Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. This Week we’re going to talk about the following major topics:
● Putin / Pashinyan meeting
● Constitutional Court Challenge
● Forging Steel out of Velvet
● Groong Podcast’s Year-in-Review
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.
On July 7, Pashinyan held discussions with Putin in Moscow. The Russian president paid some boilerplate compliments to Pashinyan, congratulating him on the election victory, saying that the solutions to the “complex and sensitive” problems facing Armenia need the trust of the people in their government and that the elections showed that he had that trust.
Implicitly, we heard that he was saying: It’s time to deliver on the November agreement, so let’s get down to business.
Did Pashinyan propose any projects to Putin, about how to proceed with Aliyev on the many issues facing Armenia? What were your takeaways from this meeting? What problems specifically was Putin referring to by “complex and sensitive”?
Since the new geopolitical realities are settling in, Russia has been much more circumspect and reserved about its alliance with Armenia - whether bilateral or within the CSTO. What are the reasons for this?
Issues Pashinyan raised:
● Thanks; Border instability; POWs; Russian “peacekeepers” on Armenia’s SE borders.
Balancing Turkey: Russia is sparring with Turkey on a half dozen fronts, from Libya, through Syria, Armenia and Artsakh, and now all the way to Afghanistan. Russia’s entire underbelly is essentially inflamed or on fire. How is this affecting its view of Armenia’s partnership in its geopolitics?
Where are Russia’s priorities in delivering the points of the November agreement? Do they coincide with Armenia’s? What about Azerbaijan’s? Does Armenia even have its own priorities - when there’s no MFA and no strategy behind any of its meetings?
Does Artsakh at all factor in Armenia’s political calculations at this point? Can Pashinyan ever visit Artsakh again and assure its Armenian population that Armenia stands with them; or at least hasn’t forgotten them?
At the same time as Pashinyan was meeting Putin, the EU announced that it will invest in Armenia - either through grants, or investments, for something between 1.6 and 2.6 Billion Euros, in the coming 5 years. Some analysts think that there’s consensus between Russia and the EU about the concessions that Armenia needs to make to achieve peace with Turkey and Azerbaijan, so they are preparing the political and the economic grounds to help Armenia make those concessions.
What’s the context within which you view the support that Russia and the EU are building to prop up Armenia? Where does the US come into all this?
On July 9, the constitutional court began its hearings on the complaint from four opposition parties challenging the results of the June 20 snap parliamentary elections.
Now we should mention that despite similar complaints after almost all elections since Armenia’s independence in 1991, there is no precedent for election results in Armenia being overturned by the high court. Many analysts believe that the most likely outcome will be that the results of the elections will be upheld, especially considering that Nikol Pashinyan and his My Step parliamentary faction were able to remove several of the constitutional court judges over the past three years, replacing them with more loyal judges.
Still, the new constitution passed in 2015 prescribes several different possible outcomes to election challenges, including:
This electoral challenge is also unprecedented considering the number of parties that have joined together to present the challenge, including: Hayastan Dashinq, Pativ Unem Dashink, Hayots Hayreniq party, and Zartonq National Christian Party.
What does the evidence presented by the opposition look like, how are the deliberations so far?
The oppositions challenge covers not only the events of election day, but also what preceded it, including but not limited to:
● That Nikol Pashinyan’s status as acting PM after his resignation is illegitimate.
● That Pashinyan had an unfair advantage in deciding the election day by announcing it on his Facebook page (the right to call elections is formally reserved for the president).
● The election campaign was preceded by an “unprecedented” amount of use of administrative resources, such as Nikol Pashinyan touring Armenian regions way ahead of the official start of campaign period, often accompanied by his staff, security forces, and various local politicians such as Marzpets. Pashinyan’s team billed this as “meetings with the Prime Minister”, while the opposition says that this was effectively campaigning.
As it was repeated during his campaign and symbolized by a hammer, Pashinyan promised that the post-election days would witness the rise and implementation of a “steel revolution”. Sure enough we are witnessing some manifestations of that promise, in the form of the persecution and prosecution of local government representatives (mayors) as well as some military personnel who were not supportive of the Civil Contract party. While election results are still being contested in the Constitutional Court, we’re seeing numerous such military leaders sacked and political opponents pressured to resign.
● Vendetta against generals?
○ General Grigori Khachaturov, commander of the third army corps of the Armenian Armed Forces.
● Vendetta against political opponents?
○ According to Aram Vardevanyan, heads of almost all communities in Syunik are under pressure to resign; some of them even had criminal cases brought against them such as the mayor of Kajaran Manvel Paramazyan
■ Arush Arushanyan - Goris
○ 3 Yezidi mayors: Դդմասար, Արևուտ և Սորիկ
As we close our topics here, today completes a year since we started these podcasts. Our first episode was dated July 12th, 2020, the day that the Tavush border skirmishes began and lasted 4 days.
Actually, there was a test-run episode on July 5, but we never published that.
The coincidence of starting our show on the day of the Tavush incident put a long-lasting spin on it. Our intention of course was to launch a political analysis show, and so not only did it become politically focused, but it became very war focused. We were barely thinking of moving on to more routine aspects of government, such as the economy, trade, health, education, and so on, when the second war in Artsakh broke out on September 27, 2020, and we’re still living the aftershocks of that event,
Hovik, your thoughts about the inception of our show, and how things have panned out in the past year?
Asbed Kotchikian, you have been with us from the very start, what are your thoughts about the year behind us, and what can be ahead of us?
Emil Sanamyan, our other mainstay analyst and original member, was unavailable today.
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.
Asbed Kotchikian, Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, Vladimir Putin, Russia, Ilham Aliyev, Artsakh, Nagorno Karabakh, Syunik, Gegharkunik, Tavush, Borders, Demarcation, Delineation, POWs, Peacekeepers, Baku, Constitutional Court, Civil Contract, Election Challenge, Opposition, Hayastan Dashinq, Armenia Alliance, Turkey, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Kabul, Steel, Velvet Revoluion,