Former foreign minister Vartan Oskanian’s joining Armenia’s second most important governing party may be an indication that a centrist opposition is emerging in the country.
The Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) recently issued a statement jointly with its two coalition partners – the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) and Orinats Yerkir – that the coalition will not be contesting the May parliamentary elections with a single list. The three political parties only announced their agreement around “civilized competition”.
A diplomatic scandal is emerging between Armenia’s immediate neighbors, Azerbaijan and Iran, with a potential to entail unpredictable consequences for the entire region.
On February 12, Azerbaijani Ambassador to Tehran Javanshir Akhundov was summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry where he was handed a note of protest with the demand “to stop anti-Iranian activities of Israeli special services in the territory of Azerbaijan.”
During the past week Armenia has been visited by high-ranking Russian officials, who have concluded a number of important agreements, which, however, some Armenian experts took as a “crackdown”.
Russia, which holds control of the entire energy sector of Armenia and whose Federal Security Service (a formal KGB successor) is protecting the borders of Armenia, has decided to check whether everything is fine down here and to strengthen the relationship just in case.
The second largest pro-establishment faction’s opting out of the vote on a major piece of legislation related to the economy has revealed several layers of differences within the Armenian establishment.
On Monday, lawmakers were called to take a vote on a government-submitted draft law “On Restricting Cash Transactions” under which all transactions worth more than 3 million drams (about $7,700) must be carried out exclusively through banks.
Last Friday’s controversial arrest of a pro-opposition newspaper’s journalist has raised questions and suspicions among the country’s media community that it might be a retribution for his critical reporting against the chief of the national police force.
Hayk Gevorgyan, a 45-year-old deputy editor for the Haykakan Zhamanak daily, is accused of a hit and run and police say he has not complied with their request to come for questioning. Meanwhile, the paper’s chief editor and opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC) activist Nikol Pashinyan as well as most media organizations and human rights activists describe the case as persecution connected with Gevorgyan’s professional activities.
Against the backdrop of rising inflation, falling standards of living, general impoverishment of the population as well as promises of the incumbent authorities to ensure the conduct of independent Armenia’s fairest elections, the main focus of the campaigning may become economic platforms of political parties.
The main intrigue at May parliamentary elections is likely to be whether the two coalition parties, the Republicans led by President Serzh Sargsyan and Prosperous Armenia that does not deny its loyalty to ex-president Robert Kocharyan, will be able to coordinate their actions and act without causing damage to each other.
The May parliamentary elections in Armenia may become unprecedented at least by their potential to unite some irreconcilable political forces.
Upon the initiative of the parliamentary opposition parties, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and Heritage, the National Assembly is to hold hearings on the possibility of scrapping the current mixed electoral system, including single-mandate constituency and party list ballots, and switching to an all-proportional vote.
Turkey is not in a hurry to materialize its threats of economic sanctions against France, as it deems the law passed by the Senate of France criminalizing the public denial of the Armenian genocide is not yet a final decision by Paris. So says Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan.
Turkey has so far limited its actions to some demonstrative steps, showing what it can do if French President Nicolas Sarkozy signs the law, which is expected in the coming days.
In their statement following a trilateral meeting in Sochi, hosted by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan confirmed that they are willing to work further on the resolution, on the mechanism proposed by mediators to investigate border incidents and boost humanitarian cooperation.