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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 2,797 2,367 2,100 139
GNI per capita
 US $ 950 790 570 143
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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 things.

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 information.

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.

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