Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian... How Many Seats Each Party Will Get?
How Many Seats Each Party Will Get
04 April 2017

According to the results of the vote, there will be four forces in the next parliament of Armenia: the Republican Party of Armenia, Bargavach Hayastan Party, Yelq bloc and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. 

The number of seats will be determined proportionally to the number of votes for these parties. 

The number of votes for the party is multiplied by 101 and divided by the total number of votes for all the parties which have stepped the threshold of parliament. The outcome is the number of seats that the party or block will get. 

Up to 101 seats, the rest of the seats will be distributed among the parties or blocs in the order of the size of balance, one mandate each. If the balances are equal, the seat will be given to the party which has received the highest number of votes and if the votes are equal, there will be a raffle. 

Initially, the Republicans will have 55 seats, PAP will have 30 seats, Yelq alliance will have 9 and the ARF will have 7 seats.
Freedom House: Armenia and Kyrgyzstan fall near the threshold for designation as a consolidated authoritarian regime
4 April 2017 

In its report entitled “Nations in Transit 2017” Freedom House compares Armenia with Kyrgyzstan. 

The Washington-based international human rights watchdog says in part, “The Armenian and Kyrgyzstani cases illustrate how authoritarianism continues to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances, even in weaker states with superficially competitive political environments. Faced with large-scale popular discontent and lacking the resources to completely co-opt or repress civil society and the opposition, presidents and ruling parties in these countries must find more subtle ways of retaining their grip on power. They may be changing the very structure of the state, but the goal is to preserve the political status quo.” 

The report published before the April 2 parliamentary elections in Armenia contains an interesting prediction. 

“The result in Armenia will be a government and parliament dominated by Sargsyan’s Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), which Sargsyan can continue to lead either officially or from behind the scenes; he has been ambiguous about whether he would serve as prime minister. The parliamentary system is simply a mechanism for ensuring that the RPA will remain in power for the foreseeable future, despite the country’s increasingly frequent outbreaks of antigovernment protest,” the report says. 

Continuing the comparison of the two countries –Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, the prestigious human rights watchdog says, “Armenia and Kyrgyzstan fall near the threshold for designation as a consolidated authoritarian regime. In both cases, the incumbent presidents are approaching the end of their terms and cannot run again. Moreover, they cannot be confident that fellow elites or the public would not revolt if they simply extended their terms, either legally or extralegally. The constitutional overhauls are seen as a way for Sargsyan and Atambayev to preserve their power (and assets) without risking an open confrontation.” 

Details can be found here 

EUROPP - European Politics and Policy - London School of Economics, UK
April 4 2017
Armenia’s election: The status quo wins at the expense of democracy
April 4 2017

Armenia held elections on 2 April which saw the ruling Republican Party of Armenia win the largest share of the vote. Armine Ishkanian indicates that the result was highly disappointing for civil society groups and democracy activists in the country. The question now is whether these groups will succumb to frustration and despair, or whether they will begin the difficult and time-intensive work of building democracy from the bottom up. 

After a quarter of a century of ‘transitioning’ to democracy, Armenia remains at best a partly free ‘managed’ democracy and at worst a semi-consolidated authoritarian regime. The country has high levels of poverty and inequality (over 30% of Armenians live under the poverty line, with 47% of those aged 15 and above being unemployed) and the discontent with the status quo has led to continual emigration since the early 1990s and mass protests over recent years. 

In the immediate aftermath of the election on 2 April, in which the ruling Republican ( Hanrapetakan ) Party of Armenia, received nearly 50% of the vote , questions have been raised as to why, despite growing discontent with the political and socio-economic status quo, including the unresolved conflict in Nagorno Karabakh, so many Armenian citizens appear to have given their support to the ruling party? 

There is now something of an air of resignation among some segments of Armenian civil society, coupled with frustration, disillusionment, and a growing realisation that the majority of Armenian citizens are not interested in democracy and human rights, and are indeed prepared to sell their votes to the highest bidder, even if that means returning the ruling regime to power. 

The fetishisation of elections 

Since independence, elections have been used as benchmarks in measuring the level of democratisation in Armenia and other post-Soviet countries, as well as for assessing the progress these countries have made in their transitions to democracy. A great deal of time and money has been spent on training, preparation, and the observation and monitoring of elections by donors, intergovernmental organisations and NGOs over the past 25 years. But this fetishisation of elections, and in particular of the election day itself, ignores the wider political and social dynamics which can and do influence voter behaviour. 

What we have seen in recent years is a focus on technical solutions to addressing voting irregularities and fraud. Many scholars criticise development agencies’ preference for technical and managerialist approaches. As James Ferguson famously argued in The Anti-Politics Machine , technical solutions are more attractive to donors and development agencies as it provides them with a place to ‘plug’ themselves into relatively easily and without appearing to be too politically intrusive. While maintaining a stance of technocratic, objective, neutrality, such technical approaches often ignore the political and structural causes of voting irregularities and are therefore poorly placed to address them. 

For example, in preparation for Armenia’s 2017 elections, the European Union spent €7 million developing voter identification technologies and installing video cameras to live stream polling stations. The hope was that these new technologies would “diminish the likelihood of voter fraud on election day and will limit tampering with the electoral process inside polling stations”. While the EU acknowledged that its assessment of Armenia’s elections would not be limited to observing electoral procedures on election day itself, this large investment indicates an attempt to use a technical solution to address a problem whose causes are political and structural. 

The irregularities in Armenia’s electoral process, which include vote buying and intimidation of voters, occur before and outside of election day in places and spaces where livestreaming video cameras are unable to reach. They happen in kindergartens and schools, in workplaces, and offices across Armenia in the lead up to a vote. Either through coercion, intimidation, or promises of future benefits, voters are persuaded into selling their support. Coercion alone is an insufficient explanation for voter behaviour, as some voters are actively exercising their agency to pursue their material interests by trading in a commodity (i.e. their vote). To address these problems, it is not enough to capture vote tampering through cameras; we also need to understand why some people are prepared to sell their votes. 

Second, another popular election day monitoring strategy is the use of observation missions. This year, for the first time, some of the Armenian diaspora were actively encouraged and invited to participate in election observations through the Citizen Observer Initiative. This initiative, which was organised by a coalition of NGOs, called on the Armenian diaspora to “take a stand on the side of democracy and rule of law”. The Transparency Tour 2017 , which exemplifies what many scholars describe as a type of ‘volun-tourism’ included meetings with ‘local pro-democracy activists and thought leaders’, an opportunity to learn about Armenian political institutions, and to get immersed in ‘society, culture and current events’. 

While election observation missions indeed have some value, this practice is another technical solution which fetishises election day and ignores the processes leading up to the vote. While hundreds of individuals from the Armenian diaspora travelled to participate as observers, their numbers were overshadowed by the number of local observers from some well-known and respected NGOs as well as some more obscure and somewhat dubious organisations. The observation missions organised by the latter groups, are, according to local sources, an indication of the vote-riggers propensity to learn, adapt, and innovate. 

To be clear, the point here is not to argue that technological solutions and observation missions are not necessary. On the contrary, they can be of great assistance in enhancing public confidence in the electoral process. However, they are no substitute for the much more difficult process of understanding and addressing the underlying causes and factors which lead people to sell their votes. 

Civil society and democracy in an age of anger and mistrust 

According to most normative interpretations, civil society plays an important role in democracy building by promoting active civic participation, dialogue and debate, as well as developing social capital and trust. Yet in recent years, public trust in many institutions, including political parties, trade unions and NGOs, has sharply declined, not just in Armenia, but in many parts of the world. Today, some claim, we are living in the age of anger and mistrust and in an era where politics is influenced by fear and anxiety. Many scholars agree that recent protests linked to these issues around the world reflect rising concerns about a lack of democracy, social justice and dignity, as well as growing precarity and inequality. 

Since 2010, Armenia has had its share of protests and civic mobilisations against corruption, the absence of the rule of law/democracy, the rise of oligarchic capitalism, and a failure by the formal political elites to address the concerns of ordinary Armenian citizens. In my own research, I found that activists in Armenia often understood citizenship to mean that individuals have rights as well as responsibilities toward their communities and their country. As such, they would encourage people to become the ‘owners’ [ derer ] of their country: active subjects rather than passive and silent bystanders in society who privately complain about problems, but do not take any public action to change things. 

Yet, they also acknowledged that despite the visible anger and discontent, this sense of empowered citizenship and civic responsibility was not widespread in Armenia. As Sona Manusyan writes , there continues to be ‘resistance against resistance in Armenia’ and there ‘simultaneously exists a desire to change the situation alongside a fear of change.’ Some Yerevan-based activists have attempted to build links with communities and individuals outside the capital to widen participation, but most recognise that much more needs to be done to raise awareness and to build a culture of democracy. 

Once the dust has settled, it remains to be seen how civil society in Armenia will respond to the latest elections. Will it succumb to frustration and despair or will it begin the difficult and time-intensive work of building democracy from the bottom up? There is clearly much to be done and it is too soon to make predictions. 

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of EUROPP – European Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics. 

RFE/RL Report 

Karapetian Vows `New Armenia' After Election Victory
April 04, 2017

Prime Minister Karen Karapetian said on Tuesday that his government
has received a popular "mandate for change" and will strive to
transform Armenia after winning Sunday's parliamentary elections.

"We are determined to put into practice the mandate for change given
to us by the people," Karapetian said in a message on the election
outcome posted on his Facebook page.

"Consistent and hard work awaits us," he wrote. "Undoubtedly, a lot
needs to be done but we are not afraid of the difficult path ahead."

"I promise that we will spare no effort to create a NEW ARMENIA so
that every citizen of our country feels better than they did before,"
added the first deputy chairman of the ruling Republican Party of
Armenia (HHK).

Karapetian personally conducted the HHK's election campaign, pledging
to implement "serious reforms" and attract large-scale investments in
Armenia's economy. He already unveiled an ambitious reform agenda
shortly after being appointed as prime minister in
September. Opposition leaders dismissed it as a publicity stunt aimed
at facilitating the HHK's victory in the April 2 elections.

The HHK leadership has made clear that Karapetian will continue to
serve as prime minister at least until President Serzh Sarkisian
serves out his final term and Armenia becomes a parliamentary republic
in April 2018. Sarkisian, who is also the HHK's chairman, has still
not clarified whether he plans to replace Karapetian then. He has said
only that he will continue playing a major role in "ensuring the
security of our people."

Karapetian indicated earlier that he would like to retain his post
after April 2018.

The 53-year-old premier did not say on Tuesday whether his cabinet
formed in October will undergo changes as a result of the
elections. Sarkisian and the HHK have also not made any public
statements to that effect so far.
Diaspora celebrities call on world culture workers to visit Artsakh
Prominent Diaspora Armenian culture workers Serzh Tankian, Arsinee Khanjian, Atom Egoyan and Eric Nazaryan held a press conference in Stepanakert on April 3 at the "Tufenkian" foundation initiative
Artsakhpress reports, Tufenkian Foundation's Executive Director Raffi Doudaklian in his opening speech noted that Diaspora celebrities have arrived in Artsakh with a three-day visit to get acquainted with the local life and to associate with the Artsakh people.

Actress Arsinee Khanjian on behalf of Serj Tankian, Atom Egoyan, Eric Nazarian made a statement, urging the culture workers of the world to visit Artsakh and support the people of Artsakh who continue to write, compose, play and paint even when they are isolated from the world because of the war. During the conference, they talked about the aim of their visit to Artsakh.

Afterwards, they answered the journalists’ questions. In the response to "Artsakhpress" question on cultural programs concerning Artsakh, the famous musician and composer Serj Tankian said that last year he composed the score for the Jivan Avetisyan's feature film “The Last Resident”.

It was my first creative relationship with Artsakh, and we worked very well together. We have arrived here to establish relations,” said S. Tankian, adding that he plans organization of a concert in Artsakh.

Arsinee Khanjian noted that the world known culture workers should touch upon the Artsakh topic, which is very important. “It would be better to present the works of the Artsakh people in different corners of the world for the recognition of Artsakh,” she said and added: “If we do not live here, it does not mean that we have no responsibilities."

Famous film director, screenwriter Atom Egoyan said he is looking for stories that are going to be influential; for shooting a film about Artsakh. "For example, the Shushi’s story is quite powerful. Even script is written on this subject. Soon I will get acquainted with it,” he said. Film director and screenwriter.

Eric Nazarian said that they aim to assist Artsakh authors, young people to shoot a film on Artsakh. As they have felt the horror of the war on their own back, which is very important for correct reproduction and representation.

The961, Lebanon
April 4 2017
Lebanese People Are Freaking Out About Lebanon’s Tourism Minister Choosing Armenia Over Lebanon
Posted on April 4, 2017 

When asked if he preferred Armenia or Lebanon, the Lebanese Minister of Tourism chose Armenia. Evidently, this resulted in quite the outrage among the Lebanese people.

The Minister, Avedis Guidanian, is also the deputy chairman of the Tashnag party – an American political party in Lebanon.

During the interview on Al Jadeed’s “Talk of the Town” show where the host, Mona Abou Hamze, asked him questions to which he could only choose between 2 options.

Among the questions, he was asked to choose between Israel and Turkey – which he refused to answer.

Then when he was asked to choose between Armenia and Lebanon, he quickly chose Armenia.

Understandably, Armenia is his mother country and he is a member of one of the main Armenian parties. Lebanon and Armenia have close relations – especially due to the fact that we both faced persecution from the same oppressor – the Ottoman (modern day Turkey). And the fact that Lebanon became a safe haven for many Armenians fleeing the persecution.

Quick history lesson: During the time when the Ottomans were committing a genocide against the Armenians, they were also forcing a famine on Lebanon. An estimated 30-50% of our population were forced to starve to death. Yes, you read that right… up to half of the population.

The series of questions start at the 21-minute mark but this is the full interview:

Following his response, the audience applauded him and the host commended him on choosing his “motherland.”

Many people didn’t like his response and the hashtag #كيدانيان_استقل was trending on Twitter – demanding his resignation.

Following the outcry, he issued a statement saying the following:

“Let’s make things clear, I am a Lebanese with Armenian roots, Lebanon is my home country.”

There was an outcry among Turkish people – calling him racist – for his comments towards Turkey.

“I would not promote anything related to Turkey, none of their products, or establish relations with them. I cannot prevent Turks from coming to Lebanon and I do not want to welcome them at an airport,” he said.

The former minister of Justice Ashraf Rifi also asked him to step down.

The minister is known for his strong leadership among the Armenian community in Lebanon. He’s always fought for their interest. This was known when he was appointed.

I don’t think this means he can’t do his job as the minister of tourism for Lebanon.

Even if he didn’t like Lebanon, which is not the case, he could still do the job. Don’t you work a job you don’t like? But still get it done?

Are we really getting pissed about him? Our politicians are openly choosing and fighting for the interests of countries a million times worse than Armenia. Where’s the outrage?

No comments: