Politics of Armenia


Politics of Armenia

Politics of Armenia takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President is the head of government, and of a platform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament.

Politics since the dissolution of the Soviet Union

The population of Armenia voted overwhelmingly for independence in a September 1991 referendum, followed by a presidential election in October 1991 that gave 83% of the vote to Levon Ter-Petrossian. Ter-Petrossian had been elected head of government in 1990, when the National Democratic Union party defeated the Armenian Communist Party. Ter-Petrossian was re-elected in 1996. Following public demonstrations against Ter-Petrossian's policies on Nagorno-Karabakh, the President resigned in January 1998 and was replaced by Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, who was elected President in March 1998. Following the assassination in Parliament of Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan and parliament Speaker Karen Demirchyan and six other officials, on October 27, 1999, a period of political instability ensued during which an opposition headed by elements of the former Armenian National Movement government attempted unsuccessfully to force Kocharyan to resign. Kocharyan was successful in riding out the unrest. In May 2000, Andranik Margaryan replaced Aram Sargsyan as Prime Minister.

Kocharyan's re-election as president in 2003 was followed by widespread allegations of ballot-rigging. He went on to propose controversial constitutional amendments on the role of parliament. These were rejected in a referendum the following May at the same time as parliamentary elections which left Kocharyan's party in a very powerful position in parliament. There were mounting calls for the President's resignation in early 2004 with thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets in support of demands for a referendum of confidence in him.

The unicameral parliament (also called the National Assembly) is dominated by a coalition, called "Unity" (Miasnutyun), between the Republican and Peoples Parties and the Agro-Technical Peoples Union, aided by numerous independents. Dashnaksutyun, which was outlawed by Ter-Petrosian in 1995-96 but legalized again after Ter-Petrosian resigned, also usually supports the government. A new party, the Republic Party, is headed by ex-Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan, brother of the late Vazgen Sargsyan, and has become the primary voice of the opposition, which also includes the Armenian Communist Party, the National Unity party of Artashes Geghamyan, and elements of the former Ter-Petrossian government.

The Government of Armenia's stated aim is to build a Western-style parliamentary democracy as the basis of its form of government. However, international observers have questioned the fairness of Armenia's parliamentary and presidential elections and constitutional referendum since 1995, citing polling deficiencies, lack of cooperation by the Electoral Commission, and poor maintenance of electoral lists and polling places. For the most part however, Armenia is considered one of the more pro-democratic nations in the Commonwealth of Independent States. Observers noted, though, that opposition parties and candidates have been able to mount credible campaigns and proper polling procedures have been generally followed. Elections since 1998 have represented an improvement in terms of both fairness and efficiency, although they are still considered to have fallen short of international standards. The new constitution of 1995 greatly expanded the powers of the executive branch and gives it much more influence over the judiciary and municipal officials.

The observance of human rights in Armenia is uneven and is marked by shortcomings. Police brutality allegedly still goes largely unreported, while observers note that defendants are often beaten to extract confessions and are denied visits from relatives and lawyers. Public demonstrations usually take place without government interference, though one rally in November 2000 by an opposition party was followed by the arrest and imprisonment for a month of its organizer. Freedom of religion is not always protected under existing law. Nontraditional churches, especially the Jehovah's Witnesses, have been subjected to harassment, sometimes violently. All churches apart from the Armenian Apostolic Church must register with the government, and proselytizing was forbidden by law, though since 1997 the government has pursued more moderate policies. The government's policy toward conscientious objection is in transition, as part of Armenia's accession to the Council of Europe. Most of Armenia's ethnic Azeri population was deported in 1988-1989 and remain refugees, largely in Azerbaijan. Armenia's record on discrimination toward the few remaining national minorities is generally good. The government does not restrict internal or international travel. Although freedom of the press and speech are guaranteed, the government maintains its monopoly over television and radio broadcasting.

Government

Armenia became independent from the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic on May 28, 1918 as the Democratic Republic of Armenia (DRA). After the DRA collapsed on December 2, 1920, it was absorbed into the Soviet Union and became part of the Transcaucasian SFSR. The TSFSR dissolved in 1936 and Armenia became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union known as the Armenian SSR. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, beginning on September 23, 1991 the official name of the nation has been the Republic of Armenia (Armenian: Hayastani Hanrapetut'yun). The data code for the country is AM.

The capital and largest city is Yerevan. In addition to the Yerevan administrative region, Armenia is split into ten administrative divisions, know as "marzer" (singular: "marz"); these are Ararat, Armavir, Gegharkunik, Kotayk, Lori, Shirak, Syunik, Tavush, and Vayots Dzor.

The flag of Armenia consists of three equal horizontal bands of red (top), blue, and orange.

Executive branch

The president is elected for a five year term by the people (absolute majority with 2nd round if necessary).
President of Armenia
Serzh Sargsyan
Republican Party
9 April 2008
-
Prime Minister
Tigran Sarkisyan
"none"
9 April 2008
-
Defence Minister
Mikael Harutyunyan|
4 April 2007

List of office holders

Presidents

*Levon Ter-Petrossian
*Robert Kocharyan

Prime ministers

*Andranik Margaryan
*Aram Sargsyan
*Vazgen Sargsyan
*Armen Darbinyan
*Robert Kocharyan
*Armen Sargsyan
*Hrant Bagratyan
*Khosrov Harutyunyan
*Gagik Harutyunyan
*Vazgen Manukyan

Legislative branch

The Azgayin Zhoghov (or "National Assembly") is the legislative branch of the government of Armenia. It is a unicameral body of 131 members, elected for four-year terms: 56 members in single-seat constituencies and 75 by proportional representation. The proportional-representation seats in the National Assembly are assigned on a party-list basis amongst those parties that receive at least 5% of the total of the number of the votes.The unicameral parliament is controlled by a coalition of three political parties: the conservative Republican party [http://www.hhk.am] , the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, and the Country of Law party. The main opposition is composed of several smaller parties joined in the Justice Bloc.

Political parties and elections

In an innovation on 2007 November 24 and 25, one political party conducted a non-binding Armenia-wide primary election. The party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, invited the public to vote to advise the party which of two candidates they should formally nominate for president of Armenia in the subsequent official election. What characterized it as a primary instead of a standard opinion poll was that the public knew of the primary in advance, all eligible voters were invited, and the voting was by secret ballot. "Some 300,000 peoplecite web | url= http://www.a1plus.am/en/?page=issue&iid=55090| title=A1 Plus, ARFD Nominates Vahan Hovhannisyan|accessdate=2008-02-10] . . . voted in make-shift tents and mobile ballot boxes. . . ." ["Horizon Armenian Weekly", English Supplement, 2007 December 3, page E1, "ARF conducts 'Primaries' ", a Yerkir agency report from Yerevan.]

19 February 2008 Presidential Elections
Although the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitored the Presidential election and concluded the that it was "mostly in line with international standards," Armenian opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian protested the election results. Protesters supporting Ter-Petrosian began demonstrating in the capital city of Yerevan shortly after the results were announced. So far nine deaths have been reported as a result of conflicts between police and demonstrators in the streets of Yerevan. On Saturday, 1 March 2008, President Robert Kocharian declared a state of emergency for the city and Ter-Petrosian recorded a message that was played over loudspeakers through the city of Yerevan the next day. In the message, Ter-Petrosian urged his supporters to return to their homes to avoid conflict with police and vowed to pursue the election results through legal channels. A constitutional court is expected to hear the case on Tuesday, 4 March 2008. [ [http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/03/02/armenia.protests/ Calm urged amid Armenia election clashes - CNN.com ] ]

Corruption

After 19 February 2008 Presidential Elections

Although the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitored the Presidential elections and concluded that they were "mostly in line with international standards," Armenian opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian protested the election results. Protesters supporting Ter-Petrosian began demonstrating in the capital city of Yerevan shortly after the results were announced. So far nine deaths have been reported as a result of conflicts between the police, the army, and the demonstrators in the streets of Yerevan.

According to the governmental hearings in Washington, DC, the Armenian government is to blame for the oppression and massarcre against its own people. According to Russian sources, Robert Kocharian and the president-elect Serge Sargsyan (the birthplace of both of them is Nagorno Karabakh) view Armenians as their enemies. On Saturday, 1 March 2008, the outgoing president Robert Kocharian declared a state of emergency for the city and Levon Ter-Petrosian (who was in home arrest) recorded a message that was played over loudspeakers through the city of Yerevan the next day. In the message, Ter-Petrosian urged his supporters to return to their homes to avoid conflicts with the army and police and vowed to pursue the election results through legal channels. A constitutional court heard and rejected the case on March 8, 2008 because of the state of constitutional emergency.The Centre for the Popular Movement (CPM) convened a sitting on 25 April. The Centre is going to challenge the outcome of the February 19 Presidential election at the European Court of Human Rights. An experts’ panel including Armenian and foreign lawyers will be set up to elaborate the lawsuit, the pre-election headquarters for Levon Ter-Petrossian reports.

According to the RA law on criminal legislation article 225.3 and article 300 first part the RA police started investigation on the following RA citizens to be sentenced: Sasun Mekhaki Mikaelyan (born in 07.11.1957, c. Hrazdan, Vanatur, 76ap) and Khachatur Alberti Sukiasyan (born in 15.09.1961, c Yerevan, Zavaryan str. 6) and according to the RA law on criminal legislation Nikol Vovayi Pashinyan (born in 01.06.1975, registered in c. Idjevan, Metaghagortsneri str. 3; but living in c. Yerevan, G. Nzhdeh str. 29, fl 15) is under investigation. Overall, there are 135 political prisoners in RA.

According to the police, they are accused in the following organizing mass disorder on 1 March 2008 in Opera square, Yerevan by the former RA president Levon Ter-Petrosyan and his confidents, breaking the law, for organizing public disorder and conducting it, for getting, keeping illegal weapons, for carrying out violation towards the police officers, on 1 March 2008 organizing mass disorder in the central part of the capital and the municipality building which was held by using weapons, murders, breaking and injuring properties, violation, firing and opposing the police officers.

In the message spread by the police, it is particularly mentioned those who have any information about the people under investigation should call the police central department 52-02-02, 53-02-02, or 56-02-02 or else, apply to their nearby police station. [ [http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/03/02/armenia.protests/ Calm urged amid Armenia election clashes - CNN.com ] ]

On 22 April, "Zharangutiu" (Heritage) Party MPs have requested the RA Prosecutor General to review the preventive punishments of Smbat Aivazian, member of the "Hanrapetutiu" (Republic) Party’s Political Board, and Arshak Banuchian, deputy director of the Matendaran. Reminder: Smbat Aivazian was detained on February 24 and Arsah Banuchian after the March 1 events. The Party proceeds collection of signatures in the National Assembly required to change the restraint of the detained parliamentarians. “Zharangutiun” submitted a solicitation of restraint with the Procurator’s Office two days ago. "Zharangutiun" MP Zaruhi Postanjian said that the solicitation was not rejected

On 23 April, 2008, a day before the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire, the Armenian journalist "Gayane Arustamian" held a protest action near the Matenadaran. She was accompanied by RA citizen Lala Aslikian. The protesters voiced complaint against genocides and murders. Over ten policemen watched the women’s action at the head of Ruben Melkonian. The protesters were holding a poster with an English inscription, "How can you prevent genocide?" At first, the policemen didn’t interfere with them as they didn’t understand the English sentence. Soon they got indignant seeing the second poster with an Armenian inscription, "What is the cost of the ten murdered people?" They finally flew into a rage after the protesters raised the third poster: "April 24, 1915: Taliat, Jemal, Enver. March 1, 2008: Robert, Serzh, Artur. "How dare you instill hatred? Don’t you feel ashamed of yourself, you are my daughter’s age," said one of the policemen. The moment the protesters were answering journalists’ questions, the policemen grasped the posters and tore them off. "You can tear off the posters but you cannot uproot my tongue," said Gayane Arustamian. She left the site in triumph.

Since morning April 24 (the Armenian Genocide day), "Azatutyan Square", i.e., "Liberty Square" had been surrounded by policemen grouped on the sidewalks or walking to and fro. Police buses and cars rested right in the square center. The reason was the march to be conducted by opposition leaders from "Azatutyan Square" to "Tsitsernakaberd" at 3pm. In reply to the question why there were so many policemen in the square, one of the policemen answered humorously: "You can peacefully walk in here. Nothing is going to happen." Another policeman seriously advised: "You’d better not show yourself at the neighborhoods around 3pm." The doctors in police clinic were to be alert and ready to overwork.

On the Genocide commemoration day, thousands of people, accompanied by opposition leaders, made for Tsitsernakaberd" from Northern Avenue. The police closed Baghramian Avenue allowing the marchers only to walk along the sidewalk. Chairman of "People’s Party" Stepan Demirchian, Chairman of "Hanrapetutyun (Republic) Party" Aram Sargisian, Leader of the "Social Democratic Henchak Party" Lyudmila Sarkissian, former spokesman of Levon Ter-Petrossian Levon Zurabian, and Davit Shahnazarian"' conducted the march. However hard the policemen tried to persuade people to walk along the sidewalk, they failed. In the end the police yielded and opened one side of the avenue. New groups of people joined the marchers on the way to Tsitsernakaberd. Roads have not been closed and there are no traffic problems recorded. Anyway, there are water-pumping and razor wire cars on Demirchian Street.

References


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