Preparing for “war”: Analysts/politicians say National Assembly election is “crucial”

Rhetoric and movement and accusations and even murders have signaled, already, what is likely to become a contentious race for seats in Armenia’s next Parliament. One analyst says the contest “will resemble a war”.

It is eight months until voters will go to polls, but in this startup period one theme unites those interested in knowing who will fill the 131 seats: the May 2007 election and the 2008 presidential election will be crucial for Armenia.

“The pre-election situation is unique. On one hand, the authorities continue to implement non-democratic methods of government. On the other hand, the Constitutional reforms have for the first time created an opportunity to change the situation and liberate Armenia from authoritarianism,” says the Chairman of the National Democratic Party of Armenia Shavarsh Kocharyan.

Stepan Zakaryan, member of the Peoples Party of Armenia, believes the presidential election 2008 will be conditioned by the parliamentary election in 2007.

“Usually elections to the National Assembly are conditioned by the presidential elections. Today the situation is the opposite and this is a new thing,” Zakaryan says. “The mobilization of the Republican Party is the response of the authorities to the new situation that unifies the administrative and the criminal resources.”

Political analyst Suren Surenyants qualifies the situation as a fuse of authorities and the criminal structures and says the latest dramatic murders (see ??) are evidence of the latter. He says also, any illegitimate regime would find itself in a critical situation like this.

Hrant Khachatryan, the chairman of the Constitutional Right Union, believes the coming election will give opportunity to make the relations between the criminal and the anti-criminal forces clear.

Surenyants says the pre-election period is a new phase for the opposition to appear in a new format.

The Country of Law (“Orinats Yerkir”) political party has made a statement on its new initiative aimed at ensuring legal electing process at the coming 2007 parliamentary elections. For this purpose two main leads were stressed: legislative changes, calling upon the National Assembly to make amendments to electoral code, and civic will expression in form of civil movement, which would unite political powers, NGOs, civil, social movements.

“Otherwise the country will face political upheaval,” says the vice-chairman of Ornats Yerkir, Mher Shahgeldyan.. “Such a crisis would shake the citizens’ confidence and would be accompanied by moral decline. Armenia will have problems with joining the international family. And the international democratic community will lose its interest in Armenia,”

Raffi Hovannisian, the chairman of the Heritage (‘Zharangutyun’) Party, believes none of the opposition parties can, alone, prevent election fraud.

“The society should decide for itself to whom Armenia belongs, who will be the true master of the country. I am for big solutions by the opposition, because local ones are not productive,” says Hovannisian. “We are cooperating with the old and new players of the opposition.”

However, Armenian society strongly holds on to the belief that the opposition in the country is weak. It is a belief grounded in the opposition’s inability to unseat the current regime through eight years of trying, and a perceived helplessness that can be traced to the infamous events of April 2004 when excessive authoritarian force literally beat down the opposition, in view of the Presidential Palace.

Many believe the parliamentary election will result in the reproduction of the regime.

Surenyants explains that such reproduction of power would mean a factual loss of independence.

“What can the opposition do if all the leverages are in the hands of the criminal authorities?! Murders in the streets have become a common matter!” says Aram Martirosyan, 57, Yerevan resident.

Surenyants says the opposition is blamed because the incumbent authorities still run the country.

“I should say also that the opposition is powerful. Its resistance was broken in the 2003 only by means of fraud and the use of force and mass detainments on April 12th 2004,” says the analyst. “This means the authorities used the method of force against the organized opposition.”

The People’s Party of Armenia says there is need to restore in voters a belief that their voice does matter.

Grigor Harutyunyan, a member of the National Assembly from the People’s Party, says: “All those who have participated in the fraud during the last election must be held to answer. We have to have independent air on TV, because the fair elections will be impossible without it. Election is not limited to the very act of voting. Elections begin much earlier.”

Shavarsh Kocharyan is confident the people, the opposition and the international organizations are the three structures able to hamper the reproduction of the incumbent regime. But in order for this to happen, voters must see an alternative to the authorities.

“Unfortunately the developments in the opposition during the recent year do not facilitate the emergence of an alternative. Never since its independence has the country encountered a situation like this when the disappointment of the society is accompanied by the opposition’s loss of authority,” he says.

The Constitutional Right Union believes the reason of the lack of a developed political field is embedded, because the state never created a serious precondition for it; moreover, it has always been impeding its development.

Hrant Khachatryan mentions besides making statements and speeches, the opposition is engaged also in fortifying its political positions to have grounds to expect a real unification as well as to get means to fight against fraud and criminal intimidation. He says the opposition forces are now engaged in identifying the number of efficient members able to withstand the election violence.

Davit Hakobyan, the chairman of the Marxist Party of Armenia holds to another opinion. He believes there are no grounds for the unification of the opposition and it will take part in the parliamentary election split.