Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. This week we’re going to talk about the following major topics:
● Another Constitutional Amendment? [rfe/rl]
● State of the Virus
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.
Hrant Mikaelian, a political scientist and multidisciplinary researcher in social sciences based in Yerevan. He is also a senior researcher at the Caucasus Institute.
On Tuesday My Step MP’s started discussing potential constitutional amendments that would facilitate for the ruling bloc to dissolve parliament, in order to pave the way for fresh parliamentary elections.
Under the current constitution snap elections are only possible if the Prime Minister resigns and Parliament fails to elect a new PM, after two attempts. Pashinian has agreed to resign only if parliament will agree to not nominate a new PM, and lead to fresh elections. Both Opposition parties in the parliament, the BHK and the LHK have refused to cooperate, but the ruling bloc controls enough votes to prevent any nominations.
On the surface it looks like Pashinian and his ruling bloc can force their plan through. So what’s the issue that would necessitate a constitutional amendment?
As an aside to this specific instance of constitutional amendment, what’s with the constant tendency by successive Armenian leaderships changing the constitution to create short-term tactical advantages for themselves?
How can the constitution be protected better, so that it can stand above any future single political party or majority, and requires a truly democratic coalition of forces, reflecting broad citizens’ support?
Turning our attention to the Opposition demands for the resignation of the PM and for snap elections to install a transitional government to lead to fresh elections.
Over the past two months we’ve talked many times on this show about the ineffectiveness of the opposition to achieve its goals. This past week Ishkhan Saghatelyan promised “new tactics” to achieve their goals, and Vazgen Manukyan said that if constitutional and legal methods fail to achieve results, the opposition would initiate an uprising. A similar assessment was made by former president Robert Kocharyan in his interview on Wednesday.
Where is the opposition stuck, and what are their options?
Saghatelyan made some technical statements about their inability to convert the popular demand into a popular struggle… Can you help us make sense of the failure of the opposition to bring about regime change?
The current regime has promoted the impression that support for any opposition means support for the “former regime” - meaning Serge Sargsyan or Robert Kocharyan. Has this hampered the current opposition, for example, the Homeland Salvation Movement, from achieving greater success?
Turning our attention to Iran and its outreach to its neighbors in the north.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif started a tour last Sunday of Baku, Moscow, Yerevan and finally Ankara. During the war in Artsakh Iran was not very active, mostly guarding its border against infiltration by terrorists. However, since the end of the war, they’ve become more involved and hope to have a say in how the region evolves.
What are the drivers behind Iran’s tour of the regional capitals? What are their goals, what are they trying to achieve?
Iran missed out on being a participant of what became the tripartite agreement of Nov. 9. What sort of influence can they have on the new regional state of affairs?
Very high level:
● In October we were in what looked to be a catastrophic place: We were running over 5500 COVID tests a day, and we had a near 50% infection rate, with 2400-2500 infections a day, and 20-30-40 deaths a day.
● In November we were testing in the 3-4000 times a day, infection rates around 40%, 1500-ish infections per day.
● In December we continued testing 2500-3000 per day, but it looks like the infection rate dipped to around with infections per day in the 600-1000 per day., so maybe 33%?
● Here’s the interesting bit: in January we’re testing barely 2000 a day, but the infection rate has dipped to 5-10%, daily numbers in the 100-250 range.
What’s with the drop? In the US, where the pandemic management was also botched, we’ve seen a 33% drop in the daily infections as well, but it’s nowhere as deep as in Armenia.
Has Armenia done something to control the virus?
Has Armenia turned the corner in fighting the virus?
Armenia is apparently getting the Sputnik and also the Astra-Zeneca vaccines. How are these being worked out, how are they getting paid for? How is the process of vaccination proceeding? What about Moderna?
During the War in Artsakh and shortly after the ceasefire agreement during the Telethon in November, the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund (HAAF) collected over 200 million dollars, of which reportedly around $100-105 million were sent to the Armenian government, which put them in its general budget as part of its revenues, to be used for social, health and infrastructure expenditures.
A recent report says that around $50 million of these funds were used to stabilize the Dram, with the Central Bank of Armenia using them to actively intervene in the financial markets to keep the Dram exchange rate stable.
On our podcast in October, and then again in November, we had discussed that using the HAAF funds to support the Dram would make sense, to keep the Armenian economy functioning normally and the financial sector from collapsing due to the pandemic, the war, a slowing economy, etc. Are these funds helping on the macro scale?
What about the political aspect?
That concludes our program for This Week in Review episode. We hope it has helped your understanding of some of the issues from the past 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.
Hrant Mikaelian, Asbed Kotchikian, Zarif, Iran, Armenia, Coronavirus, Homeland Salvation Movement, Ishkhan Saghatelyan, Vazgen Manukyan, Robert Kocharyan, Moderna, Vaccine, Vaccination
Additional: Pandemic, COVID, Dram, HAAF, Hayastan All-Armenia Fund, Armenia Fund, Monetary Stabilization, CBA, Central Bank of Armenia, Infection rate, Herd Immunity, Sputnik, Astra-Zeneca,