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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: 321 - (26/09/07)

Anointed successor
There is no bigger problem in the leadership of a state than who is to be the successor. This is an urgent matter in Armenia, with elections to the presidency only six months away.

President Robert Kocharian considers Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian his worthiest successor and will therefore be supporting his long-time close associate in next year's Armenian presidential election, his spokesman said on September 14th. 

Asked about who Kocharian would like to be succeeded by after completing his second and final term in March, Victor Soghomonian, the presidential press secretary, told reporters: "I think the president of the republic has already named that person. The president has made it clear that he fancies the current prime minister as the next president of the republic. It is obvious that there is no other politician in Armenia who has that much experience and is capable of performing [presidential] duties," Soghomonian said, referring to Sarkisian. 

The remarks are the most explicit endorsement yet by Kocharian of Sarkisian's presidential ambitions. The two men are both natives of Nagorno-Karabakh, having led the Armenian-populated disputed territory during its secessionist war with Azerbaijan before moving to senior government positions in Yerevan in the 1990s. 

Kocharian and Sarkisian became Armenia's two most powerful men after the forced resignation in 1998 of then President Levon Ter-Petrosian. They have since worked together to weather many political storms and keep their political opponents at bay. 

Accordingly, few observers have doubted that Sarkisian is Kocharian's preferred successor. But expert opinion is divided over whether Sarkisian would be willing to let Kocharian retain a key government role in the event of his victory in the presidential ballot. Hence, lingering speculation about friction between the two men. 

Soghomonian could not say what he thinks the Armenian president would like to do after his resignation. He also refused to comment on the decision by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), a junior partner in the governing coalition, not to back Sarkisian for the presidency. 

The fall-out for Nagorno-Karabakh
This is bad news for the Azeris. There is little chance of Sarkisian bending the hard-line approach to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. This is a main reason why Kocharian wants him as his successor. He will keep inviolate what he regards as his main achievement, the de facto independence of the enclave. The longer it lasts de facto, the better its chances of having it de jure.

The conflict is highly injurious to all parties. The embargo on trade with Armenia by Azerbaijan and Turkey is doubly damaging to its hard-pressed economy. The Azeris are supporting one and a half million emigres in effect, turfed out of their homes in the early 1990s.

Unfortunately, there is no obvious way out of the impasse. The Azeris are banking on their oil wealth to build up a far bigger army, and far better equipped, than anything the Armenians can put in the field. But, alas, there is a power with even more oil wealth, and a far larger and better equipped army, that will assuredly back Armenia in any showdown, Russia, as it did last time. 

As with the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, the situation is crying out for a statesman in the De Gaulle class, who settled the Algerian problem. Alas, they do not come along very often.

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