Books on Armenia
Update No: 326 - (28/02/08)
PM wins presidency
Armenia has just held an election for the presidency on February 19. It has been
a highly contentious affair.
Few believe in the total probity of the Armenian electoral system. In this case
there was something a little too neat about the result. The establishment
figure, Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian 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 surprising 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 and
internationally their view is likely to be regarded as the definitive one.
There were as many in the previous five presidential elections in Armenia since
independence in 1991. The OSCE , somewhat to peoples surprise, 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 perhaps they would prefer not to know. Armenia is
not the least of their troubles.
Thousands of angry opposition supporters marched through Yerevan on February
20 to protest the outcome of the presidential vote. The demonstrations raised
concerns of instability in this volatile, strategic country at the juncture of
the energy-rich Caspian Sea region and southern Europe.
However, with the West and key ally Russia signaling approval of election, it
was unclear whether the opposition would muster enough support to mount a
serious challenge and force a new vote -- or spark a mass uprising like those
that occurred in other ex-Soviet republics.