Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network Groong Week in Review. This week we’ll be talking about the following topics from the political scene in Armenia:
● Armen Grigoryan’s Interview [CivilNet]
To talk about these issues, we have with us:
Asbed Kotchikian, who is an associate professor of political science and international relations at the American University of Armenia.
Emil Sanamyan, a senior research fellow at USC’s Institute of Armenian Studies specializing in the politics of the Caucasus, with a special focus on Azerbaijan.
Alen Zamanyan who follows and has analyzed Armenian politics for over a decade.
The results of a new nationwide poll by the International Republican Institute (IRI) were published this past week. This is a periodic poll supported by USAID funding.
The results of the poll contain some surprising results and both the government and opposition camp have cherry-picked specific pieces of data to support their own arguments.
What do we know about the IRI, why do they do polls in Armenia? What can we say about the general trustworthiness of this poll and what results did you find particularly memorable? What are the vulnerabilities of this poll?
One of the questions asked in the poll was around trust in institutions, and the most trusted institutions in Armenia are:
● the army (73%)
● the police (63%)
● the Ombudsman Office (60%)
● local authorities (56%)
● the prime minister’s office (54%),
● and the Armenian Apostolic Church (52%).
Meanwhile in a separate question, the prime minister’s favorability rating was at 55% (29% very favorable + 26% somewhat favorable). This is a drop from previous polls, but these numbers, especially after the catastrophic losses from the war seem unintuitive.
Is there a dissonance between the two questions above?
The poll was conducted in February, before Pashinyan’s conflict with the military. But, as things stand today, the army, the Armenian Apostolic Church, and even the Ombudsman’s Office seem to not be on Pashinyan’s friend list anymore.
How might the events from the past few weeks change the trust of institutions or Pashinyan’s favorability rating?
The poll showed interesting differences based on disaggregation categories. For instance, on the question of support for prime minister, the favorability rating differed greatly based on community type and education level.
For instance, based on community type, we see:
● Yerevan: 41% (17% + 24%)
● Urban: 60% (31% + 29%)
● Rural: 66% (41% + 25%)
Based on education level:
● Primary or secondary: 61% (39% + 22%)
● Vocational: 71% (38% + 33%)
● Higher: 43% (18% + 25%)
Are these results surprising? And what conclusion can we draw from the above? How might the above influence campaigning if snap elections are held?
Only 14% seem to prioritize the return of missing and captive persons. How do we interpret this?
● 97% of Armenians believe that their government should focus on domestic issues now, after the war in Artsakh,
● 92% say the government should focus on “ensuring the secure return or Artsakh residents back to areas patrolled by Russian peacekeepers.”
● 14% prioritized return of captives and missing persons.
● Top problems faced by the country:
○ political instability (12%)
○ unemployment (11%)
○ military reform (8%)
○ Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (9%)
○ Return of captives (6%)
○ Corruption (1%)
● Top political organizations:
○ Civil Contract / My Step (Current government) (33%)
○ Barkavaj Hayastan (3%)
● While the Prime Minister’s ratings have declined by 22% since 2019, 55% of Armenians still hold a positive view of him.
● The top trusted institutions are: the army (73%), the police (63%), the Ombudsman Office (60%), local authorities (56%), the prime minister’s office (54%), and the Armenian Apostolic Church (52%).
● The most distrusted institutions: political parties (73%), the National Assembly (64%), the president’s office (60%), courts (57%), the Constitutional Court (55%), the cabinet of ministers (53%), and the prosecutor’s office (53%).
● 74% of Armenians believe electoral reforms are necessary to raise confidence in Armenian elections. (Note: Pashinyan & My Step are pushing electoral reforms prior to the snap elections).
● 45% say the country is headed in the WRONG direction; 31% say RIGHT direction.
● 50/50 divided between the optimists and pessimists on the future of Armenia.
● 26% do not see their future in Armenia.
● Approval of the Ombudsman office: 60%
● Approval of the PM’s office: 55%
● Approval of the President’s Office: 33%
● Approval of the National Assembly: 32%
● Approval of the fight against corruption: 42%
● Biggest household concern: unemployment (28%) None (24%) everything else in single figures.
● 51% named problems that are a consequence of the war in Artsakh as the top problem facing the country. 76% named this as the top or second issue.
● 85% believe the Ceasefire agreement should be renegotiated.
● 56% believe there should be snap parliamentary elections
○ 62% say the government should be the caretaker of snap elections
○ 76% do not believe the transitional government (presumably Vazgen Manukyan’s) should run the snap elections
● Party popularity is on slide 39: notably Lusavor Hayastan < 1%
○ Nearly 50% level of apathy (chose “None”)
● Media - Slide 64 of the IRI PDF.
On March 12, the chair of Armenia’s Security Council, Armen Grigoryan, gave an interview to Civilnet which added several new pieces of detail on what was taking place in Armenian government circles but also brought up many new questions.
What is the role of the Security Council in Armenia? How does it fit in the decision-making process on defense issues?
Was the key theme of the interview to “correct the record” about Onnik Gasparyan. Specifically, Grigoryan repeated several times that Gasparyan never warned the Security Council to stop the war at any cost on the 4th day of the war. What impressions can we form?
Some interesting moments:
● Mentioned that the Security Council had determined on Oct 19 that Armenia should stop the war at all costs and hadn’t met since. For 20 days the war continued and there was no new meeting of the security council; during this time, Putin mentioned that Pashinyan rejected an offer to keep Shushi under Armenian control (with the condition that the Azeri population would have a right to return). Why?
● Made references to Onnik Gasparyan talking about Armenia using Smerches, multiple times, even when that question was not asked.
● Brushed off concerns around potential renewed attack by Azerbaijan/Turkey (and blamed the opposition for fearmongering) and said that Armenia should focus now on regional cooperation.
After Prime Minister Pashinyan lost the support of the Joint Chiefs of the Army, on Monday he came back and announced that he’s again open to Snap Elections. If you recall, he had previously announced that he was open to snap elections, then canceled it claiming that there was no “popular demand” for it, but now we’re back on.
Pashinyan has laid down some conditions, for example he wants to do a tactical resignation, but first he wants all parties to sign a MOU to not nominate any PM candidates. Marukyan has agreed, but Gagik Tsarukyan has refused. Barkavaj Hayastan, by the way, is a member of the Homeland Salvation Movement of 17 plus parties calling for the resignation of the prime minister.
Does Pashinyan truly want early elections, or is this a political maneuver?
Regarding Pashinyan’s demand to abstain from nominating any PM candidates: his parliamentary faction has a majority in parliament counting more than 80 parliamentarians and could easily secure a failure in any vote for a PM using only My Step MPs. Why does he need preconditions?
President Armen Sarkissian had invited Nikol Pashinyan, My Step, the parliamentary opposition as well as the Homeland Salvation Movement to negotiations around the issue of early parliamentary elections. The meeting didn't take place in that suggested format (even though Pashinyan and the president met separately) due to lack of consensus on the agenda.
Edmon Marukyan from Bright Armenia accepted the offer and indicated that their faction may comply with Pashinyan’s demands to not nominate any candidate. This is a change in their position since prior to Pashinyan’s conflict with the military, when they had rejected this idea.
The Homeland Salvation Movement, which includes the Republican Party, ARF, and Prosperous Armenia among others accepted the proposal, however, with the precondition that “the meeting must be held in parliament, publicly and broadcast live.”
The movement also re-stated their “roadmap” towards a solution to the conflict, namely:
● Resignation of Pashinyan
● Temporary government
● Snap parliamentary elections
Gagik Tsarukyan, Head of Prosperous Armenia, reiterated these points separately in a press conference.
Meanwhile the government has indicted Vazgen Manukyan, the leader of the Homeland Salvation Movement, for inciting the violent overthrow of the government.
What do we make of the positioning of Bright Armenia and Prosperous Armenia and their posturing? Tevan Poghosyan had an interesting interview with 168 where he predicted that we will be heading towards snap parliamentary elections with Nikol at the helm. He also said that this would be the worst possible outcome for Armenia. Do you agree with this?
That concludes our program for This Week in Review episode. We hope it has helped your understanding of some of the issues from the previous week. We look forward to your feedback, and your suggestions for issues to cover in greater depth. Contact us on our website, at groong.org, or on our Facebook Page “ANN - Groong”, or in our Facebook Group “Groong - Armenian News Network”.
Special thanks to Laura Osborn for providing the music for our podcast. On behalf of everyone in this episode, we wish you a good week. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channels, Like our pages and follow us on social media. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.
Armenia, Yerevan IRI, International Republication Institute, IRI Poll, Nikol Pashinyan, Armen Grigoryan, Edmon Marukyan, Gagik Tsarukyan, Elections, Early Elections, Snap Elections, My Step, Bright Armenia, Prosperous Armenia, ARF, Vazgen Manukyan, USAID,
Additional: Emil Sanamyan, Asbed Kotchikian, Alen Zamanyan, Ceasefire, Ceasefire Agreement, Syunik, POW, Prisoners,