Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. This Week we’re going to talk about the following major topics:
● Continued Tensions on the Border
● Latest IRI and MPG polls
● Election Politics
To talk about these issues, we have with us:
Hrant Mikaelian, a political scientist and multidisciplinary researcher in social sciences based in Yerevan. He is also a senior researcher at the Caucasus Institute.
George Tabakian who is the Co-founder of Repat Armenia Foundation and Sahman NGO and Executive director of Arar Foundation which works mainly on projects with the Armed Forces of RA
The tense situation on the eastern borders of Syunik and Gegharkunik did not abate this week. Instead, it seems that Azerbaijan is intent to hold every inch of land inside Armenian territory if not move forward even more. Analyst Edgar Elbakyan published a map of Azerbaijani positions which indicates that along the entire 24 km border they have entrenched themselves approximately 3 km inside Armenian territory.
George Tabakyan frequently visits border regions; he talks about what he’s seeing over there firsthand.
A violation of the illegal demarcation process. The villagers are mobilized and formed self-defense units in coordination with the Armed Forces. The AF is left alone like during the war - No support from the government. Several groups along with Arar are fundraising to support the troops with shelters, defense systems and essential items.
Azerbaijan is telling the world that they’re moving to different positions inside their own border. Meanwhile Russia has proposed that Armenia and Azerbaijan should engage bilaterally and determine and recognize their border. This betrays Azerbaijan’s goal here, to get Armenia to recognize Azerbaijani borders at the absolute nadir of its strength since independence, and officially compromise Artsakh’s bid for self-determination.
What are Armenia’s options here? And since elections are fast approaching, what could a different leader and government do to pull the country out of this crisis?
On Thursday Nikol Pashinyan proposed that both Armenia and Azerbaijan should pull their armed forces back to positions inside their countries, and that either Russian, or US and French “international observers” be positioned along the de-facto (probably meaning Soviet) border to keep the peace, while a border is drawn up under international sponsorship.
Is this even a possibility? Would Azerbaijan or Russia ever agree?
This move along with everything this government is doing is anti-Russian. Since the war is over, the government has done everything to blame the Russians for the loss of war and now they are blaming them for the incidents. This request is absurd as it presents our Army as weak and incapable force in the 1st place and 2nd the purpose is to bring international forces. I am sure Russia won't like this and I highly doubt Az will accept this. Azeris are solving another problem: they are establishing a 3-4km security zone in our territory like Turkey did in syria. The main purpose of the advance is to control the water sources of Vardenis and Goris (Black Lake) and get closer to the main road linking Goris - Kapan. Also getting close to Angeghakot village through which Azerbaijan can be linked to Nakhijevan.
Two new polls were released this week, one by the IRI and another by MPG/Gallup Armenia. Both polls are relevant to the current electoral campaigns, but they also (especially the IRI poll) make attempts to gauge the general mood of the population on other matters, such as emigration, sentiment towards COVID, and so forth.
Let’s begin with the less exciting but equally important questions.
The IRI poll asked respondents: “If possible, would you leave for another country to live there permanently?”
17% said “Yes” and another 5 percent said, “Somewhat yet”, for a total of 22% of people who would emigrate if they had the chance.
How does this compare with the previous IRI poll in February which asked a similar question: “Do you see a future for your family in Armenia over the next 1-4 years”?
The IRI poll asked respondents “How satisfied are you with the work of the following state bodies?” listing various state institutions. Looking at the results of this question is interesting especially when one compares it with the February poll.
Across the board, there seems to be a drop in favorability ratings for all institutions and in the latest poll it seems that all of the institutions have nearly equal ratings with the “Very Satisfied” grade around 10% for all of them and “Somewhat satisfied” being close to 30%. The other grades were also similar to each other.
Does this indicate a universal apathy and lack of trust in all institutions? Any major surprises to you here? Or maybe the way the question was phrased has something to do with this?
The army traditionally scores at the top and this time is no exception (they were #3). But comparing it with the February results, they seem to have dropped significantly.
● February poll: 73% favorability (50% + 23%)
● May poll: 39% (12% + 27%)
Why are Armenia’s armed forces so passive, and do these poll results explain themselves in light of this?. Is there any explanation for this?
The army is continuously capitulating. The rating of the Army was 91% in November 2019 and now it’s 50%. All generals who stood up to Nikol are now dismissed. The leadership of the army now is very weak and under the full control of Nikol’s team.
We can't expect the army to do what the opposition couldn't do in the past 6 months.
Both the IRI Poll (conducted mostly in April) and the latest MPG poll (conducted May 24-28) asked respondents if they intend to participate in the upcoming snap parliamentary elections. However, there were some differences.
Namely, in the IRI poll 63% of respondents said it was difficult to answer or refused to respond. Meanwhile the same figure for the Gallup poll was 1.6%.
When looking at this another way:
● In the IRI poll only about 25% said they’d definitely, or probably participate.
● In the Gallup poll, that number was around 73%.
How can we explain such a drastic difference between the two polls? Granted, they were conducted a month apart but even the previous Gallup poll showed a similar level of intent to participate. Which one should we trust?
So we now have 4 months of data from MPG on political parties specifically related to the upcoming elections.
According to the latest one, conducted May 24-28, the top 5 parties are:
● Civil Contract: 22.9%
● Hayastan Dashinq: 17.5%
● Prosperous Armenia: 3.8%
● Hanrapetutyun: 2.8%
● Pativ Unem: 2.7%
Based on the results we have today, which parties and alliances do you think will have a chance to clear the threshold of 5% (for parties) and 7% (for alliances)?
There also seems to be a big difference between urban and rural areas. For example, in Yerevan, Robert Kocharyan’s Hayastan Dashinq is actually leading over Civil Contract (23.9% vs. 16.9%).
The MPG poll results we saw didn’t mention anything about the motivation of voters between rural and urban regions.
Given that a significant number of Armenian voters are in urban areas, how do you think this fact will affect the election results?
So far, we’ve only looked at the MPG/Gallup data. Does this data correlate with the IRI poll data, which was conducted mostly in April? If so, what could explain the difference?
This week was the deadline for parties and electoral blocs to submit the list of their candidates for the June 20 parliamentary elections. There are a total of 27 parties or electoral blocs that have submitted the necessary paperwork.
As the lists are now finalized and submitted to the Central Electoral Commission, let’s discuss your initial impressions about the lists from various political forces.
The top contenders are:
We discuss the state of the top parties in the running and their chances, but we do not go into each party list in this podcast.
Let’s start with the incumbent ruling party.
While their lead margin appears to be narrowing, the Civil Contract party, which chose to run as a party and not as an alliance, is still leading in the polls at this time.
The top 5 on their list are:
The Pativ Unem bloc comprises the Republican Party of Armenia and Hayrenik Party and the PM candidate is former National Security Service chief Arthur Vanetsyan.
The top 5 on the Pativ Unem list are:
Q: Same question, what are your impressions of the list and the experience, strengths, and weaknesses of the team assembled by Pativ Unem.
● Major figures such as Armen Ashotyan are missing on the list? What gives?
● 2 of the top 5 are members of the youth group of the RPA (Anna Mkrtchyan and Hayk Mamijanyan). While they have been prominent faces in the news, they have no previous experience either in parliament or in the executive. Is this an attempt by the RPA to polish its image further and distance itself from some obvious?
● We know that Taron Margaryan was previously mayor of Yerevan. But it doesn’t appear that he has parliamentary experience, and he has been out of the public limelight over the past 2 years (or do we have that wrong?).
● #11 on their list is former head of customs Mihran Poghosyan who is currently wanted in Armenia and in fact, he’s currently in Russia which refuses to extradite him to Armenia. There was news circulating that he might be a dual citizen of Russia which would explain the grounds under which Russia could refuse his extradition.
○ Under CEC rules, individuals on party lists must have resided in Armenia for the past 4 years and must only be citizens of Armenia and no other country. In fact, the CEC has given the Pativ Unem bloc 2 days to provide evidence of the above.
○ Why would the leadership of Pativ Unem submit such an obviously tainted candidate?
The Hayastan bloc comprises the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and Reviving Armenia party which was founded in Syunik earlier this year. Their PM candidate is Robert Kocharyan who is currently polling at #2.
The top 5 on the Hayastan list are:
Q: What’s your impression of the Hayastan bloc list and any major surprises? What are the strengths/weaknesses of the candidates?
● #50 on the Hayastan List is Robert Kocharyan’s son Levon.
● Arpine Hovhannisyan was rumored to be on the Hayastan list, but we didn’t see her.
Q: Is there anything notable, are there any surprises in the candidate lists from the other parties above?
● What is Bright Armenia’s
● Naira Zohrabyan left the BHK party; why? Any major surprises in their list?
● How do you rate the ANC’s chances in these elections?
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.
Hrant Mikaelian, George Tabakian, IRI, MPG, Gallup, Syunik, Gegharkunik, Edgar Elbakyan, Azerbaijan, Russia, Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, US, France, polls, elections, emigration, immigration, institutions, army, army leadership, Armenian Apostolic Church, apathy, Civil Contract, Hayastan Dashinq, Prosperous Armenia, Hanrapetutyun, Pativ Unem, I Have Honor, 5165, threshold, Robert Kocharyan,