TWO MAIN CANDIDATES SQUARE UP FOR KARABAKH ELECTION
Decorated Karabakh war veteran seen as main challenger to incumbent.
By Karine Ohanyan
Nagorny Karabakh’s president Bako Sahakyan is running for a second
term in July, in an election that looks to be a real contest, even
if differences on key policy issues are more about nuances than
Before he was elected in 2007, Sahakyan was interior minister in
1997-2001, and the national security minister.
His most serious rival in the July 19 ballot is Vitaly Balasanyan,
who earned the highest military decoration during the war with
Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, which left an Armenian administration
in control of Nagorny Karabakh. Balasanyan served as deputy defence
minister and chairman of the war veterans’ organisation before
becoming a member of parliament.
There are two other candidates – Arkady Soghomonyan, an agricultural
specialist, and unemployed Valery Khachatryan – but the pundits
doubt either of them has much of a chance. Neither has spoken to
the press, and their phones go unanswered.
In contrast, Balasanyan is already campaigning via his Facebook
page, using a social networking site that proved very influential
in the recent parliamentary election in Armenia.
He told IWPR that under Karabakh’s laws, he is not technically
allowed to campaign until June 19, but he is updating his page
every day with his thoughts and photographs.
“I launched the page with the aim of engaging more actively,”
Balasanyan wrote in a recent post. “I’m going to put down my
thoughts and ideas and see how readers react. I think virtual
conversations will be productive.”
Diana Movsesyan, a graduate of Artsakh State University – the
main institute of higher education in Karabakh – has already
clicked “like”on Balasanyan’s Facebook page.
“I am convinced that Balasanyan’s candidacy gives us a chance
to hold a different kind of election in Karabakh. I want it to
be democratic, without pressure or anything,” she said. “I hope
that state institutions don’t exploit their power [in favour of
the incumbent] ahead of the election. I hope this election changes
the atmosphere in the country, and I hope that afterwards,
Karabakh will regain its ‘partly free’ rating from Freedom House.”
In its report for this year, the Washington-based civil liberties
watchdog organisation Freedom House rated Karabakh as “not free”,
a deterioration from the “partly free” ranking it held until 2009.
In the same listing, Armenia is described as “partly free” and
Azerbaijan as “not free”.
In previous elections in Karabakh, voters’ choices have been
blunted by the fact that candidates generally adopt almost
identical positions on key issues like security, the aspiration
for international recognition, and pledges to improve living
The Karabakh war ended with a ceasefire in 1994, but no lasting
peace agreement has been signed, and protracted negotiations led
by France, Russia and the United States have not succeeded in
persuading the Karabakh Armenians to give up their independence
claim, the Azerbaijani government to recognise that independence,
or the two sides to reach a compromise deal.
Armenian and Azerbaijani troops still face each other along the
fortified “line of control” around Nagorny Karabakh, and shooting
incidents are frequent.
International groups like the Organisation for Security and
Cooperation in Europe do not send monitors to Karabakh to check
on the fairness of its elections, and candidates in previous
polls have complained that incumbents have drawn on state
resources to assist their campaigns.
Sahakyan, who won 85 per cent of the vote first time round in
2007, has pledged to pursue his current social and economic
reforms if he gets another term.
As president, Sahakyan has naturally worked closely with
officials from Armenia, although that state has not recognised
Karabakh as independent.
Balasanyan said he did not think Armenia would formally back
the incumbent president.
“They are obliged to support any decision that the people of
Nagorny Karabakh take,” he said.
Masis Mayilyan, who ran for the presidency in 2007 and now
heads of the Civic Council for Foreign Policy and Security,
said he hoped this election would open up politics.
“The forthcoming election… gives politicians the chance to
redress the mistakes that occurred ahead of the 2007
[presidential] and 2010 parliamentary elections. Those elections
led to Karabakh having a unipolar political arena and parliament,
and the independent press was wiped out,” he said. “If the
Dashnaktsutyun party supports Vitaly Balasanyan, a parliamentarian
and member of that party, then the country wins even if he’s
unsuccessful, since Dashnaktsutyun will be an opposition party
Masis, who gained 12 per cent of the vote in 2007, has endorsed
Balasanyan, who has presented some new ideas about how to work
towards a deal at the peace talks.
Karabakh is excluded from the negotiations, in which Azerbaijan
and Armenia are the only state parties.
“The main thing I am unhappy about is Sahakyan’s foreign policy.
He isn’t doing enough to shift Karabakh from being the object of
the talks to being a subject,” Balasanyan said.
“I will fight to secure the return of Karabakh to the negotiating
table as an equal participant, and I will work to ensure the
swiftest possible signing of an inter-state agreement [between
Karabakh and Armenia] assigning Armenia official status as
guarantor of our security.”
AZERBAIJANI ARMED FORCES OPENED FIRE TOWARDS
THE STRONGHOLDS OF KOTI VILLAGE, ARMENIA
6 June, 2012
YEREVAN, JUNE 6, ARMENPRESS: Azeri side once again violated the
ceasefire regime in the north-eastern part of the contact line between
Armenian and Azerbaijan on June 6 night.
Information and Public Relations department of the Ministry of
Defense informed Armenpress Azerbaijani forces opened fire towards
the strongholds of Koti village in Armenia' s Tavush province, none
of Armenian troops were injured.
Azerbaijani Armed Forces took attempt at infiltrating the border on
June 3- 4 night. Due to the vigilance of the Armenian servicemen, and
the measures taken the group was discovered and causing the losses
the enemy drew back. The attack by the Azeri side resulted in the
death of Armenian servicemen Hrach Sargsyan, Zohrab Balabekyan and
Karen Davtyan. There were many wounded.
Another Azerbaijani diversion operation was prevented on June 4-5
night. Azeri side suffered. The shelling during the day did not stop
towards the Armenian positions.
Karine Ohanyan is a reporter for Armedia Online.
Armenian Lawyers To Go On Strike Against High Court
More than one hundred lawyers plan to go on an unprecedented one-day
strike next Monday in protest against what they see as arbitrary
decisions routinely made by Armenia's Court of Cassation.
In a statement publicized on Wednesday, they specifically objected to
the court's refusal to even consider the vast majority of appeals
lodged by defense attorneys and litigants in civil cases.
`Ordinary citizens cannot understand why one appeal was accepted for
consideration but another one wasn't. That's impossible to
understand,' one of the protesting lawyers, Hayk Alumian, told
RFE/RL's Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Alumian claimed that the Court of Cassation has thrown out, without a
ruling, as much as 99 percent of appeals since the entry into force in
2007 of an `ambiguous' law that gave it greater discretionary
authority. `The Court of Appeals has created a judicial practice very
beneficial for it, deepening that ambiguity,' he said. `It is now
operating in a completely arbitrary manner.'
The Court of Cassation, which is the highest body of criminal and
civil justice in Armenia, declined to immediately comment on the
planned protest. A spokesman said it will comment later this week.
The court already faced last year embarrassing street protests by
lawyers after its chairman, Arman Mkrtumian, engineered the
controversial sacking of a Yerevan judge who granted bail to a
criminal suspect contrary to prosecutors' wishes.
The judge, Samvel Mnatsakanian, was dismissed by President Serzh
Sarkisian in July 2011 upon the recommendation of the Justice Council,
a state body overseeing Armenian courts. The council is headed by
Mnatsakanian decried a lack of judicial independence in the country
after the sacking. He claimed that many judges are primarily concerned
with not upsetting high-level state authorities and the Court of
Cassation in particular, rather than enforcing laws.
BIOLOGICAL FAMILIES STARTED TO RETURN THEIR CHILDREN
FROM ORPHANAGES MORE FREQUENTLY IN ARMENIA
7 June, 2012
YEREVAN, JUNE 7, ARMENPRESS: Restructuring of orphanage "Zatik" is
favorable for the returning of the children to their families. About
this Armenpress was informed from chief specialist from Ministry of
Labor and Social affairs of Armenia Karine Khachatryan. "Until the
2013 the orphanage will not work and will continue its functions of
Day Care Center" said Khachatryan.
She mentioned that if in 2010 40 children were returned to their
biological families, then last year that rate had been 42. Such trend
is observed especially in the orphanage of Nor Nork in case of children
under one year old.
The cases of giving children to orphanage are rather different -
social conditions, illness of the child or the parent.
"In case of being absence from the country the parent has the right
to leave the child under state care and after the return the child
can return to the family. There are 1-2 cases when from specialized
orphanages children return to family" noticed the specialist.
Khachatryan reported the orphanage does great work with parents,
talk with them. Children of ten years old and more already heave
their opinions and each child seeks to have family even not biological.
She informed about the process of returning the child to family. When
conditions of the family become better parents apply to municipality
which studies the conditions: there must be normal moral and social
conditions. Based on all those facts municipality gives inference
according to which the child can be returned to family. But only the
wish of the parent to return the child is not enough because in case
of absence of correspond inference the child is not returned to family.
In Armenia there are 7 state orphanages, 2 of which are specialized.
760 children live in orphanages, the majority - 510 children are from
KOTAYK DIOCESE - RESTAURANT AT KECHARIS MONASTERY
TO BE DISMANTLED
16:19, June 6, 2012
Yesterday, the Armenian Apostolic Church Diocese of Kotayk issued a
press statement that construction of a restaurant adjacent to the
Kecharis Monastery had been halted and that the eatery was in the
process of being dismantled.
The Diocese said it was spreading the news in the hope that this would
put an end to the complaints received from people who were arguing
that the Church should not allow such a disgrace in the first place.
Readers will remember that Davit Ghazinyan,who owns the company
constructing the restaurant, got the architectural plans approved in
just one day last year.
The work had started without a work permit from the local Tzaghkadzor
The architectural blueprint hadn't been approved by the Ministry of
Culture's Cultural Monuments Preservation Agency.
It also turned out that Catholicos Garegin II was aware of the
restaurant construction and that the church wasn't opposed to it.
Hetq got in touch with Tzaghkadzor Mayor Garoun Mirzoyan who verified
that all construction material was being removed from the site.
We tried to pose some questions to Kotayk Primate Archbishop Karamyan
and Etchmiadzin Public Affairs Director Father Vahram Melikyan.
We were told that a clergy meeting was underway and that no one was
available to speak to us.
Father Melikyan promised to get back to us after the meeting ended.
Armenian Inflation Continues To Fall
Consumer prices in Armenia fell further this spring, putting the
authorities in a stronger position to meet their inflation target for
2012, according to official statistics released on Thursday.
The National Statistical Service (NSS) recorded a year-on-year
inflation rate of just 0.5 percent in May, sharply down from 3 percent
in February and 4.7 percent in December. Finance Minister Vache
Gabrielian cited the `quite low' figure during a cabinet meeting
chaired by Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian.
The Armenian government's target rate for this year is 4 percent
(±1.5 percentage points).
The NSS data shows that inflation eased significantly in May because
of a 1.3 percent drop in the consumer price index. The average price
of foodstuffs was down by 2.4 percent from the April level. A seasonal
rise in agricultural production appears to be the main factor behind
`I don't think that this seasonal deflation is the right criterion to
describe the economy,' Ara Galoyan, an economic analyst, told RFE/RL's
Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). He also called into question the
credibility of the official inflation figure, saying that the actual
cost of life in the country is probably higher than what the NSS
Galoyan predicted that inflation will rise again already this month
because of the renewed depreciation of the Armenian dram.
The national currency has lost more than 4 percent of its nominal
value against the U.S. dollar in the last few weeks. This should push
up the cost of key imported foodstuffs such as wheat and sugar.
Sent by A Topalian