Books on Armenia
Update No: 316 - (26/04/07)
Coming elections affect Nagorno-Karabakh
Armenia is to have parliamentary elections on May 12th. But it is also having
presidential elections in July that are occasioning a change of leadership in
the ever-vital Nagorno- Karabakh.The Karabakh parliament set the election date
on April 4 after Arkady Ghukasian, in power since 1997, reaffirmed his decision
not seek a third term in office.
Ghukasian has effectively lent support to plans by the chief of his security
service to succeed him as president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh
Republic (NKR), it emerged on April 20th. A senior member of Ghukasian's
Democratic Artsakh Movement (ZhAM) party said the governing party has decided to
back Bako Sahakian, chief of the NKR's National Security Service, during a
presidential election scheduled for July 19. "The Democratic Party of
Artsakh has approved the idea of supporting Bako Sahakian's candidacy,"
Vahram Atanesian told RFE/RL by phone.
Other officials in Stepanakert said Sahakian has already filed for registration
as an election candidate. Masis Mayilian, the Armenian-controlled territory's
deputy foreign minister, is widely expected to be his main challenger.
According to Atanesian, the ZhAM is now trying to get the three other parties
represented in the Karabakh parliament to also endorse Sahakian. One of those
parties, Azat Hayrenik, is a junior partner in Ghukasian's coalition cabinet.
The two others, the Karabakh branch of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun)
and the Movement-88 party, are in opposition.
A local Dashnaktsutyun leader, Artur Mosiyan, confirmed that his party is
holding talks with the ZhAM on the issue but would not say whether it is
prepared to support the Ghukasian-backed candidate. Dashnaktsutyun issued a
statement earlier in April harshly criticizing the Karabakh government's
Elections to parliament
Samvel Babayan, the Yerevan-based former military leader of Nagorno-Karabakh,
dismissed on April 20th widespread suggestions that he was pressured by the
Armenian government into bowing out of an election showdown with a brother of
Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian.
Babayan and businessman Aleksandr Sarkisian were the main candidates in a
single-member constituency in the southeastern Syunik region, in what many
regarded as the most intriguing individual contest in Armenia's upcoming
parliamentary elections. Sarkisian is strongly backed by the governing
Republican Party (HHK), while Babayan's Dashink (Alliance) party claims to be in
opposition to the Armenian government.
Babayan unexpectedly withdrew his candidacy from the constituency encompassing
the town of Goris and surrounding villages in late March, saying that will
contest the elections only on the party list basis.
In an interview with RFE/RL, the once powerful retired general blamed the media
for the decision. "The media wanted to personalize things and turn an
ideological struggle into a personal one," he said. "I just did not
want to allow that and decided to score a team victory [for Dashink]
Babayan also dismissed speculation that the pullout from Goris was the price he
paid for being deemed eligible to stand in the May 12 elections. Under Armenia's
constitution, only those Armenian citizens who have permanently resided in the
country for the past five years can run for the National Assembly. Babayan moved
to Yerevan from Karabakh in 2004.
"I have not met Robert Kocharian in the past two years," argued
Babayan. "We are an opposition, but an ideological, program-based
one," he said of Dashink, dismissing lingering suspicions about his secret
ties with Armenia's Karabakh-born president.
Babayan, who commanded the Karabakh Armenian army from 1993-1999, has kept a low
profile since he and several of his aides were reportedly taken to Armenia's
National Security Service for questioning in early March. But he sounded bullish
about taking on the authorities as he kicked off Dashink's election campaign in
the southern town of Echmiadzin on Thursday.
"We must find the strength to remove the government," he said in a
campaign speech there. "Otherwise we will be doomed to living in
Meanwhile, Aleksandr Sarkisian, notorious for his flamboyant behavior, seems
assured of victory in the Goris constituency. The area close to Karabakh has
long been considered a de facto fiefdom of Surik Khachatrian, the equally
controversial governor of Syunik affiliated with the governing Republican Party
of Armenia (HHK). Government critics fear that people there will simply be
bribed or bullied into voting for the government-backed candidate.
Earlier this month, Sarkisian visited the local village of Tegh, the birthplace
of the his father, on a campaign trip. "He said, 'People, I don't like
making speeches. Just elect me and I'll then tell you how I'm going to support
you,'" Laura, a resident of Tegh, told RFE/RL.
The middle-aged woman admitted that she and two other members of her family
would readily accept a vote bribe. "We have three votes and we would sell
all of them. He will do nothing for the village anyway," she said.
But as one man in the neighboring village of Khndzoresk observed, "They
don't have to hand out flour or something else. They just show force and you
He said villagers are too scared to even report inaccuracies in the local voter
registry to election officials. "Whatever the governor and the village
mayor say has to be executed," he claimed. "If you defy, your end will
A climate of fear is even more evident in the town of Goris where, unlike in
most other parts of Armenia, many people avoid speaking out against the
government or supporting the opposition loudly. "The governor is
intimidating everyone," explained one elderly man.
In Syunik's capital Kapan and the nearby industrial town of Kajaran, power
effectively belongs to another senior member of the HHK. Maxim Hakobian is the
chief executive of a German-owned mining giant which is the area's main
employer. "Our decision depends on the director," one resident of
Kajaran told RFE/RL in reference to the elections. "We do whatever the
director tells us to do."
Hakobian will, no doubt, tell them to vote for the HHK and its candidate in the
Kapan-Kajaran constituency. That might explain why local residents showed little
enthusiasm when Raffi Hovannisian, the leader of the opposition Zharangutyun
party, visited the town on a campaign trip to Syunik this week. Two of them
stopped Hovannisian's campaign motorcade on its way out of Kajaran to apologize
for not approaching him and shaking his hands.
"We could lose our jobs because of that," one of the men told the
popular opposition politician. "There are no other employment opportunities
Things looked similar in Syunik's most remote district bordering Iran. "If
somebody from the Republican Party holds a meeting here, all school students,
factory employees, schoolteachers, and other workers will be forced to
attend," said one woman in the town of Agarak. "But if the opposition
comes to town, you'd better stay away from the square."
Yerevan and Baku in new talks
Armenia and Azerbaijan are both due to have presidential elections in 2008 -
not the best time to make concessions, one might suppose. Yet both sides said on
April 19th that they have been presented with new proposals aimed at addressing
their remaining differences on the Nagorno-Karabakh peace accord put forward by
international mediators. Paradoxically it could just be that the pre-electoral
season concentrates the minds of the two presidents and their ministers on
The foreign ministers of the two countries met in the presence of the American,
French and Russian co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group for nearly five hours in
Serbia's capital Belgrade on April 18th. The talks took place on the sidelines
of a ministerial meeting of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation organization.
"We basically focused on the remaining differences in the co-chairs'
document on the basic principles [of a Karabakh settlement,]" Armenia's
Vartan Oskanian said the next day. "The co-chairs had some prepared views
as to how those differences can be addressed. We've listened and taken note of
the co-chairs' views and we will bring those views to the attention of our
Oskanian declined to go into details. The Azerbaijani side also declined to
disclose those proposals, with a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Baku
telling the Turan news agency that they concerned two of the eight key elements
of the proposed peace deal. The official, Khazar Ibrahim, said the mediators are
trying to "to bring the sides' positions closer."
Both Oskanian and Ibrahim said the troika will likely visit Baku, Yerevan and
Stepanakert after Armenia's May 12 parliamentary elections. "The co-chairs
most probably will visit the region and meet directly with our presidents to get
their reactions to these particular views," said the Armenian minister.
"And on the basis of the results of that visit they will decide when and
where to organize the presidents' next meeting."
The mediators hope that Presidents Ilham Aliev and Robert Kocharian will cut a
framework peace deal before the start of campaigning for presidential elections
due in both Armenia and Azerbaijan next year.
The conflicting parties are discussing a gradual settlement of the Karabakh
dispute that would culminate in a referendum of self-determination in Karabakh.
The remaining sticking points reportedly include practical modalities of that
referendum. Addressing the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna earlier this week,
Oskanian said the parties are as close to resolving the Karabakh conflict as
Oskanian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov appeared to have
failed to make further progress during their previous face-to-face meeting held
in Geneva on March 14
"I can simply say that compared to the Geneva meeting the atmosphere of the
[Belgrade] meeting was much more relaxed," said Oskanian. "It was
well-intended and businesslike. Overall, it was a normal meeting."
Economic growth 9.4% in January-February
Armenia's economic growth between January and February of this year stood at 9.4
per cent, while the country's GDP totalled 186.8 billion drams (519.1 million
Euro), the national statistics service said recently, Interfax News Agency
For the period under review, consumer prices rose 5.1 per cent, year-on-year.
Armenia's industrial product prices were down 0.9 per cent, its volume of
industrial output was 99 per cent, while its trade totalled 199 billion drams
(552.6 million Euro), up 51.5 per cent compared to the same period in 2006. Last
year, the country's economic growth was seven per cent. In line with Armenia's
2007 budget, GDP growth is expected at nine per cent, compared with 13.4 per
cent in 2006, and inflation should be four percent.
Tbilisi, Yerevan discuss regional issues
Georgian Foreign Minister, Gela Bezhuashvili, and his Armenian counterpart,
Vardan Oskanian, met in Yerevan for talks focused on problems in bilateral and
regional relations, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on March
22, Interfax News Agency reported.
Georgian President, Mikhail Saakashvili, also visited Armenia on March 22-23,
the statement said. The Armenian president's press secretary, Viktor Sogomonian,
confirmed that Saakashvili had arrived in Armenia on a private visit at the
invitation of President, Robert Kocharian. The two presidents went to the ski
resort of Tsakhkadzor where Kocharian usually spends his winter vacation. There
they held talks followed by a brief rest and skiing.
MINERALS & METALS
Foreigners invest 110m in metallurgical, mining industries
Foreign investment in the Armenian mining and metallurgical industries totalled
110 million Euro in 2006, virtually the same amount as in 2005, Deputy Economic
Development and Trade Minister, Tigran Davtian, said at a press conference on
April 6th, Interfax News Agency reported.
A total of 66 million Euro was invested in the Armenian mining industry, he
said. Of that amount, Germany's Cronimet spent 47 million Euro on upgrades to
the Zangezursky Copper and Molybdenum Plant. The remaining investment was spent
on Ararat Gold Recovery Company and Kapansky GOK, he said. Davtian said the
development trends seen in these industries last year will likely continue in
2007, although investment will be slightly less.