Join Date: 08 2004
Location: London, UK
Uploads: 0Reputation: 482 | 7
Economist: Armenia's murky politics
чем не тема опубликовать ответную в голосе аля алюр на трех постулатах
Last edited by Hrach_Techie; 11.04.2007 at 13:40.
Join Date: 11 2004
Location: back to meta level
Blog Entries: 3
Uploads: 0Reputation: 202 | 4
Armenia’s cumbersome politics
On April 11th, 2007 the Economist Intelligence Unit issued an article on its Views Wire, titled Armenia’s Murky Politics. It is rather difficult to think that politics can be anything but murky – let us look into politics in the Western world, and try not to see the very many shades of murkiness; it will be a rather difficult task. It is the same West that says that politics is the art of the impossible, which is so true in the case of Armenia.
Armenia itself is an unprecedented case in political science, both in terms of its foreign and domestic politics. Where else in modern political history has a country been blockaded from its eastern and western access (Turkey and Azerbaijan) to the world markets, bordered in the north (Iran) with the most unpopular state in the world, bordered in the south with a state whose "neighbourliness" (Georgia) is conditioned by Russia's special relationship with Armenia and has managed to survive and build a sustainable economy. Perhaps Armenia, with its cumbersome politics must be looked at from a different prism, than those that usually are applied by the Western world, when examining the post-Soviet countries and their failures to build democracies.
Armenia's geopolitical positioning in a rather volatile region conditions its politics in a unique way. It is largely believed that domestic and foreign policies of a state are interconnected, and more often than not, it is the domestic politics that conditions the foreign policy of a state. In the case of Armenia, however, it is the opposite. A good example is its economy – if one is to look at the top goods which are produced and exported from Armenia, namely diamonds, precious metals, information technologies, etc., it becomes obvious that Armenia favours light, high-value added industries solely because it is what the country can afford to transport and not overprice, taking into consideration the lack of transport routes resulting from the blockades.
Perhaps, in the light of the abovementioned the politics of Armenia would seem more cumbersome than murky. Complex are also the upcoming elections, which will predetermine the fate of Armenia's political leadership, since the outcome of these elections will also condition the upcoming presidential elections in 2008.
It is obvious that President Kocharian will do everything possible to retain his allies in the Parliament, so as to ensure that the presidential succession of next year will be under his command. This is nothing but a mere political game. What many political actors fail to notice, whilst on their pedestal, is that much is occurring in the grassroots and the previously stagnant civil society is nurturing more hope in its strength to bring upon change. There is a continuing vote-rigging, vote buying and control of media, and even western media falls victim to this control. Few Western journalists visit new emerging political forces such as young parties, youth movements, NGO alliances and what not, which are on-the-go and despite the lack of access to media, do get their message across to the population.
Perhaps, these upcoming elections will add another page to Armenia's post-Soviet history of electoral fraud, or perhaps they will add a couple of more pages on how historical changes smooth, or perhaps not, occur.
Indeed, there are no credible opinion polls in the country. But even if they were, they would not provide accurate data on the chances of various contenders. It has been proven, time and again, that especially in developing countries the constituencies make their final decision on the day or at the very moment of their vote. A country with a long history of democratic elections, France, cannot conduct accurate polls either; most of the French voters are still undecided about their choices of the country’s future leader.
Most of the leading politicians in Armenia are absolutely unpopular amongst the population, and the constituencies for the most part do not have any incentive to cast their vote and are impotent to the actively led political campaigns. According to sociologists, this segment of the population is more likely to be paid off, and constitutes almost 60% of the voting population. But let's once again return to the subject that no opinion polls are believed to be credible, not even Gallup. The segment of the constituencies, which is believed to be less impotent and willing to cast their vote, in order to bring about change in the country is usually comprised of the younger generation, which is increasingly becoming active in the country's political life.
The Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) now led by Serj Sarkisian, the newly appointed Prime Minister, has been, just like its leader, too long involved in the politics of Armenia. Most of the population is tired of seeing the same political actors vowing empty promises. Composed of senior government officials and wealthy entrepreneurs, it possesses an enormous power and control through various means not only the electoral process but also the media. Nevertheless, this is a tape that has been already played a few times in a row. The control and intimidation can go so far and new faces, new movements, new spirit begin to emerge. Perhaps, these elections will be marred by fraud, but fraud can go so far too. The hopes amongst the young and reformatory politicians are high, that with the promises of the Western observers and investors, the frontrunner all-powerful parties will be more careful in clinging onto their chairs.
Indeed, there are no indications that the HHK will be seeking to prevail by more legitimate means this time round; equally, there are no indications of the opposite. Also, there are no clear indications as to why President Kocharian is sponsoring the other ”heavy weight” contender of the elections, the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK). Perhaps even ”sponsoring” is an incorrect term; a more appropriate one would be ”giving way”. Whether he is securing this party with an equally heavy-weight leader, the famous oligarch Gagik Tsarukian, for his political future in opposition to HHK or in alliance with it, is again, rather early to distinguish.
The BHK party has earned popularity through ”wholesale buying of votes” and subsequently Mr. Tsarukain has earned the populist appeal, but both the party’s and its leader’s popularity is alleged; and in no way is this popularity going to translate into solid voter support, there are absolutely no indications of that, just like there are no credible opinion polls. The number of BHK supporters is not confirmed (370 000) as well as there is no confirmation as to what extent these alleged supporters are disillusioned with the disparity between Mr. Tsarukian’s wealth and the modest taxes levied from his business. Just like President Kocharian’s intentions are yet unclear about his future political career, so is unclear the relationship between the two ”heavy weight” parties. And all the existing conspiracy theories will remain to be mere speculations, even after the elections.
Unfortunately, the so crucially important opposition, which would ensure certain balance in the political arena in Armenia, is weak and divided. However, despite the fact that there are no strong electoral alliances of the current opposition, the voters hostile to the government will vote for the opposition, because politics in Armenia is not so much about parties and alliance but more about individual politicians. Even though the parties of Raffi Hovhannisian, Stepan Demirchian, Artashes Geghamian, and Arthur Baghdasarian have failed to reach an agreement, the abovementioned politicians have high chances of being elected.
The followers of these and a number of other parties are few, but if combined, they represent a powerful force, which is highly likely to voice its protest if the elections are fraud. Most probably, the opposition will be stronger, once the elections will take place, and if the latter are marred by fraud, perhaps then the opposition will be able to unite stronger and succeed in gaining political leverage and organizing mass protests.
Armenia has stepped into a volatile phase of political vulnerability, and much is at stake. The country and its people have to fight this battle for democracy, but a much needed international assistance would be appreciated. Perhaps, both the US and the EU instead of sending warnings to cease the Millennium Challenge Account (US$ 235 million economic assistance) and discontinue the European Neighborhood Policy respectively, if the polls are marred by serious fraud, should adopt a different policy. Maybe incentive policies, such as, for example, pressuring Turkey to open its border, or greater opportunities for closer economic cooperation, would be more effective in convincing the government of Armenia to resort to fair means of conducting the upcoming elections.
By Irina Ghaplanyan
Independent Research Analyst
more discussion on [email protected]
|На правах рекламы:|