Yes or No: Constitutional referendum campaign not “easy to follow” for some on television

Yes or No: Constitutional referendum campaign not “easy to follow” for some on television

The campaign on television and radio ahead of the December 6 constitutional referendum has been on for already a week, but not all citizens appear to find it easy to follow. Besides, some observations suggest that the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, which favors the amendments turning the country into a parliamentary republic, had advantage before the start, considering that it had more opportunities to express its position.

Free TV ads by the parties that are represented in the Armenian parliament start at 6 pm and last for about an hour every day. But not all citizens consider this a “television prime time”.

“This is the time when I only leave my work. I am barely at home by 7. How can I follow the campaign?” Knarik Tovmasyan, a 56-year-old poultry factory worker from Yerevan, says.

When the Central Election Commission (CEC) gathered to approve the procedures and schedules of the airtime, representative of the opposition Armenian National Congress Party Samvel Abrahamyan raised the issue of the start of the TV and radio campaign programs, insisting that since many only return from work at this hour, they will not have an opportunity to watch it.

Abrahamyan reminded that the OSCE/ODIHR had recommended providing an opportunity of television campaigning after the broadcast of the prime time news.

Pensioner Anahit Harutyunyan, who is at home during the campaign airtime, complains that she does not get any “substantive” information on the constitutional amendments that would help her decide on her vote.
“It is not as competitive as in elections, they only call for saying “Yes”. This is what they [the ruling party] want, but what’s in it there for me?” the 68-year-old woman says.

It is interesting that according to a monitoring conducted by the Yerevan Press Club (YPC), before the formal start of the campaign the ruling Republican Party had more opportunities for expressing its position on television, which still remains the primary source of information for a majority of Armenians.

YPC President Boris Navasardyan presented the result of the monitoring conducted from October 26 to November 5, showing a disproportion in the coverage of the “Yes” and “No” campaigns. Besides, parliamentary factions had greater coverage than other groups, he said.

“We see a great activity among civil society institutions and civil initiatives that have been formed specially ahead of the referendum, but they get very little coverage. On separate TV channels they even get no coverage at all,” said Navasardyan on Wednesday, announcing that the YPC will come up with another interim report before December 6.

Perhaps in order to generate more interest towards the TV campaigning, one of the local channels is launching a new show as part of the “Yes” and “No” TV project, under which 16 politicians and public figures who are in favor or against the constitutional amendments will tour Armenia’s regions, visiting small and large villages and towns. The project is due to start on November 13.

“Two groups of eight people – each with four in favor and four against the constitutional amendments – have been formed. One group will be visiting northern provinces, the other will be in southern provinces. This is a joint project of ArmNews and A1 Plus. It will be broadcast for 12 hours on ArmNews channel through the Ucom network and on A1 Plus’s website,” TV host Karen Kocharyan said in a Facebook post.