Notes From Hairenik
November 28, 2005
By now the polls have long closed for the vote on the Armenian constitutional referendum. The government was expecting that most if not all of the approximately 2.4 million registered voters turn up at their polling stations to cast a “Yes” vote. The government opposition, in a united effort, naturally urged voters to vote against the referendum or not at all.

It’s important to understand why this vote is so crucial. First and foremost the entire intention of passing constitutional reforms is to show the world that Armenia was taking the necessary steps to become more “democratic,” primarily by reducing the powers of the president and instead passing certain decision-making procedures on to the Armenian National Assembly. Updates to the constitution were strongly urged by the Council of Europe (CE), and President Kocharian’s administration was more than willing to comply. Member parties of the pro-Kocharian coalition, namely the Republican party, Country of Law (Orinats Yerkir), and ARF-Dashnaktsutiun, were quoted in the printed press and on television urging voters to cast a “Yes” ballot basically because it would be good for them—no other conducive message was conveyed from what I read.

Individuals representing the opposition—a ragtag, disorganized solidarity movement that has no concrete leadership or agenda—opposed the constitutional amendments, claiming that basically a “Yes” vote would be a vote for Kocharian and not for the future of Armenia. They also claimed that the amendments would not amount to anything, and thus concluded that voters should basically boycott the elections. This last demand seemed idiotic to me since it is the vote that counts—the vote determines what the people want rather than an effectively blank ballot which means nothing. However, they concluded that since there would undoubtedly be election fraud anyway, a boycott would possibly lead to an overall negative outcome, since the law stipulates that there must be votes cast by at least one-thirds of registered voters to have a valid election.

The government also sponsored a huge propaganda effort for people to vote “Yes”—an information office was set up on the corner of Tumanian and Abovyan, and university students were out on the streets encouraging people to vote—I was approached about two weeks ago. Opposition interests however were supposedly refused when requesting to air on broadcast television paid public service announcements denouncing a “Yes” vote. Most television stations if not all are pro-government.

An interesting turn of events occurred on Friday, September 25 when a rally was held in front of the Opera House lead by popular renegade and former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovhanisian, who had effectively retired from politics. He also conveyed for the most part the same message as other opposition forces, claiming that the government was run by a bunch of gangsters and thieves and so forth. An interesting thing he noted was that a “Yes” vote would encourage the possibility of Armenian diasporan citizens to have dual citizenship and thus vote, which he sees as being detrimental since this would be dangerous for Armenia’s socio-political climate. Basically you would have people voting for candidates or issues without necessarily having a clue as to what the consequences would be for citizens actually living in Armenia, and I generally agree with this point. But Hovhanisian is a Diasporan himself, having been born in the US who was granted Armenian citizenship only in 2001, so this stance seems hypocritical to some degree.

I read over the proposed constitution as well as the amendments. The article that troubled me the most (which has not been amended) empowers the National Assembly under advisement of the president to change the country’s borders without holding a referendum. This would thus allow the government to effectively single-handedly end once and for all the Karabagh conflict by agreeing with the Azeri side as to what the Armenia-Azerbajan borders should be.

Article 81 reads that:

Upon the recommendation of the President of Republic the National
Assembly shall:

1) declare amnesty;

2) ratify, suspend or denounce the international treaties of the
Republic of Armenia.

The National Assembly shall ratify those international treaties:

a) which are of political or military nature or stipulate changes of
the state borders,

b) which relate to human rights, freedoms and obligations,

c) which stipulate financial commitments for the Republic of Armenia,

d) application of which shall bring about legislative amendments or
adoption of a new law, or stipulate norms contravening the laws,

e) which prescribe ratification,

f) in other cases defined by law.

3) resolves on declaring war and proclaiming peace. In the event when
convening a sitting of the National Assembly is impossible, the
President of Republic shall solve the issue of declaring war.

The National Assembly can annul the progress of measures prescribed by
Clauses 13 and 14 of Article 55 of the Constitution.


This article alone is dangerous as it suppresses the voice of the people in deciding what the final outcome would be regarding Karabagh in a referendum. Armenian citizens would effectively have no say as to what their nation’s borders should be, which is wrong I believe. Another troubling amendment, Article 56.1, stipulates that the president is immune and cannot face criminal or other charges during or after his term in office.

Recent news reports are already confirming that the government has already claimed victory, although not all ballots have been counted. In the next day or so the final outcome will have been determined, albeit with huge protest from either side respective to a “Yes” or “No” winning vote.

Basically the Armenian people need to decide what they want. This election hopefully will demonstrate that decision fairly and honestly, but knowing Armenians all too well, it will be difficult to determine what the truth will actually be.

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5 Comments:
Anonymous nazarian said...
I wonder when will the citizens of Armenia say enough is enough. How long can the authorities organize 'elections' and pass their agenda with a complete disregard for the will of the citizens?

Anonymous Onnik Krikorian said...
The referendum was rigged. Maybe 20 percent of voters turned out. The government say over 1 million did. However, polling stations were generally empty throughout the country.

This wasn't because of the boycott by the opposition. Armenians just didn't give a damn. Coverage at http://oneworld.blogsome.com.

Anonymous Armen Sinanian said...
Referendum was not rigged. And the result will enable Armenia to prosper and become more democratic. Anti-Armenian propaganda even by Armenians should not be tolerated.

And for good , hayrenaser coverage refer to reliable websites: www.hayashkharh.am, www.yerkir.am, or www.azg.am

Anonymous Onnik Krikorian said...
Armen, what planet are you living in (or should I say country)? Even one of the "reliable" media sources you suggest people to look at says this:

The constitutional changes had found the favor of European organizations as well as the US. This must be the reason why the West, advocate of democratic values, closed eyes to flagrant falsifications in the November 27 vote. In a private talk with two EU envoys in Armenia, AZG inquired that forgery (filling the ballot boxes with "yes" papers) that occurred on November 27 had no precedent.

http://www.azg.am/?lang=EN&num=2005113001

Still, you can live in your dreamworld, that's your right. ;-)

Blogger Hasmik said...
I am just so disappointed that people allow corruption to continue in Armenia...

I believe in the power of people and if they continue to be apathetic about politics, this mob rule will persist...

Ah, I am going to be in my dreamworld today. This is too depressing.

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