Books on Armenia
Update No: 327 - (31/03/08)
PM wins presidency
There is much controversy about the presidential election Armenia held on
February 19. It has become a highly contentious affair. There have been street
protests in Yerevan, where opposition forces are concentrated.
Few believe in the total probity of the Armenian electoral system. There was
something a little too neat about the result. The establishment figure, Prime
Minister Serzh Sarkisian, a key ally of President Robert Kocharian, gained 53%
of the vote, while his key challenger, former president Levon Ter-Petrosian, got
a mere 21%. Yet the latter has the backing of 20 opposition parties. In the days
up to the poll his rallies in Yerevan attracted as many, if not more, supporters
than those for Sarkisian. It is not surpring if this has aroused suspicions.
How convenient for the PM to get just over the bar of 50%, obviating the need
for a second round, with all the storm und drang that would have entailed. In
the old days authoritarian regimes exposing themselves to popular election
obtained 90% or more. Nowadays 50% will do. A more sophisticated way of doing
There are serious reasons to believe that a miscarriage of justice has taken
place. The crowds that assembled in the central square of Yerevan for the
opposition were in the region of 50,000, just as big, if not rather more so,
than those for the PM. This does not square with a 53-21 result.
The OSCE acquiesces
The observers of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
nevertheless deemed the election a fair one. There were 400 of them.
There were as many in the previous five presidential elections in Armenia since
independence in 1991. The OSCE passed the last parliamentary elections as fair
last year. But how do they know?
They don't speak the language. They are aliens. All sorts of hanky-panky could
be going on without their knowledge.
There is also the fact that they would prefer not to know. Armenia is the least
of their troubles.
State of emergency declared
Kocharyan declared a 20-day state of emergency on March 1. Restrictions included
a ban on street protests and a measure limiting media to citing official
Kocharyan lifted that media restriction but left in force a measure forbidding
the publication of "obviously false and destabilising information,"
the presidential press service said in a statement.
He also lifted a ban on the distribution of political leaflets without official
permission, the statement said.
Russian investments boost the economy
The ex-Soviet state has enjoyed strong economic performance in the past few
years, with gross domestic product growing in 2007 by 13.7 percent.
But credit rating agency Moody's Investors Service said in November that
Armenia's economy could be vulnerable to an international slowdown and a cooling
of its booming construction sector.
Russian firms control a significant chunk of the economy. Below are facts about
the biggest foreign investors in Armenia:
* Armenia has given the Russian state railway monopoly a 30-year contract to run
the national railway network for 1.7 billion drams ($5.5 million).
* Russian mobile operator Vimpelcom has become sole owner of Armenia's mobile
and telecom operator Armentel after paying $488 million.
* Russia's top cellular operator Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) acquired 80 percent in
Armenia's K-Telecom, which operates under the Vivacell brand, for 310 million
euros ($430 million).
* An Armenian foil plant is controlled by Russia's RUSAL, the world's
third-largest aluminum producer.
* Iran and Armenia have built a new $200 million gas pipeline to transport
Iranian gas to Armenia in exchange for electricity supplies. Russian-Armenian
company ArmRosGazprom -- in which Russian gas giant Gazprom owns 57.6 percent,
the Armenian government holds 34.7 percent and Russian gas producer Itera owns
7.7 percent -- is to operate the new pipeline.
* Russia's Gazprombank owns 80.09 percent of Areximbank in Armenia.
* Russia's VTB purchased a 70 percent stake in Armenian Armsberbank and renamed
it VTB Armenia.
* Russian TDA Holdings Ltd. holds 96.15 percent of Armimeximbank.
* Lebanon's Byblos S.A.L. has acquired the Armenia International Trade Bank.