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ARMENIA


  
  



In-depth Business Intelligence

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
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

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
29,800

Population
2,991,360

Principal ethnic groups
Armenian 93.3%
Azeri 2.6%
Russian 2%

Capital
Yerevan

Currency
Dram

President
Robert Kocharian


 


Update No: 301 - (30/01/06)

Armenian opposition in disarray 
President Robert Kocharian has wrong footed the opposition. He is not a very pleasant man; but he is an astute political operator. 
He realized, unlike his ghastly co-dictator in Belarus, Alexander Lukashenka, that things could never be the same again after the series of colour revolutions in the FSU, two very close to home in Georgia and Ukraine. He does not want to share the fate of Eduard Shevardnadze. As a much younger man, he can see a life beyond politics. He has insisted, like Putin, that he will not attempt to change the constitutional rules, which disallow him to stand for a third term, and contest the 2008 presidential elections. 
The main opposition parties are reeling, following the collapse of their latest attempt to foster mass protests against his administration, all concerning a clever referendum on minor constitutional changes that he held late last year - having got Western backing for them, a masterstroke. 
Opposition leaders are now saying that they are prepared for a period of prolonged political skirmishing. Despite their evidently weak position at present, some opposition leaders continue to proclaim that their efforts to topple Kocharian will succeed before Armenia holds its next parliamentary elections in 2007. 
A coalition of 27 opposition parties and non-governmental organizations had sought to use the November 27 constitutional referendum to launch a fresh political counter-offensive against Kocharian. 
At first, the coalition urged a referendum boycott. After the official approval of the constitutional changes amid controversy over turnout totals, the opposition coalition opted for a mass-protest strategy. In doing so, however, opposition leaders appeared to miscalculate the population's willingness to take to the streets, as the initial rallies drew sparse crowds. The initial rallies failed to attract crowds of more than a couple of thousand people. 
The opposition originally envisioned that the protests would continue until the government agreed to its demands, namely the invalidation of the referendum result due to insufficient turnout. Opposition leaders insisted that officials massaged both the turnout totals and the voting tally. At the first protest, the opposition issued an ultimatum, giving Kocharian 72 hours to agree to the invalidation demand. One leading presidential critic, Aram Sargsian, leader of the Republic Party, went so far as to vow that the protest movement would smash the current [Kocharian's] Third Republic, which was founded in 1991, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and build a Fourth Republic in its place. 
The low turnout at the November 27th rally did little to impress Kocharian's administration, and officials ignored the opposition referendum demand. The next opposition rally on December 9th also failed to generate a significant turnout. It marks the second time that the protest strategy has failed to achieve the desired results. A similar campaign in 2004 fizzled after government security forces used tough tactics against protesters in April 2004. 
Concurrent with the protests, opposition leaders announced that they would embark on a comprehensive effort to document electoral violations during the referendum, as well as initiate a petition drive in support of the call to invalidate the referendum result. As with the protests, though, both efforts fell flat. Political observers in Yerevan noted that opposition parties were not undertaking any active steps to gather signatures. 
Tactical difference among leaders now appears to be straining the opposition's cohesiveness. For example, the National Unity Party, led by Artashes Gegamian, joined in the call for a referendum boycott, but began distancing itself from the mass-protest strategy in early December. On December 14th, two prominent leaders of the Ardarutiun (Justice) Bloc, Stepan Demirchian and Arshak Sadoyan, followed Gheghamian in saying that rallies are not appropriate. In addition, attitudes vary greatly among those leaders still favouring the protest strategy. Sargsian is among the more confrontational leaders. Others, such as Vazgen Manukian of the National Democratic Union, seem interested in staking out a softer position. In an interview with the A1+ weekly, for instance, Manukian pointedly refused to endorse a statement made by Sargsian that Kocharian could be ousted with a single phone call once the "critical mass" of opposition protesters was reached. 
In addition to a lack of popular backing, Armenia's opposition does not seem to enjoy significant international support for its effort to cancel the referendum results. In general, foreign governments and international organizations, such as the Council of Europe, have supported the opposition's contention that referendum turnout figures seemed inflated. Yerevan-based European diplomats reportedly voiced their dissatisfaction with the conduct of the referendum during a December 8th meeting with opposition leaders. 

Foreign support mounts up
Nevertheless, foreign governments and international organizations have stopped short of characterizing the referendum's outcome as tainted. It appears that some opposition parties are set to adopt a more aggressive stance in the international arena. For example, the Justice parliamentary faction has already decided to replace its representative in the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly with a bitter presidential foe, party leader Stepan Demirchian, who will replace the moderate-minded Shavarsh Kocharian. 
Opposition-leaning media outlets have started to express frustration over the inability of the anti-Kocharian coalition to make headway in promoting political change. "They sent people home to organize a long and strong struggle," noted one sarcastic commentary published in the Aravot newspaper on December 10th. 
Armenian experts suggest widespread apathy concerning the constitutional referendum worked against the opposition. At a December 6th discussion sponsored by the National Press Club, political scientist Stepan Safarian maintained that the only issue capable of generating broad public interest these days is the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. This is stalled by the fact that Kocharian is a hard-liner on the issue - as one might expect from the former president and warlord of the contentious enclave!

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ENERGY

Construction of Hrazdan power plant launched


Armenia and Iran have launched the fifth block of Hrazdan thermal power plant, Armenian minister of energy, Armen Movsisyan, announced at a meeting on December 8th. Iran will provide 150m Euro towards the project, New Europe reported.
Russian premier Mikhail Fradkov said that Russia's party is also interested in participating in the project. In this context, Movsisyan affirmed Russia's desire but added that it was not supported with a specific proposal but Armenia will consider Russia's desire. However Russia is participating in the project.
Movsisyan said, "We actively work with the Project Institute, which has arranged the building of the 5th block of Hrazdan thermal power plant." It was recalled that the Russian party, RAO UES, of Russia and Gazprom Corporation initially claimed the right for building the block, as well as laying the Armenian part of Iran-Armenia gas pipeline. The Armenian government chose two Iranian companies, Sanir and MAR.
Movsisyan confirmed that the pipeline would be commissioned in early 2007. He stated that Iran-Armenia gas pipeline will be an energy security factor for Armenia and not considered as an alternative to Russian route of gas supplies.
It was decided that the Armenian party would pay for the Iranian gas by means of electricity supplies. According to experts, if Russia increases gas tariffs and Georgia does the same regarding transit tariffs then Armenia may resort to Iranian gas supplies fully.

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FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION

Russia among Armenia's major trade-economic partners 

Moscow continues to be one of the main trade and economic partners of Yerevan, said Armenian foreign minister, Vardan Oskanian, at a meeting on the results of the ministry of foreign affairs activities in 2005. "Russia continues to be one of the major trade and economic partners of Armenia. In the first eleven months of 2005, trade turnover between Armenia and Russia was about 300 million Euro," Oskanian said, Interfax News Agency reported.
According to him, the holding of the 'Year of Russia' in Armenia boosted bilateral cooperation in 2005. A number of visits at the top level were held, during which the parties discussed matters of development of mutually favourable cooperation, as well as settlement of the Nagorno Karabak conflict, development and ensuring stability in the region. He also stressed the seventh session for the Armenian-Russian Intergovernmental Commission for Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation. The agenda of the meeting included matters of development of bilateral industrial, energy, transport, bank and trade cooperation, full exploitation of the enterprises conveyed to Russia by Armenia within Property for Debt Agreement. The parties also discussed the direction of the work of Kavkaz-Poti train-ferry.
Touching on the development of Armenian-Russian relations in 2005, Oskanian said that strategic cooperation with Russia in the military-political, trade-economic, and humanitarian fields remains among the priorities of Armenia's foreign policy. Armenia also continues to actively develop and expand relations with the US in all areas, Oskanian said. Among the key results of Armenian-US cooperation is the approval by the US-based Millennium Challenge Corporation of a five-year assistance programme for Armenia worth 235.65 million Euro, the minister said. In addition, the traditional volume of humanitarian aid the US provides to Armenia will remain in place in 2006, he said. Besides, Oskanian noted the continuing education cooperation between Armenia and Russia. Some 100 free education places are allocated in Russian higher education institutions for Armenian citizens. The activities of the Russian-Armenian (Slavonic) University promoted the education cooperation. Last year was also productive for Armenia's European integration, Oskanian said. Relations between Armenia's regions and Russian Federation subjects became notably activated in 2005. Delegations of Russian Sverdlovsk, Perm, Samara, Rostov and Penza regions, Krasnodar Territory, Moscow and Saint Petersburg visited Armenia. 

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