of the Vanadzor-based regional branch of the Armenian Helsinki Citizens Assembly, also expressed concern over "crimes committed in the army," which he argued "cannot be detected" since the "armed forces are outside control and constitute the main guarantee for the regime to retain its political and economic power."


(RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 188, Part I, 11 October 2007.)
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Enviado - 31 octubre 2007 :  23:38:49  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita

Speaking on October 26 at a rally in Yerevan of some 30,000 of his supporters, Levon Ter-Petrossian confirmed that he plans to participate in the presidential election due in early 2008, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. In a 90-minute address, Ter-Petrossian elaborated on harsh criticisms of the present Armenian leadership he first expressed at an impromptu speech on September 21 to mark the anniversary of Armenia's declaration of independence.

Specifically, Ter-Petrossian accused incumbent President Robert Kocharian, who is barred by the constitution from seeking a third consecutive term, and Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian, regarded as the most likely candidate to succeed Kocharian, of "state racketeering," and the leadership at large of having misappropriated some $3 billion-$4 billion over the past five years. He further rejected as inflated government statistics demonstrating double-digit economic growth for the past six years.

Ter-Petrossian was first elected president in 1991 and reelected in 1996 in a ballot that one of his close associates subsequently admitted was rigged; he stepped down in February 1998 under pressure.


(RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 200, Part I, 29 October 2007.)
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Enviado - 02 noviembre 2007 :  00:34:01  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Sarkissian : «L'Arménie contrainte de durcir sa position avec Ankara»

Propos recueillis par ISABELLE LASSERRE.
Le Figaro, Paris
31 octobre 2007

Le premier ministre arménien, Serge Sarkissian, qui vient d'effectuer une visite en France, est le candidat de la majorité à l'élection présidentielle de mars 2008. Il a répondu aux questions du «Figaro».

LE FIGARO. - Avez-vous perçu auprès des nouveaux dirigeants français une évolution de la position de Paris à l'égard de l'Arménie ?

Serge SARKISSIAN. - J'ai à la fois noté des éléments de continuité et des éléments de rupture. Il faut dire que l'Arménie n'a jamais eu à se plaindre de la politique de Jacques Chirac. Bien au contraire, puisque, sous sa présidence, les relations entre Paris et Erevan ont été particulièrement chaleureuses. Mais il est vrai aussi que, sur les sujets qui nous importent, comme la Turquie, le Caucase du Sud et l'initiative d'une Union méditerranéenne, la diplomatie française actuelle nous apparaît particulièrement dynamique.

Craignez-vous que le Congrès américain ne renonce, sous la pression turque, à reconnaître le génocide arménien ?

Sur le fond, je ne suis pas inquiet. Lorsqu'il était président des États-Unis, Ronald Reagan avait employé le terme de génocide arménien. Même ceux qui ont rejeté le texte de la commission du Congrès américain ne l'ont pas fait car ils ne reconnaissent pas le génocide mais parce qu'ils pensent que ce n'est pas le bon moment de le dire officiellement. La Chambre américaine a un an, jusqu'en octobre 2008, pour se réunir et d'ici là il peut se passer beaucoup de choses. La réaction de la Turquie est disproportionnée et inadéquate. Mais elle est aussi contre-productive pour Ankara, car elle a remis le dossier sous les projecteurs.

Le vote par l'Assemblée nationale française, il y a un an, d'une loi sanctionnant la négation du génocide arménien, qui elle aussi provoqua une crise avec la Turquie, fut-elle une bonne chose ?

Elle n'est que le résultat de l'extrémisme des positions turques. Bien sûr, on pouvait se contenter d'une loi reconnaissant la réalité du génocide. Mais c'est le maintien du négationnisme turc qui oblige les Arméniens à adopter des positions toujours plus dures.

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Enviado - 18 noviembre 2007 :  01:35:17  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Experts blame hike in food costs on a heavily monopolistic economy

By Naira Melkumian in Yerevan

Rocketing food costs are angering ordinary people in Armenia and giving the opposition a cause to rally around ahead of the presidential election next spring.

Although much of the problem is due to external factors, experts say that the rises indicate an economy that is excessively dominated on monopolies.

According to date from the National Statistics Service, the prices of bread and flour have increased by 24 and 29 per cent, respectively, since the beginning of the year. Other food products, such as animal and vegetable oils, have also been recording steep price increases.

"You never know what is going to happen tomorrow," said Anahit Sarkisian, 40. "You wake up in the morning to find that prices have doubled overnight. You can't stay calm when that happens."

The increases have mostly been recorded since the end of the summer. Armenia has to import most of its food and agricultural products, making it vulnerable to price rises on international markets that have also affected other Soviet republics.

However, in Armenia the problem has been compounded by an anti-competitive arrangements involving numerous local business that have seen the price of vegetable oil and butter soar by an average of 80 per cent.

"It's true that world market prices are growing, but in Armenia prices have at least doubled," said Armine Hakobian, who heads the analytical department of Armenia's anti-monopoly commission. "In August, a litre of sunflower-seed oil was selling for an average of 556 drams [1.80 US dollars], whereas in October the price reached 950 drams [three dollars], even though customs levies have remained the same."

Armenia has recorded double-digit growth figures for the past seven years, following the economic collapse that accompanied the end of the Soviet Union. However, poverty levels remain high and many complain that the benefits of growth have not been shared out.

The Armenian opposition says the hike in prices is a disaster for the whole population. Mher Shakhgheldian, a parliamentarian with the opposition party Orinats Yerkir, accused the government of doing nothing to address the problem.

"Of course, price rises are happening all over the world, but many states have tried to protect their citizens," he told IWPR. "The state ought to take care of each of its citizens and combat these negative trends more actively."

Shakhgheldian said big businesses were dominating the domestic food market and were forcing up prices. He argued that they should be paying more tax, while the tax burden for farmers should be eased.

The government's anti-monopoly commission says it has no powers to regulate the food market, while the only state body with a mandate to do so, the Commission for Protecting Economic Competition, has no real leverage and confines itself largely to conducting research into the status of the market.

After monitoring retail sales of butter and sunflower oil, the commission uncovered evidence of collusion amongst one fifth of the market players. It fined 50 businessmen for unjustified price increases, ordering them to pay a sum equivalent to two per cent of their income in 2006. The total fine will not be more than 300 million drams (937,000 dollars).

Experts say the penalties being handed out at the moment are too mild.

"The current fines are small and do not remove the incentive for businesses to do it again, because the profits they earn from raising prices are far greater than the sums they lose by paying a fine," said Abgar Yeghoyan, head of the Consumer Rights Protection organisation. "Many importers brought in their goods before world prices went up, but they took advantage of the trend and their prices went spiralling upwards."

Yeghoyan suggested that the fine for complicity in anti-competition deals should be increased to five per cent of annual income, and the deadline for paying the fine should be halved from the current one month to 15 days.

The price rises are have already caused panic buying by consumers. In mid-October, Armenians rushed to buy sugar after the price rose, causing traders to further double or triple prices. Some shops were selling granulated sugar for 600-700 drams (1.84-2.15 dollars) a kilo.

One company, Salex Group, which is owned by member of parliament Samvel Aleksanian, imports 84 per cent of the sugar sold in the shops. After the company cut sugar prices in its chain of supermarkets, popular anger turned on other retailers for keeping the price high.

"The panic benefited owners of small retail outlets, because in one day they were able to sell an amount of sugar that otherwise would have taken them ten days to sell," Ashot Shahnazarian, head of the commission, told journalists. He said that country had enough stocks of sugar to last the next six months.

The Central Bank, which has the task of keeping inflation down, said it was keeping to its target of holding the rate of consumer price rises at around four per cent, give or take 1.5 per cent.

The price rises are hurting the Armenian authorities as they gear up for a presidential election next year in which Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian will be the official candidate.

"The authorities are the first to suffer from an artificially-created panic on the food market, because it triggers popular discontent," said deputy prime minister Hovik Abrahamian.

The government has already pledged to increase pensions next year by 65 per cent and family benefits by 20 per cent, to reach 21,842 (68.50 dollars) and 21,089 drams (66 dollars) per month, respectively.

Minister of labour and social issues Aghvan Vardanian told IWPR the move was meant to cushion the population from the effect of rising prices. He said the government hoped in future to make benefits index-linked, as 24 per cent of the population count as poor and seven per cent are below the poverty line.

"What's the use of raising pensions when prices continue to rise?" complained 65-year-old cleaner Zoya Nikolayevna. "I still have to work to support myself. The New Year holidays are approaching, when everything will cost lots of money again, and you want so much to give yourself a treat now and then."

Naira Melkumian is a freelance journalist in Yerevan.

(IWPR'S CAUCASUS REPORTING SERVICE, No. 419 Part Two, November 15, 2007.)
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Enviado - 06 diciembre 2007 :  20:07:48  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita

Members of a new organization entitled Legitimate President-2008, established to support former President Levon Ter-Petrossian's candidacy in the presidential election scheduled for February 19, 2008, argued on December 4 that Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian, the current leadership's presidential candidate, should step down in order to create "a level playing field" for the election campaign, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported.

Garnik Markarian, one of the organization's leaders, said it will stage rallies aimed at coercing Sarkisian to resign; he said it will also take unspecified actions to prevent the vote-rigging which Ter-Petrossian has publicly predicted.

On December 3, Armenia's Economic Court reversed a decision it made one week earlier and at the request of the State Tax Service froze the assets of the Giumri-based independent Gala TV channel, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on December 4.

Gala ignored an official warning not to broadcast Ter-Petrossian's September 21 indictment of the present leadership, after which the Tax Service accused Gala last month of withholding 26 million drams ($80,000) in taxes.


(RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 224, Part I, 5 December 2007.)
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Enviado - 28 diciembre 2007 :  23:54:33  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita

In a statement issued from Vienna on December 22, Miklos Haraszti, the head of media-freedom issues for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), expressed concern that "recent cases of harassment and violence against independent and opposition media have contributed to an atmosphere of intimidation and fear in the journalistic community in Armenia," RFE/RL Armenian Service reported.

According to the statement, which was posted to the organization's website (http://www.osce.org), Haraszti said he is particularly worried about a case of apparent retribution by the authorities against an independent regional television station for broadcasting news about the presidential campaign of former Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosian.

Haraszti's comments, which were expressed in a letter to Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian, expressed concern over a December 13 explosion in front of the office of "Chorrord Ishkhanutyun," an opposition newspaper based in Yerevan, and urged "Armenia's law-enforcement bodies to punish the perpetrators not just for the sake of justice, but also to give support to freedom of expression in the country."


(RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 237, Part I, 27 December 2007.)
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Enviado - 20 enero 2008 :  21:47:04  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Armenia: Presidential Ambitions
A formidable prime minister faces a former president in Armenia’s upcoming election

by Haroutiun Khachatrian
14 January 2008

YEREVAN | With a little more than one month to go before Armenia’s presidential election, the field of candidates is coming into sharper focus. Overall, nine men are expected to battle for the presidency when the campaign officially gets underway on 21 January. But most experts believe the race quickly will boil down to a contest between two men – Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian and former president Levon Ter-Petrosian.

The presidential vote is slated for 19 February. Sarkisian has long been viewed as the favorite to follow departing President Robert Kocharian, who is constitutionally barred from running for reelection. The benefits of incumbency are clearly on Sarkisian’s side, as his Republican Party won a landslide victory in the May 2007 parliamentary elections. Opinion polls have shown Sarkisian to enjoy the support of roughly one-third of potential voters, enough to give him a commanding lead over the other presidential hopefuls. Artur Baghdasarian, the leader of the Orinats Yerkir (Land of Law) Party, and Vahan Hovhannisian, Vice Speaker of the National Assembly representing Dashnaktsutiun (the Armenian Revolutionary Federation), trailed well behind Sarkisian with 13 percent and 6 percent support, respectively, in the latest poll. Ter-Petrosian was among the six presidential contenders whose polling numbers were running in the low single digits.

Ter-Petrosian served as the first president of post-Soviet Armenia, his tenure stretching from 1991 to 1998. In February 1998, he was forced to resign amid a severe backlash to his suggestion that Armenia make concessions to Azerbaijan in the still-stalemated peace talks on Nagorno-Karabakh. Ter-Petrosian’s successor, Kocharian, has governed since then.

Judging by the numbers, it would seem that Ter-Petrosian poses no threat to Sarkisian’s electoral chances. Yet it’s evident that Sarkisian supporters within the government see the former president as the most formidable opponent in the field. Ter-Petrosian and his aides, for instance, have been denied access to most television channels. The one notable exception is Yerkir Media TV, which is controlled by the Dashnak Party.

At the same time, state-controlled media have provided generous amounts of air time to longtime political enemies of Ter-Petrosian, including Vazgen Manukian, the leader of the National Democratic Party, and Artashes Geghamian, the leader of the National Unity Party.


Privately operated television stations have generally followed the lead of government-controlled channels. Campaign events organized by the Ter-Petrosian camp have received scant media coverage, despite the fact that several rallies have drawn tens of thousands of spectators. The plainly evident media bias prompted two European officials – Terry Davis, secretary-general of the Council of Europe, and Peter Semneby, the European Union special representative for the South Caucasus – to register complaints.

If anything, Ter-Petrosian has received even rougher treatment from some print media. For example, the Hayots Ashkharh daily, an independent newspaper with a decidedly pro-governmental outlook, splashed two remarkable photomontages across the front pages of two editions in late December. In one, Ter-Petrosian is depicted as wearing a traditional Turkish fez, a clearly derogatory image given Armenia’s long-standing hostility with both Turkey and Azerbaijan. In the second montage, Ter-Petrosian’s Yerevan home is depicted as flying a Turkish flag from a pole on its roof. The combined message of the two images was unmistakable: a vote to return Ter-Petrosian to power would be a vote to capitulate in Armenia’s ongoing diplomatic struggles with Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Even in a fairer political environment, Ter-Petrosian’s candidacy would face substantial challenges. Ter-Petrosian managed to generate initial attention for his candidacy with a series of sharp attacks on Kocharian’s administration. The task now will be to transform the disenchantment with the Kocharian administration among a certain segment of the electorate into genuine support for his own political program.

Although about two dozen political parties and civic organizations have endorsed Ter-Petrosian’s candidacy – most of them relatively small in numbers and in influence – it remains to be seen if he can build an effective organizational network. "He carries the bad heritage of the past … but he is a good speaker and has [lengthy] experience," the Azg daily summed up on 25 December.

One thing that is working in Ter-Petrosian’s favor is that he is willing to operate within the existing political system, and has not been an advocate of revolutionary change. This has enabled him to cast himself as a political moderate. "There will be no revolution. I’ll not allow violence and illegal actions from our side," Ter-Petrosian told the Moscow-based Kommersant daily on 6 December, responding to a question about his possible actions in the event of vote rigging by authorities.

Meanwhile, Kocharian’s fate after his departure from the presidency remains a subject of widespread conjecture. Speculation is focusing on the possibility of Kocharian and Sarkisian swapping places, with the latter assuming the presidency and the former taking over as prime minister. In October, Sarkisian denied such a possibility, but an article published 29 December in the Haykakan Zhamanak newspaper, citing "reliable sources," said that such an arrangement has indeed been agreed upon.

Haroutiun Khachatrian is a Yerevan-based writer specializing in economic and political affairs. A partner post from EurasiaNet.

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Enviado - 31 enero 2008 :  00:17:35  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Une ONG étend son réseau d’information en province

par Betty Panossian-Ter-Sarkissian
(The Armenian Reporter, 12.01.2008 - traduction Yevrobatsi)
YEVROBATSI, 23-01-2008

EREVAN – En dehors de la capitale, l’accès des citoyens à de nouvelles publications d’information, à des intervenants extérieurs et à un discours de type analytique est très limité.

L’Institut pour la Démocratie et les Droits de l’homme (IDHR) tente de changer cela. Organisation non gouvernementale indépendante, créée à Erevan en 1999, il tente de diffuser en province les tout derniers développements et les meilleures publications d’ordre politique, social, civique et juridique.

Cinq bibliothèques et centres d’information civique, créés par l’IDHR, fonctionnent actuellement dans les villes de cinq régions en Arménie. Dans les prochaines semaines, un sixième centre ouvrira ses portes dans une autre région, à Abovian, région de Kotayk.

Bien que l’IDHR ait créé sa première bibliothèque et centre d’information civique en 2005, l’idée est née bien plus tôt. « L’idée était que l’IDHR sorte d’Erevan et fonctionne aussi en province », précise Arpineh Galfayan, vice-présidente de l’organisation.

L’organisation pouvait s’étendre en province par la création de délégations ou de représentants ou de centres d’information civique. Après avoir étudié les possibilités et les besoins des régions, l’organisation a opté pour des centres d’information civique pour plusieurs raisons.

«Etant donné le potentiel et les ressources de l’organisation, on ne voulait pas faire de l’ombre à d’autres associations régionales. Au contraire, on voulait promouvoir leurs activités», explique Gor Hakobian, président de l’Institut. En outre, l’IDHR était parvenu à la conclusion que les habitants en région avaient des besoins spécifiques en matière d’information, de prise de conscience et de connaissances dans le secteur civique et juridique en Arménie. L’organisation en avait conclu qu’ils avaient aussi besoin d’être guidés sur la manière et le lieu où utiliser ces informations et ces connaissances.

Les gens qui fréquentent ces centres recherchent principalement des ouvrages juridiques. «Les gens nous demandent surtout la Constitution, des livres de droit et des textes de lois», précise Mme Galfayan. Outre le fait de proposer l’ensemble de la presse périodique à Erevan et dans la région concernée, les centres sont le lieu où les gens ont accès à la littérature mondiale contemporaine, ainsi qu’à des publications spécialisées et analytiques sur des questions liées à la démocratie, aux droits de l’homme, aux droits sociaux et à la société civique en Arménie. De plus, mis à part l’accès aux publications de l’IDHR, les bibliothèques et centres d’information civique de l’Institut créent un espace où les habitants s’informent des progrès dans le secteur des ONG arméniennes, en leur proposant une large gamme de publications des ONG arméniennes.

«De nombreux étudiants se réfèrent à nos centres pour plus d’informations sur leurs projets universitaires et les thèses portant sur des sujets en relation. Enseignants et conférenciers enrichissent leurs exposés grâce à nos publications», précise Edgar Vardanian, chef de projet, qui ajoute que 70 % environ des usagers sont des usagers réguliers.

«Pour de nombreux provinciaux, les bibliothèques et centres d’information civique de l’IDHR offrent une opportunité pour s’informer des derniers développements politiques et civiques en Arménie et de leur interprétation», note-t-il. Il ajoute que c’est un rôle important des centres, car de nombreux journaux arméniens sont peu diffusés en province.

Depuis 2005, l’Institut a déjà mené plusieurs actions citoyennes et a constitué des liens avec trois régions. Il a déjà créé des points d’information à Vanadzor, dans la région de Lori, à Gyumri dans celle de Shirak, et à Yeghegnadzor dans celle de Vayots Dzor, grâce à ses activités.

La première bibliothèque et centre d’information civique de l’IDHR a ouvert ses portes à Vanadzor en 2005. Deux autres centres ont ouvert ensuite cette même année à Gyumri et Yeghegnadzor. En 2006, d’autres bibliothèques et centres d’information de l’Institut fonctionnaient dans deux autres régions, à Idjevan, région de Tavoush, et Armavir, dans la région du même nom. Tous les centres sont situés dans des écoles ou des campus universitaires, car leur public cible sont les enseignants, les conférenciers et les étudiants.

«C’est aussi une source nouvelle de revenus pour les écoles et un encouragement à développer la vie citoyenne et sociale dans la ville», explique Mme Galfayan.

Les centres font aussi office de lieux où enseignants et conférenciers organisent des débats sur des questions liées aux droits de l’homme et aux droits civiques. Chaque région a sa spécificité. Lori se distingue comme région écologique et industrielle ; Shirak comme celle qui est la plus reculée et la plus pauvre, et celle qui a le plus souffert du tremblement de terre de 1988 ; Vayots Dzor comme la plus petite des régions ; Tavoush comme région frontalière; et Armavir en tant que région frontalière et rurale.

Après trois ans, l’organisation n’a pas beaucoup d’efforts à faire pour atteindre des zones éloignées. En fait, maintenant, c’est presque le contraire qui se passe. La municipalité d’Abovian a proposé elle-même à l’Institut d’implanter une bibliothèque-centre d’information civique dans la ville.

«C’est un événement très important, car quand une communauté nous fait d’elle-même une telle offre, cela signifie que cette communauté est quelque part prête à prendre ses responsabilités», note M. Hakobian, qui ajoute qu’outre le fait d’assurer l’activité à long terme du centre, cela s’intègre dans leur perspective à long terme, qui est de «faire des bibliothèques et centres d’information civique la propriété d’une communauté donnée, administrée et gérée par ses membres».

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Enviado - 20 febrero 2008 :  00:55:24  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
L'élection présidentielle arménienne disputée entre le candidat du pouvoir
et l'ancien président


L'Arménie se trouve face à un choix : le retour au passé ou la poursuite du présent. Les 2,3 millions d'électeurs de ce petit pays enclavé entre l'Iran, la Turquie et la Russie, devront exprimer leur préférence, mardi 19 février, entre l'homme qui les a dirigés au début de l'aventure démocratique et celui qui les gouverne aujourd'hui : l'ancien président Levon Ter Petrossian (1991-1998) et le premier ministre Serge Sarkissian, donné grand favori du scrutin auquel ne peut participer le président sortant Robert Kotcharian, parvenu au terme de deux mandats consécutifs.

Levon Ter Petrossian - LTP, comme on dit à Erevan - est parvenu à rassembler plus de 50 000 manifestants dans la capitale, samedi. Cette campagne est pour lui une renaissance en politique, après sa démission en 1998. "Son retour est la faute du pouvoir, assure Vahan Hovanissian, candidat de la Fédération révolutionnaire arménienne, qui participe pourtant à la coalition gouvernementale. LTP, dont le seul programme est d'abattre le régime en place, profite de l'absence de réformes fondamentales, comme celles du code électoral, des droits des minorités, et surtout de la lutte contre la corruption."

M. Sarkissian, pour sa part, s'appuie sur les ressources administratives que lui offre sa fonction. Le moindre de ses déplacements est largement couvert par les chaînes de télévision. Les locaux administratifs, dans les villes de province, ont été souvent convertis au profit du Parti républicain.

Concernant leur programme, il n'est pas aisé de dégager de véritables différences. "Il n'y en a pas ! tranche Artak Kirakosian, président du Civil Society Institute. On ne trouve pas un mot par exemple sur les relations avec l'OTAN et l'Union européenne. Cette élection est une confrontation entre deux personnalités, arbitrée par les candidats de second rang." Autre figure de l'opposition, Artur Bagdassarian a refusé de retirer sa candidature au profit de LTP, à la fureur de ce dernier qui comptait sur un front commun pour accroître la pression sur le premier ministre.


Entre les deux favoris, les injures fusent. L'ex-président dénonce un régime "mafieux". Il joue sur l'origine du premier ministre et du président sortant - tous deux du Haut-Karabakh, la république autoproclamée au coeur d'une guerre de six ans entre l'Arménie et l'Azerbaïdjan (1988-1994). "La haine contre le clan dit du Karabakh joue un rôle important dans la campagne, dit l'analyste Armen Badalian. Beaucoup d'Arméniens estiment qu'il accapare les positions importantes dans le pays." En raison de la tension, certains observateurs craignent des troubles dans la rue, en particulier si M. Sarkissian l'emportait dès le premier tour. La violence a déjà marqué la jeune démocratie arménienne : en 1999, un commando armé avait fait neuf morts au Parlement.

"La polarisation de la course est étrange, car au début du mouvement démocratique dans le pays, ces candidats faisaient partie de la même équipe, souligne Raffi Hovanissian, figure populaire de l'opposition, qui n'a pu se présenter en raison d'une acquisition tardive de la nationalité arménienne. La différence ? Ter Petrossian est une figure intellectuelle, tandis que Sarkissian a le profil d'un manager et d'un organisateur."

Le parti Heritage de Raffi Hovanissian a décidé de soutenir la candidature de LTP. Mais l'ancien ministre des affaires étrangères, formé aux Etats-Unis, garde un regard distant et critique vis-à-vis de la conduite des affaires politiques dans son pays : "Il existe un conflit d'intérêt majeur entre le service public et le secteur privé. Les campagnes électorales ne sont pas seulement une affaire d'options politiques, mais de moyens de conquérir ou de préserver son influence économique."

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Enviado - 20 febrero 2008 :  14:55:07  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Sarkissian élu président de l'Arménie, l'opposition descend dans la rue

RTL Info.be
20 février 2008

L'opposition arménienne a commencé mercredi à manifester pour contester la victoire à la présidentielle du Premier ministre Serge Sarkissian, dans l'attente que les observateurs de l'OSCE se prononcent.

M. Sarkissian a obtenu 52,9% des suffrages, selon ces résultats annoncés par la commission électorale centrale, contre 21,5% à l'opposant Levon Ter-Petrossian, premier président de l'Arménie post-soviétique.

Vient ensuite Artour Bagdassarian, ancien président du Parlement, avec 16,6% des suffrages. La participation a été de 69,25%.

"Ce n'est pas une élection. C'est une tentative de prise de pouvoir" par l'équipe dirigeante sortante, a dénoncé Arman Moussinian, le porte-parole de M. Ter-Petrossian.

Avant même la fermeture des bureaux de vote, l'équipe de campagne de M. Ter-Petrossian a dénoncé des fraudes - bourrages d'urnes, intimidation d'électeurs, votes multiples - et a appelé à manifester. Selon M. Moussinian, des dizaines de partisans d'opposition ont été agressés physiquement la veille.

Quelques centaines de manifestants ont commencé à se réunir dans le centre d'Erevan, avant la grande manifestation prévue à 12H00 GMT.

Le rédacteur en chef du journal d'opposition The Armenian Times Nikol Pachenian, un allié de M. Ter-Petrossian, a dénoncé le scrutin, le qualifiant de "crime" devant les premiers manifestants.

"Les gens vont se rassembler pour se battre pour la justice", estime parmi eux Hranouch Petrossian, âgée de 55 ans, se disant "sûre à 100%" de la victoire de M. Ter-Petrossian.

Le président sortant Robert Kotcharian a quant à lui immédiatement félicité dans un communiqué son successeur en saluant sa "victoire convaincante" au terme d'un scrutin "juste et libre". Il l'a chargé de poursuivre sa politique de "développement soutenu et de démocratisation".

Au pouvoir depuis dix ans, Robert Kotcharian ne pouvait se représenter, après deux mandats consécutifs, et s'était choisi comme dauphin son Premier ministre, un allié politique de longue date originaire lui aussi de la province séparatiste du Nagorny Karabakh, en Azerbaïdjan.

Près de 600 observateurs étrangers, dont ceux de l'OSCE, ont suivi le déroulement du scrutin. L'Organisation pour la sécurité et la coopération en Europe doit rendre ses conclusions mercredi à 12h00 GMT à Erevan.

M. Sarkissian, 53 ans, a fait campagne sur le thème de la stabilité politique et économique, faisant valoir des taux de croissance de plus de 10% par an dans ce petit pays de trois millions d'habitants, pauvre et soutenu financièrement par la diaspora.

M. Sarkissian devrait poursuivre la politique étrangère de son prédécesseur marquée par des liens étroits avec Moscou et un froid persistant avec deux pays voisins, l'Azerbaïdjan et la Turquie, qui conduit de facto à un isolement de l'Arménie.

Ces deux pays ont rompu leurs relations diplomatiques avec Erevan et fermé leurs frontières en riposte au soutien d'Erevan aux séparatistes du Nagorny Karabakh, région d'Azerbaïdjan peuplée en majorité d'Arméniens.

L'Arménie et l'Azerbaïdjan demeurent officiellement en guerre au sujet du Nagorny Karabakh. Cette guerre a fait des milliers de morts et des centaines de milliers de déplacés au début des années 1990.

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Enviado - 21 febrero 2008 :  14:59:03  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Manifestations en Arménie après l'élection du premier ministre, Serge Sarkissian

LEMONDE.FR, Paris, avec AFP et Reuters

Des milliers de partisans de l'opposition manifestaient mercredi 20 février à Erevan en Arménie pour dénoncer la victoire, dès le premier tour, du premier ministre arménien, Serge Sarkissian, à l'élection présidentielle de mardi. M. Sarkissian a obtenu 52,9 % des suffrages, selon des résultats annoncés par Garigen Azarian, porte-parole de la commission électorale centrale, contre 21,5 % pour Levon Ter-Petrossian, premier président de l'Arménie post-soviétique, et 16,6 % des suffrages pour Artour Bagdassarian, ancien président du Parlement. La participation a atteint 69,25 %.

Avant même la fermeture des bureaux de vote, l'équipe de campagne de M. Ter-Petrossian avait dénoncé des fraudes – bourrages d'urnes, intimidations d'électeurs, votes multiples – et a appelé à des manifestations. Mercredi midi, la mission d'observation de l'Organisation pour la sécurité et la coopération en Europe (OSCE) a rendu son verdict sur le scrutin, estimant qu'il s'est "déroulé le plussouvent en conformité avec les engagements internationaux du pays, même si des améliorations demeurent nécessaire". Près de six cents observateurs étrangers, dont quatre cents de l'OSCE, ont suivi le déroulement du scrutin.


Mercredi après-midi, devant des manifestants criant "Levon président!", Levon Ter-Petrossian, a accusé les observateurs de l'OSCE, d'être "eux aussi responsables des fraudes". "Nous les avions prévenus à l'avance" de l'impression de bulletins supplémentaires destinés au bourrage d'urnes "et ils ne nous ont pas écoutés", a ajouté celui qui s'estime être "le candidat élu par le peuple". "Nous avons un plan précis et nous gagnerons", a-t-il lancé, alors que des milliers de ses partisans ont débuté une marche vers la commission électorale centrale, placée sous forte surveillance policière.

Au pouvoir depuis dix ans, le président sortant Robert Kotcharian ne pouvait se représenter, après deux mandats consécutifs, et s'était choisi comme dauphin son premier ministre, allié politique de longue date et originaire, lui aussi, de la province séparatiste du Nagorny Karabakh en Azerbaïdjan. M. Sarkissian, 53 ans, a fait campagne sur le thème de la stabilité politique et économique. Il devrait poursuivre la politique étrangère de son prédécesseur, marquée par des liens étroits avec Moscou et un froid persistant avec ses deux voisins, l'Azerbaïdjan et la Turquie, qui a conduit à l'isolement de facto de l'Arménie.

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Enviado - 21 febrero 2008 :  15:02:39  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Arménie: Levon Ter-Petriossan conteste le résultat de la présidentielle

EuroNews, Lyon

L'ancien président a du mal à accepter sa défaite. Le candidat de l'opposition à la présidentielle a réuni mercredi des milliers de sympathisants à Erevan. Objectif: contester la victoire du Premier ministre Serge Sarkissian. Les observateurs de l'OSCE sont pourtant formels: le scrutin dans l'ensemble a été conforme aux normes internationales. Mais l'opposition dénonce des bourrages d'urnes et des passages à tabac de certains de ses partisans.

Selon les chiffres officiels, Serge Sarkissian remporte la présidentielle dès le premier tour avec 53% des suffrages contre 21,5% à Levon Ter-Petriossian. Le Premier ministre, 53 ans, avait fait campagne sur le thème de la stabilité politique et économique. Le président sortant Robert Kotcharian, qui ne pouvait pas se représenter, lui a demandé de poursuivre la politique de développement et de démocratisation du pays.

L'Arménie qui est enclavé dans les montagnes du Caucase compte 3 millions d'habitants. Erevan est en guerre avec l'Azerbaïdjan en raison de son soutien aux séparatistes du Nagorny-Karaback, région d'Azerbaïdjan peuplée en majorité d'Arméniens. Le futur président a lui même été à la tête de l'armée séparatiste de ce territoire avant d'occuper des postes clés du gouvernement arménien. Comme en Russie, son futur Premier ministre pourrait bien être... le président sortant.

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Enviado - 24 febrero 2008 :  01:06:46  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Résultats finaux des élections présidentielles en Arménie

Ambassade de France en Arménie
Service de presse
jeudi 21 février 2008

A partir du 9 avril, le Premier Ministre en fonction, Serge Sarkissian, Président du parti Républicain, sera le troisième Président de la République d’Arménie. Il a remporté l’élection présidentielle dès le premier tour avec un score bien supérieur à ceux des autres huit candidats en lice. Le 20 février, à midi, le Président de la Commission électorale centrale, Garéguin Azarian, a présenté les résultats préliminaires établis à partir du décompte de l’ensemble des bulletins. Les quotidiens se réjouissent de ce que le vote du 19 février ait été avant tout marqué par un haut niveau de participation : 1 670 656 électeurs sur un total de 2.328.320 inscrits, soit 70,45 % se sont rendus aux urnes. Les suffrages recueillis par chacun des candidats se répartissent de la manière suivante :

Serge Sarkissian- 863 544, soit 52,8 %
Lévon Ter-Petrossian- 351 306, soit 21,5 %
Arthur Baghdassarian- 272 256, soit 16,2 %
Vahan Hovhannissian- 100 876, soit 6,12%
Vazguen Manoukian- 20 939, soit 1,2%
Tigran Karapetian- 9 754, soit 0,6%
Artachès Ghégamian- 7 473, soit 0,4%
Arman Melikian- 4 359, soit 0,2%
Aram Haroutiounian- 3 092, soit 0,2%

Le nombre de bulletins annulés est de 344 849. Le protocole final a été signé par 6 des 8 membres de la CEC, les représentants des partis «Etat de droit» et «Héritage» ayant refusé d’y apposer leur signature. Quelques minutes après l’annonce officielle de la CEC, le Président Kotcharian a félicité son successeur.

La chaîne publique avait présenté hier, avant que des résultats préliminaires soient annoncés par la CEC, les résultats d’un sondage réalisé à la sortie des bureaux de vote (Exit Poll) par l’organisation britannique Populus, qui avait d’ores et déjà placé Serge Sarkissian en tête avec 57,1%, Lévon Ter-Petrossian en deuxième position, avec 17,4% et Arthur Baghdassarian en troisième, avec 14,6%. / Golos Arménii, Hayots Achkhar, Respoublika Armenia, Hayastani Hanrapetoutioun

Le parti d’Arthur Baghdassarian, affirme avoir mené son propre «Exit poll» dont les résultats ont donné 35% à Arthur Baghdassarian et 33% à Serge Sarkissian./ Aravot

(Source: Nouvelles d'Arménie. - http://www.armenews.com/article.php3?id_article=38667)
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Enviado - 24 febrero 2008 :  23:35:38  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Voto in Armenia
Il Primo ministro armeno Serzh Sarksyan vince le elezioni presidenziali
ma l'opposizione denuncia brogli e indice azioni di protesta

Da Yerevan, scrive Kristine Gasparyan

Lo scorso martedì 19 febbraio si sono tenute in Armenia le elezioni presidenziali. In base ai primi risultati ufficiali Serzh Sargsyan è in testa con il 52,86% dei voti, seguito dal primo presidente Levon Ter-Petrossian con il 21,5%. Il futuro leader del partito “Orinats erkir”, l’ex portavoce del parlamento Arthur Baghdasarian, è al terzo posto.

Si è votato in 41 distretti elettorali, che comprendono 1923 seggi. I candidati erano nove, ognuno dei quali è stato incaricato di assumere dei supervisori con ampi poteri, tra cui il diritto di impugnare la decisione della commissione elettorale.

Dopo la dichiarazione d’indipendenza, è la quinta volta che in Armenia si tengono le elezioni presidenziali. Il presidente uscente Robert Kocharyan, già al suo secondo mandato consecutivo, in base alla Costituzione armena, non si è potuto ricandidare ma ha sostenuto e appoggiato la candidatura di Serzh Sargsyan.

Durante la campagna elettorale si è registrata in generale una mancanza di fiducia nei confronti del processo elettorale anche se la legislazione relativa al processo elettorale garantisce i diritti e le libertà civili e politiche. Tra novembre e dicembre 2007 sono stati infatti approvati degli emendamenti alla legge elettorale in base alle raccomandazioni dell’OSCE e della Commissione di Venezia del Consiglio d’Europa. I principali emendamenti riguardano l’inclusione del diritto di auto-candidatura e il blocco a quasi 17 mila euro della somma di garanzia per la candidatura.

In campagna elettorale si sono registrati tuttavia scontri e tensioni, soprattutto nei confronti dei sostenitori di Levon Ter-Petrossian. La televisione, in particolare l'Armenian Public Television, è stata ampiamente criticata per il suo atteggiamento di parte nei confronti dei candidati. I giornali invece si sono dimostrati più indipendenti nei confronti dell’intero sistema elettorale e delle votazioni.

Le elezioni si sono svolte in un clima molto tranquillo, anche se in alcuni seggi ci sono state tensioni, con alcuni episodi di violenza.

Nelle prime ore si è registrata un’elevata partecipazione al voto. I seggi sono stati chiusi alle ore 20 del 19 febbraio. Secondo la Commissione elettorale centrale (CEC), hanno votato 1 milione 670 mila elettori, pari a circa il 70% della popolazione votante.

I risultati degli exit poll sono piuttosto controversi; i dati raccolti da organizzazioni diverse non hanno nulla in comune. Secondo “Alfa-GA”, un’organizzazione locale, il primo presidente Levon Ter-Petrossian sarebbe in testa con il 54,2% seguito dal suo rivale Serzh Sargsyan con il 24,4%.

Secondo l’exit poll della famosa organizzazione inglese Populus, il vincitore delle elezioni presidenziali sarebbe l’attuale primo ministro Serzh Sargsyan con il 57,01% dei voti, al secondo posto ci sarebbe Levon Ter-Petrossian con il 17,4% seguito dal leader del partito “Orinats erkir” Arthur Baghdasarian con il 14,6% dei voti. È doveroso menzionare che sebbene Populus sia una famosa organizzazione inglese, ha ricevuto l’incarico di condurre gli exit poll dalla Televisione pubblica dell’Armenia.

Oltre ai supervisori e agli osservatori locali, circa 600 osservatori di organizzazioni internazionali e straniere (OSCE, Assemblea parlamentare del Consiglio d’Europa, osservatori del CIS e della Commissione Europea) hanno seguito le elezioni. Mercoledì, il giorno successivo alle votazioni, la Missione internazionale di monitoraggio elettorale ha reso pubbliche le prime dichiarazioni sulle elezioni presidenziali in una conferenza stampa. “Le elezioni presidenziali dell’Armenia si sono svolte in conformità con i criteri internazionali” ha dichiarato il rappresentante della Missione della Commissione Europea Thomas Grunert.

"Gli armeni si sono dimostrati decisi a scegliere tra genuine alternative politiche in un clima di viva competizione elettorale. Abbiamo rilevato dei problemi in particolare durante la conta dei voti, adducibili a una scarsa confidenza con il processo elettorale”, ha dichiarato Anne-Marie Lizin, vice presidente dell’Assemblea parlamentare OSCE e Coordinatrice speciale degli osservatori OSCE. Queste valutazioni sono preliminari, gli osservatori resteranno in Armenia per seguire la risoluzione delle dispute e le procedure di rilievo.

Diversa la reazione dei mass media locali. Fin dalle prime ore del mattino i giornali hanno scritto di violazioni della legge elettorale e di infrazioni. I comunicati dei media dicevano: “picchiato un giornalista”, “rotta una telecamera”, “ distribuite schede compilate”, “supervisore picchiato”, “intimidazione dell’opposizione”, “moduli per il numero 8”, ecc.. Il numero 8 della lista è Serzh Sargsyan.

In seguito alla dichiarazione della Commissione Elettorale Centrale (CEC) secondo la quale Serzh Sargsyan risultava essere il vincitore con il 53% dei voti, abbastanza per evitare il secondo turno, l’opposizione, in particolare Levon Ter-Petrossian, ha rifiutato di accettare i risultati ufficiali preliminari, parlando di frodi e violazioni di massa.

Levon Ter-Petrossian ha invitato ad una manifestazione di protesta denunciando la manipolazione delle votazioni. I suoi sostenitori hanno cominciato ad arrivare dalle 11 del mattino di mercoledì. Le principali accuse sollevate durante la protesta riguardavano il numero dei votanti che, secondo la Commissione elettorale centrale, sarebbe pari a 1 milione 640 mila, mentre in base alle informazioni procurate da Levon Ter-Petrossian, si sarebbe trattato di poco meno di 1 milione 100 mila.

In tarda serata, al termine della protesta, Ter-Petrossian ha dichiarato che continueranno a combattere perché sono loro i vincitori, e ha annunciato che il 21 febbraio avrà luogo un’altra manifestazione di protesta, che sarà un evento molto importante.

Intanto il Paese ha accolto la notizia dell'indipendenza del Kosovo. Sarkisyan si è affrettato a far sapere che il non-riconoscimento del Karabakh segnalerebbe uno spiacevole “uso di doppi standard” da parte della comunità internazionale. In Armenia e in Nagorno Karabakh i politici stanno tracciando dei paralleli tra questi due casi sforzandosi di trovare dei tratti comuni, per potersi appellare al caso del Kosovo, se non come a un precedente, almeno come a una leva per il futuro processo di negoziazione.

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Enviado - 25 febrero 2008 :  00:24:26  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Serj Sarksian met en garde les manifestants en Arménie

LE POINT.fr / Reuters
Version française Henri-Pierre André

Alors que son élection à la présidence arménienne est contestée dans la rue, Serj Sarksian, Premier ministre et candidat du pouvoir, prévient dans une interview accordée à Reuters que les forces de l'ordre interviendront si l'opposition déroge à la loi.

Des milliers d'opposants sont de nouveau attendus ce vendredi dans les rues d'Erevan pour une troisième journée consécutive de contestation des résultats de la présidentielle de dimanche. Pour eux, l'élection au premier tour de Sarksian, Premier ministre et dauphin du président sortant Robert Kotcharian, est entachée par des fraudes massives.

Ils entendent poursuivre leur mouvement tant qu'un nouveau scrutin ne sera pas organisé.

"Je ne pense pas que leur demande soit légitime", a dit le président élu lors d'une interview accordée tard jeudi soir à l'agence Reuters, se fondant sur le "verdict positif" rendu par les observateurs étrangers et les ambassades.

"Il nous faudra les persuader de ne pas violer l'ordre, de ne pas violer les droits des autres", a poursuivi Sarksian avant de prévenir: "S'ils le font, alors les organes de sécurité devront rétablir l'ordre."

Les résultats officiels du scrutin ont donné Sarksian vainqueur dès le premier tour avec un peu moins de 53%. Son plus proche adversaire, l'ancien président Levon Ter-Petrossian, est crédité lui de 21,5% des voix.

Mais les partisans de ce dernier dénoncent des bourrages d'urnes et des pratiques d'intimidation de ses électeurs et jugent que le scrutin n'a pas été libre et équitable.

Pour les observateurs occidentaux, l'élection a été globalement conforme aux engagements internationaux de l'Arménie, même si, notent-ils, des progrès seront nécessaires à l'avenir.

L'ancienne république soviétique, nation chrétienne de 3,2 millions d'habitants, est enclavée au coeur des montagnes du Caucase, à proximité immédiate des réserves pétrolières et gazières de la mer Caspienne.

Ses rapports avec l'Azerbaïdjan, où elle soutient les séparatistes du Haut-Karabakh, à majorité arménienne, ne sont pas bons. La crise a eu des répercussions sur les relations entre l'Arménie et la Turquie, également marquées par le poids de l'histoire.

Depuis la guerre séparatiste du Haut-Karabakh, au début des années 1990, Ankara, par solidarité avec l'Azerbaïdjan qui appartient au même espace linguistique, a interrompu ses relations diplomatiques avec Erevan.

"J'ai déclaré à de nombreuses reprises que l'Arménie est prête à établir des relations diplomatiques avec la Turquie sans conditions préalables", a souligné Sarksian, qui a reçu un message de félicitation du président turc Abdullah Gül.

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Sarkisian received messages of congratulation on his election win from the presidents of Russia, France, and Georgia on February 20, and from Turkish President Abdullah Gul on February 21, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. In an interview in December 2007 with the "Financial Times," Sarkisian expressed support for Turkey's hoped-for accession to the EU, which he said could contribute to easing the "problems" between the two countries.

Also on February 21, EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana and NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer addressed messages of congratulation to the Armenian government. Solana expressed satisfaction that the ballot was competitive and the turnout high, according to armradio.am. At the same time, he expressed the hope that "after the elections all political forces in Armenia will continue working in a responsible way," and added that "the complaints and shortcomings registered by the observers must be investigated."

Meanwhile, U.S. State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said on February 20 that Washington is "concerned" about some aspects of the preliminary report issued by international election observers in Armenia, specifically the description of the vote count as bad or very bad in 16 percent of constituencies, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported.

During the January 5 preterm Georgian presidential ballot, the corresponding figure was 23 percent of all constituencies where observers were present and during the 2003 Azerbaijani presidential election over 50 percent, according to the website of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (http://www.osce.org/odihr).


(RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 12, No. 36, Part I, 22 February 2008.)
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Enviado - 28 febrero 2008 :  21:09:39  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Arrestations dans les rangs de l'opposition en Arménie

Margarita Antidze et Hasmik Mkrtchian
version française Jean-Stéphane Brosse
Nouvel Obs.com / REUTERS

EREVAN (Reuters) - Les autorités arméniennes ont arrêté plusieurs personnalités de l'opposition, qui s'est de nouveau rassemblée dans le centre d'Erevan pour réclamer l'invalidation de l'élection présidentielle du 19 février, a déclaré l'opposition.

"Aujourd'hui, deux représentants des partis de l'opposition ont été arrêtés et hier, le procureur général adjoint a été arrêté. Cela confirme que les autorités vont faire usage de la force", a précisé un militant de l'opposition, Mikail Daelian.

L'ancien procureur général adjoint s'était déclaré en faveur des manifestations de l'opposition.

Surveillée par une présence policière accrue, une foule s'est réunie pour la cinquième journée consécutive sur la place de la Liberté pour réclamer l'annulation des résultats du vote remporté mardi par le Premier ministre Serj Sarksian, allié du chef de l'État.

La commission électorale a confirmé dimanche que Sarksian avait gagné avec près de 53% des voix contre 21,5% pour son plus proche adversaire, l'ancien président Levon Ter-Petrossian.

Ce dernier a affirmé dimanche devant ses partisans qu'il était le vainqueur légitime du scrutin avec 65 à 67% des voix.

"Nous devons lancer des mesures actives", a-t-il ajouté. "Notre peuple est déjà le vainqueur. Cette élection fut barbare et l'Arménie n'a jamais vu de telles choses se produire un jour d'élection."

Environ 20.000 personnes s'étaient rassemblées dans la ville, contre 35.000 la veille.

Six militants ont annoncé qu'ils entameraient une grève de la faim pour protester contre la victoire de Sarksian.

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Enviado - 28 febrero 2008 :  21:19:14  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Enlèvements de responsables politiques

Source/Lien : HetqOnLine (http://www.hetq.am/eng/politics/7639/)
(traduction Yevrobatsi)

Le 24 février 2008, à environ 15 heures 30, M. Aram Karapetian, dirigeant du parti Nouvelle Ere (NZhK), a été arrêté. Selon des témoins oculaires, des inconnus cagoulés se sont approchés du dirigeant de NZhK près du marché d’Arabkir, lui ont lié les bras et l’ont enlevé, ainsi que son entourage, vers une direction inconnue dans leurs voitures portant des plaques d’immatriculation de la Sécurité Nationale. Lors de cette arrestation, les kidnappeurs cagoulés ont frappé les gardes du corps de M. Aram Karapetian à coups de matraques.

Ce même jour, à environ 9 heures 45, des hommes cagoulés ont fait irruption dans la voiture de M. Smbat Aivazian, ancien député et membre du bureau politique du parti Hanrapetutiun (Parti de la République) à l’intersection des rues Koryun et Teryan [Erevan]. Ils ont retenu M. Smbat Aivazian, son chauffeur Vardan Kirakossian et leur passager Artak Missakian. Les prisonniers revenaient chez eux depuis la place de la Liberté. Ils se trouvent actuellement à la 6e Division (Division contre le Crime organisé) avec leur avocat Hovik Arsenian.

Le 23 février 2008 à environ 22 heures, sur l’autoroute Etchmiadzine-Erevan, près d’Argavand, un groupe d’individus cagoulés et vêtus d’habits militaires ont enlevé M. Gaguik Jhangirian, procureur adjoint de la république d’Arménie, son frère Vardan Jhangirian, leur chauffeur Levon Poghossian et leur assistant Karen Hovhannissian.
Les personnes citées sont actuellement en garde à vue. M. Gaguik Jhangirian s’est vu refuser sa demande d’avocat commis d’office.

(Yevrobatsi: http://www.yevrobatsi.org/st/item.php?r=4&&id=4333)
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Enviado - 02 marzo 2008 :  15:28:09  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Estado de excepción en la capital de Armenia por las protestas contra los resultados electorales
Al menos ocho personas murieron en los enfrentamientos anoche entre opositores y la policía

AGENCIAS - Ereván/Viena
El País.com, Madrid

Al menos ocho manifestantes murieron en los enfrentamientos de anoche entre las fuerzas de seguridad y seguidores de la oposición en la capital Armenia, lo que obligó a que el presidente Robert Kocharián decretara el estado de excepción, han informado hoy las autoridades. Según un comunicado oficial de la policía, 33 soldados y agentes de las fuerzas del orden resultaron heridos en los choques de anoche con los manifestantes.

La policía ha denunciado que los seguidores del ex presidente Levón Ter-Petrosián, que se manifestaban en Ereván desde hace más de 10 días, emplearon bombas caseras y granadas de mano contra las tropas y los destacamentos antidisturbios. Los desórdenes en Eriván estallaron ayer por la mañana, después de que la policía disolviera violentamente la concentración que la oposición mantenía ininterrumpidamente en la plaza de la Opera desde el pasado 19 de febrero, cuando fueron anunciados los resultados oficiales de las elecciones.

La oposición no reconoce los resultados de las elecciones presidenciales, en las que según los datos oficiales fue elegido el primer ministro, Serge Sarkisián, con el 52,82%de los votos. Ter-Petrosián se situó en el segundo lugar con el 21,5%, seguido del líder del partido Orinats Ekir (País de Ley), Artur Bagdasarián, con el 17,7%.

Anoche, Kocharián decretó el estado de excepción en la capital del país para poner fin a los desórdenes en la ciudad, medida extraordinaria que fue ratificada esta madrugada por el Parlamento. La medida, que regirá por un plazo de 20 días, prohíbe celebrar mítines, manifestaciones y huelgas pero no incluye el toque de queda.

Mediación de la OSCE

El presidente en curso de la Organización para la Seguridad y Cooperación en Europa (OSCE), Ilkka Kanerva, ha anunciado la llegada hoy a Armenia del embajador Heikki Talvitie en calidad de enviado especial para intentar superar la crisis política que enfrenta al Gobierno y la oposición. Talvitie, un veterano diplomático con amplia experiencia en la región, tiene previsto reunirse con Kocharian, Sargsyan y Ter-Petosian.

Por otra parte, el Vaticano ha anunciado que el viaje que su secretario de Estado, el Cardenal Tarcisio Bertone, tenía previsto realizar a Armenia ha sido cancelado por la tensa situación de inestabilidad en el país.

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Envíos 10057

Enviado - 03 marzo 2008 :  13:06:39  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Armenia despliega el Ejército contra las protestas

P. B. - Moscú
El País.com, Madrid

Carros blindados patrullaban ayer Eriván, la capital de Armenia, después de que ocho personas murieran el sábado en enfrentamientos entre la policía y manifestantes que denunciaban como fraude el resultado oficial de las elecciones presidenciales del 19 de febrero. De las víctimas, siete eran manifestantes y el octavo, un soldado, según el Ministerio de Sanidad. Además, hubo 131 heridos (72 policías y 59 manifestantes), parte de ellos por bala.

El presidente de Armenia, Robert Kocharian, declaró el estado de excepción hasta el 21 de marzo, lo que incluye restricciones informativas.

Las huellas de las refriegas del día anterior: vidrios rotos, comercios saqueados y baldosines arrancados de las aceras persistían ayer en el centro de Eriván. La oposición denunció la detención de decenas de partidarios de Levon Ter-Petrosián, que compitió en las presidenciales con Serge Sarkisián, el jefe de Gobierno. Este político pertenece al grupo de oriundos del Alto Karabaj, que mandan en el país tras curtirse en la guerra en esa región que la comunidad internacional reconoce como parte de Azerbaiyán, pero que Armenia controla de hecho.

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Envíos 10057

Enviado - 03 marzo 2008 :  13:14:00  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Arménie: deux députés d'opposition arrêtés après les affrontements

LE MONDE.fr, Paris / AFP
03.03.2008 | 11h15

Deux députés arméniens soutenant l'opposition ont été arrêtés pour "tentative de prise de pouvoir" après les affrontements entre policiers et opposants qui ont fait huit morts samedi dans la capitale Erevan, ont annoncé lundi des sources policières.

"Le député Miasnik Malkhassian a été arrêté pour 'tentative de prise de pouvoir', c'est officiel", a indiqué à l'AFP le service de presse de la police arménienne.

Une source au sein des forces de l'ordre a par ailleurs indiqué qu'un autre parlementaire, Hakob Hokopian, avait été lui aussi mis aux arrêts pour le même motif.

Aucune information n'a pu être obtenue sur la date de leur arrestation.

"C'est une nouvelle étape de la violence à laquelle le pouvoir a recours contre l'opposition pour la priver de sa direction", a déclaré à l'AFP Arman Moussinian, le porte-parole des opposants.

Les deux députés ont été élus sur la liste du parti Républicain du Premier ministre Serge Sarkissian, vainqueur déclaré de la présidentielle du 19 février, mais ont rejoint pendant la campagne électorale le chef de l'opposition, Levon Ter-Petrossian.

La victoire de M. Sarkissian a entraîné onze jours de manifestations pacifiques qui ont réuni des dizaines de milliers d'opposants avant de dégénérer en émeutes samedi, faisant huit morts (sept civils et un policier).

Lundi, M. Ter-Petrossian était toujours de facto assigné à résidence pour la 3e journée consécutive, une mesure qui avait radicalisé la foule de ses partisans et provoqué les troubles.

Le calme régnait lundi à Erevan tandis que la présence militaire restait importante devant le siège du gouvernement, le président sortant Robert Kotcharian ayant décrété l'état d'urgence dans la capitale samedi soir jusqu'au 20 mars.

Les partisans de M. Ter-Petrossian, ancien président de l'Arménie dans les années 90, ont rejeté tout compromis avec le pouvoir et réclament l'annulation des résultats de la présidentielle, estimant que le scrutin a été faussé.

L'Organisation pour la sécurité et la coopération en Europe (OSCE) a jugé que le vote avait été" "dans l'ensemble conforme" aux principes démocratiques internationaux.

(0,14-0,39-34541939@7-60,0.html" target="_blank">http://abonnes.lemonde.fr/web/depeches/0,14-0,39-34541939@7-60,0.html)
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Envíos 10057

Enviado - 06 marzo 2008 :  20:32:34  Mostrar perfil  Responder con Cita
Appel d’ONG arméniennes

Yevrobatsi (traduction Yevrobatsi)

Nous, organisations de la société civile soussignées, exprimons notre profonde inquiétude quant à la période préélectorale, la campagne électorale et le processus post-électoral dans le pays. Le compte rendu des observateurs internationaux, quoique présenté sous un jour positif par le gouvernement et les médias contrôlés par le gouvernement, a été critique. Le décalage apparent entre les conclusions présentes de cette évaluation avec les deux premières phrases de circonstance du rapport a fait que le gouvernement ne s’est référé à ce paragraphe du compte rendu des observateurs internationaux qu’afin de légitimer les résultats du scrutin. Or, dans leur rapport, les observateurs internationaux ont souligné la censure des médias, l’intimidation à l’égard des électeurs, l’achat de bulletins, etc., et ont qualifié le décompte de « mauvais » ou « très mauvais » dans 16 % des bureaux de vote visités. Présenter de telles pratiques comme un « progrès » conforme aux engagements souscrits d’organiser des élections libres et loyales discrédite la notion de démocratie et rabaisse encore plus les critères de réformes démocratiques.

Plusieurs organisations soussignées ont observé les élections durant le jour du scrutin ainsi que le processus qui a précédé et suivi le 19 février. Les cas de violations sont nombreux et il en est fait état dans nos rapports.

Nous sommes particulièrement préoccupés par la liberté des médias et l’accès aux médias, la violence, la corruption et le recours aux moyens de l’administration, les arrestations de personnalités.

L’un des principaux points abordés par la Mission d’observation de l’ODHIR de l’OSCE dans son rapport intermédiaire concerne la nécessité d’assurer la confiance de l’opinion dans le processus électoral. Or cette méfiance profondément enracinée et trop souvent attribuée à une apathie de l’opinion n’est rien d’autre qu’une réaction d’autodéfense de la population arménienne à l’encontre d’un climat d’impunité pour ceux qui ont commis des fraudes électorales lors de tous les scrutins précédents. Les processus qui suivent les élections sont inquiétants et ne font qu’approfondir la méfiance de l’opinion.

Nous estimons que tant que les fraudes électorales ne feront pas l’objet d’enquêtes et resteront impunies, il n’y aura aucune confiance dans le processus de vote, ainsi que dans le système légal et judiciaire.

Nous estimons que seul un débat public ouvert et global sur les problèmes et violations rappelés ci-dessus permettra de nourrir un climat de confiance et le crédit de l’opinion.
A la lumière des faits rappelés, nous déclarons que cette élection n’a pas été conforme avec notre conception des valeurs et des pratiques démocratiques.

Nous estimons que la manière avec laquelle les autorités traiteront ces fraudes témoignera de leur détermination sincère à se conformer aux règles d’élections démocratiques libres et loyales.

Nous appelons la communauté internationale à rappeler au gouvernement arménien son engagement à se conformer aux procédures en vigueur et à demander que ceux qui ont violé la loi sont véritablement poursuivis et punis.

Nous appelons le gouvernement arménien à cesser les emprisonnements pour motifs politiques. Il ne s’agit pas d’appels à l’impunité, mais d’un appel au gouvernement pour qu’il donne un exemple au peuple arménien et agisse dans le cadre de la loi.

Nous appelons la communauté internationale à établir des conclusions objectives fondées sur ses propres conclusions et non à discréditer la notion de démocratie, les critères et principes démocratiques, ainsi que les organisations internationales qui mènent leur mission d’observation.

Les signataires

Comité de Protection de la Liberté d’expression
Comité Helsinki pour l’Arménie
Délégation de Vanadzor de l’Assemblée des Citoyens d’Helsinki
Club « Asparez » des Journalistes
ONG de soutien aux médias « Internews-Armenia »
Institut pour la Pluralité des Médias
Fondation d’aide Institut pour une Société Ouverte – Arménie
Centre anti-Corruption de Transparency International
Club de la Presse d’Erevan

Source: Transparency.am

Read this text in English at http://www.transparency.am/docs/statement%20on%20elections%202008_eng.pdf

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